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Eva Angelopoulou provides her overview of events for legal translators and interpreters held earlier this year by EULITA:

“In late March EULITA, the European Legal Interpreters and Translators Association, organised a Translating Europe Workshop, entitled, “New Developments in Legal Translation”, held at the House of the European Union in Vienna, as well as a conference entitled “The Many Facets of Legal Translation and Interpreting”. I had the pleasure to attend both of them.

During the Translating Europe Workshop the topics that emerged and captured my interest were:


Agnieszka Jelnicka, translator at the European Commission, presented the European e-justice Portal, which is operated by the Directorate General for Justice and the EU Member States. The portal is addressed to citizens, businesses, legal practitioners, the judiciary and legal translators and it provides information on the judicial systems of the 28 EU member counties, covering 150 topics in the area of justice in 230 languages. E-Justice is currently being translated by the Directorate General for Translation of the European Commission and it can be a really helpful tool for the comparative legal research that legal translators often have to perform.

The portal also contains useful online tools, for example the ECLI search engine, through which legal translators can find case law from different Member States. On the site there are also guidelines about how to find legal translators in different Member States.


In her talk Matylda Pogorzelska, a Legal Research Officer at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), presented us with the results of the Agency’s recent research on the legal frameworks and policies of the Member States on the right to translation and interpretation in criminal proceedings covered by the Directive 2010/64/EU. This directive, to which we have referred in one of our previous posts, lays down minimum rules on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings for suspected and accused persons who do not speak or understand the language of the proceed­ings.

In this process of interpretation and translation, the skilled interpreter and translator is of course a crucial element. If the interpreter and the translator are not accurate during the provision of their services then the right to a fair trial is already compromised.

One of the issues covered by FRA’s research was the quality of interpretation and translation services. Article 5(2) of the Directive provides that in order to promote the adequacy of interpretation and translation and efficient access thereto, Member States shall endeavour to establish a register or registers of independent translators and interpreters who are appropriately qualified. Here is the agency’s conclusion on this quality requirement:

FRA’s research shows that some Member States have set up registers of legal interpreters and translators. However, the minimal qualifications needed to be included in such registers can vary broadly both among and within states. In addition, there are no common standards on how to establish an effective register – for example, whether it is better to have one central register or multiple registers; who should maintain the register(s); and what they/it should include. This means that Member States have very different systems. Some have very minimal requirements for admission to a reg­ister; others have no requirements at all. As a result, the quality of services provided varies considerably, even when registers contain officially qualified interpreters and translators.”

And the Agency’s opinion on this matter is as follows:

“When establishing a register of legal interpreters and translators in line with Article 5 (2) of Directive 2010/64/EU, EU Member States should consider introducing relevant safeguards to maximise the quality of translation and interpretation services ensured through such a register. For instance, they should consider defining clear admission criteria, and providing for regular registration renewals, mandatory professional development for legal interpreters and translators, and special training for legal interpreters and translators who work with vulnerable groups. At the same time, EU Member States should consider making it mandatory for criminal justice authorities to use such registers when they need interpretation and translation services in the context of criminal proceedings

Greece has set up such an official register (FRA report, p. 45, fn 213). Originally the law provided that, in order to be included in the register the person needs to have only completed higher education and preferably be a civil servant. No further requirement was needed, such as professional experience, language requirements or vocational training (Art. 233 of the Code of Criminal Procedure). But in 2014, a ministerial decree was issued (no. 672//2014) establishing new requirements for inclusion in this register. The requirements, according to this decree, are either a degree in translation or interpretation or a high-school diploma and sufficient knowledge of the Greek language. We can’t really see how a high-school diploma is equivalent to a translation or interpretation degree from a university and why the Greek legislator didn’t limit the requirements only to the latter.

Additionally, even though interpreters and translators are two very different professions, the Greek legislator does not really differentiate between them, as can be seen for example from Article 237 of the Greek Code of Criminal Procedure: “When documents are to be translated and this will require a long time, a deadline shall be set within which the interpreter must provide the translation”. Clearly, according to the Greek legislator, the task of interpreters in criminal proceedings is to translate, and not just to facilitate oral communication between participants in the trial. One can validly assume that the Greek legislator only cares about the result, in this case the smooth progress of the procedure in accordance with the international rules, but underestimates the special skills someone needs to possess in order to interpret in a legal setting and in order to translate legal texts. This was the opinion of the Public Prosecutor A. Dimopoulos, which is discussed in Thessaloniki Court of Appeal Judicial Council Decision No. 54/2011 (Armenopoulos Law Review 2011/696). And even though the above ministerial decree, which was issued for the implementation of Directive 2010/64/EU, differentiates between translators and interpreters, the legislator failed to update this outdated provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure accordingly.

The full report of FRA is available here: http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2016/rights-suspected-and-accused-persons-across-eu-translation-interpretation-and

During the EULITA Conference the following topics were of special interest to me:


Orietta Olivetti, the Coordinator of the Working Group responsible for the UNI 11591:2015 standard, talked to us briefly about the aforementioned Technical Standard regarding the certification of professional skills of LITs in Italy. More specifically, UNI, Italy’s National Standardisation Office, issued in accordance with the Italian Law no. 4 of 2013, a new Standard concerning non-regulated professions entitled “Professionals operating in the field of translation and interpretation – Requirements in terms of knowledge, skills and competence”.

As in many other European countries, translators belong to the non-regulated professions in Italy. This means that there is no need to be authorised by law and there aren’t any binding professional prerequisites. Access to the profession is open to anyone.

The Standard recognises two distinct professional figures, the translator and the interpreter, and includes terms and definitions for these two professional categories. According to the standard, a translator is a professional whose task is to render from the source language culture into the target language culture written text of various types, while maintaining the content and meaning unaltered. A legal translator is a translator who translates legal and judicial texts from one language culture to another.

The standard also identifies the basic tasks of a legal translator, which is to translate texts that belong to the legal or judicial domain and lists some optional tasks, such as the preparation of a Translation Memory and of bilingual files, the revision of texts and performing Computer-Assisted Translation.

Furthermore, through the determination of the relevant knowledge, skills and competences of translators and interpreters, the Standard enables professional associations that comply with certain requirements to issue an attestation to their members, vouching for the good quality and qualification of their services.

Here are the benefits of the UNI 11591 standard, according to the speaker and our own opinion as well:

  1. It defines clearly the main professional profiles that are on the market in an official document.
  2. It shows clearly how to assess the competence of professional translators and interpreters, rather than the quality of the translation or interpretation services.
  3. It classifies clearly the different tasks for the various profiles and addresses their lifelong learning requirements.

Since the Purpose of the Standard is to promote advancement in the legal status of professional translators and interpreters, we can only hope that such initiatives will be undertaken in other countries as well.


Ondřej Klabal, legal translator and Legal English Lecturer at Palacký University, presented an intensive summer course offered by Palacký University, which focuses on legal terminology and legal translation in English, German, French and Russian. This course is a Joint initiative by the Judicial Academy of the Czech Republic and the Czech Chamber of Court-Appointed Interpreters and Translators. The participants on this course are legal translators and interpreters, as well as public legal professionals, such as judges and public prosecutors.

The speaker presented to us some of the testimonials from participants, which emphasise the obvious benefits of such courses:

  • Attendees at the course have the opportunity to directly exchange their experiences with terminology usage. These courses can be a forum where legal professionals get a chance to explain to translators why some terms they see in the translations may not the most appropriate or ideal ones for the target language’s legal system. And on the other hand, translators get a chance to reason their decisions.
  • These joint courses for lawyers and legal translators and interpreters provide the chance for the two professions to better understand each other. The lawyers are often commissioners of legal translations and it is very important for them to realise what information they should be providing to translators through translation briefs in order to facilitate the quality of the translated text. We have referred to the importance of translations briefs in ensuring quality in legal translations in one of our previous posts.
  • Lawyers get a chance to explain the terminology of the legal system of the source language that cannot be translated into another language without understanding its meaning and to resolve ambiguities in legal drafting.
  • On the other hand, the courses make it possible for lawyers to understand how complex and difficult the job of a legal translator is, which helps to increase the prestige and the perception of the whole profession in the eyes of legal professionals.
  • Last but not least, as many linguists have no training in law, these courses are basically the only chance for them to discuss terminology with lawyers and find an acceptable solution for difficult terms.


The interaction of legal professionals with legal linguists can only benefit each of them and we certainly hope that this model will be followed by other countries as well.”


by Eva Angelopoulou

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