In the legal translation sector, Greek is a highly under-resourced language, in the sense that there are, as yet, few reliable bilingual legal texts that legal translators can consult to help them produce high-quality, accurate translations. Greek is not alone in its isolation. As Fuglinsky and Somissich put it:
“Legal systems, the legislation of which is drafted and enacted in a language, which is less widely used and understood, suffer from isolation as they cannot be directly accessed by legal practitioners or scholars from other countries …
For that—and if these legal systems with “exotic” languages do not want to drop out of the international academic community—they must be explained in the legal literature in another language and/or translated into a lingua franca. The most efficient way is most probably to have a combination of both. The lingua franca of law and of any other sciences today is definitely English.”
Of course, there are also practical reasons why translations of legal texts are necessary, such as facilitating mutual understanding in cross-border business, especially important as Greece seeks to attract more foreign direct investment after years in crisis.
One work designed to fill that gap is “Greek Corporate Legislation”, which was published earlier this year (2020) by Nomiki Vivliothiki Press (ISBN: 978-960-654-099-8, 544 pages, Cost: € 50).
Covering the three main texts on company forms which exist in Greece, it features the Greek text of Law 4548/2018 on Sociétés Anonymes (AE), Law 4072/2012 on Private Companies (ΙΚΕ) and Law 3190/1955 on Limited Liability Companies (ΕΠΕ), along with their English translations. The translations of Laws 4548/2018 and 3190/1955 include the whole law, whereas only Articles 43-120 and 330 of Law 4072/2012 have been translated into English, since this is an omnibus law, addressing a wide range of topics, but only those specific articles are relevant to private companies.
To make it easier for users to identify the legal provisions concerned, the Greek text appears on the left-hand page, the English translation on the right-hand page. The texts have been carefully aligned and paginated to ensure that the same information appears on each page.
The translations have been prepared by the team at Lambadarios Law Firm, though the translators who obviously devoted considerable time and effort to this work have not been named. This book is the third updated version of translations of corporate legislation that have come out over the years (previous ones dating to 2011 and 2007). In any future edition it would be great to see the translators involved being named.
The publisher conceived of the book as a useful tool for academics, investors, foreign court judges, arbitrators or mediators and everyday lawyers and legal advisors. We would argue that it would also be useful to accountants and tax planners.
Interestingly, the publishers also mention that the book could be a useful tool to legal translators translating into English. It is increasingly common that publishers of law books are recognising that legal translators could be potential users of their works. For example, the recently published German Civil Code Vol. I & Commentary states in its advertising blurb that, “… the commentary meets the expectations both of German and foreign lawyers by providing the proper terminology and explanation in English to lawyers and translators and by offering a systematic overview on the BGB to lawyers who are not very familiar with the German civil law”.
Why might it be useful to translators?
- Legal translators are key players in making legal knowledge and legal information accessible, in promoting justice and building mutual trust across national and linguistic boundaries. By having a single, correct text that everyone can turn to, it promotes consistency in their translations and thereby ensures consistency in transactions for clients, while improving legal certainty.
- One of the most commonly assigned categories of texts is those that have to do with company law. Think foreign shareholders acquiring holdings in Greek companies, mergers and acquisitions, international investments, due diligence … all requiring company legal documentation (articles of associations, board minutes, etc.) to be translated. The book provides a valuable reference tool that can be consulted if legislation is directly quoted within a text being translated, or alternatively it can be consulted in order to find terminology.
- Company law in Greece has undergone considerable reform in recent years, first with the introduction of private companies and then in 2018, the radical overhauling of the law on sociétés anonymes by Law 4548/2018 which replaced Codified Law 2190/1920. Both these developments introduced new terms and concepts to the field of company law in Greece, and this English translation now provides a useful go-to resource for inspiration on how to translate them. Take for example the new concept of “μονομελές διοικητικό όργανο (σύμβουλος-διαχειριστής)”/“single-member administrative body (director-administrator)” which can be found in Article 115 of Law 4548/2018. Prior to the publication of this EN translation, any online search for the concept would have turned up implausible translations for this term such as “consultant-manager”, which are apt to cause confusion among end users of the translated text. Reliable, elegant translation solutions, such as those which can be found in abundance in this work, remove such confusion.
- Register is largely consistent across all the translated texts included in this work. Although the source text of Law 3190/1955 is a mix of purist and demotic Greek, the EN translation maintains a consistent register in simple, straightforward English, providing translators with some useful insights into how to handle these two distinct styles of Greek in any texts they may have to translate. Seen in this light, the book has some indirect educational value.
Having read the translated texts in Greek Corporate Legislation, the impression is that they are generally good. Broadly speaking the translations flow well, are easy to read, are immediately comprehensible and are in an appropriate register. What appear to be neat translation solutions have been provided. For example “αντιτάσσεται στους τρίτους” has been rendered as “generates effects erga omnes” (Article 11(4) of Law 4548/2018). However, reading on (Article 84 of the same Law) we find that the same phrase has been rendered as “may not be invoked against third parties”. And it was around this point that we began to notice other inconsistencies and annoying issues with the book.
Let’s look at these and how they impact its usefulness from a translator’s perspective.
There are problems with the citations of articles and paragraphs in the translated texts. In one sentence you’ll find “paragraph 1 of Article 1” (which would not be how one would typically cite such a thing in English) but then you’ll find “Article 1(1)” (which would be the correct way to do it) in the very next. For example:
Page 93, Law 4548,
Article 49(4)(d): “without prejudice to Article 75(4) of Codified Law
Page 93, Law 4548, Article 49(4) [two paragraphs down]: “set in paragraph (1) of Article 159”.
Moreover, not all European legislation is cited consistently or correctly. You will find the correct “Regulation (EU) No 909/2014” in one sentence but a bit further down “Regulation (EU) 909/2014” (which reflects the citational standard for Regulations issued from 1.1.2015 onwards). For example:
Page 5, Law 4548, Article 2(f) = “Regulation (EU) No 909/2014”
Page 77, Law 4548, Article 40(5) = “Regulation (EU) 909/2014”
There are also a couple of instances of inconsistent use of terms. For example, in one law you will find “σύγκληση” translated as convocation, but elsewhere it is translated as “calling of meetings”. Also “λύση εταιρείας” is translated as both dissolution and winding up of a company in different sections of the book, or you may find the title of the article using the word “dissolution” but the text of the article using “winding up”. Other examples are the phrase “Entry into force” used in the title of the Article, but “entry into effect” used in the body of the Article, or the phrase “causa mortis” use in Law 4072/2012 but “mortis causae” in Law 3190/1955. As to this issue, we are advised by a Classics Professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki that the correct term is “mortis causa”, similar to “honoris causa”, causa being in the ablative and mortis being in the genitive to show cause, and that “causae” (in the genitive or dative) would be incorrect usage. Yet another example is “criminal law provisions” in Law 4548/2018 but “penal provisions” in both the other two laws.
All this very much gives the impression that different people translated the different laws, or that there was no overall editorial oversight.
Certain formulaic phrases are not always translated in the same way. For example “Προβεί σε” is sometimes rendered as “proceed to” or “proceed with” + verb whereas in other cases it is just rendered by directly translating the relevant verb.
Certain formulations also stick rather too closely to the syntax of the source, and little attempt has been made to reformulate the phrase to make it sound syntactically more English. There is of course a certain tendency in translations done for comparative law purposes to take this approach. If it had been done everywhere, one might take the view that it was an editorial choice, and clunky though it may sound, resign oneself to accepting it. But again there is no consistency. In most instances the syntax flows properly as it should in EN, then suddenly one is confronted with what is unquestionably Greek syntax in English words.
Spelling conventions are also not consistently observed (‘iz’ and ‘is’ spelling forms can be found throughout the book). Even with the same law (for instance, Law 4548/2018) one finds both “authorisation” and “authorization”. In Law 4548/2018, we also counted 2 instances of “in favour” but 7 instances of “in favor”.
Most instances of numbers have the number written in full followed by the number in brackets: “one (1) month”. Again, that isn’t consistently followed everywhere in the translations. There are also some instances where there are obvious errors. For example, Article 141(5) of Law 4548/2018 has a “thirty (20)” in English whereas the Greek indicates that it should be “twenty (20)”.
(f) Variations in style
A good 80% of the translations use “shall” to express legislative obligation and then out of nowhere the simple present is used even though an obligation is implied.
In Article 149 of Law 4548/2018, the Greek text refers to “περίπτωσης 1 της υποπαραραγράφου Α1 της παρ. Α΄ του άρθρου 2” but in the English translation we have “Article 2(A1)(1) – no mention is made of paragraph (A) despite it clearly being there in the source text.
Article 19 of Law 3190/1955 is entitled “Ανάκληση και παραίτηση διαχειριστών” (i.e. revocation and resignation of administrators) but the translation omits any reference to “resignation” in the title of the Article (“Revocation of administrators”).
We also identified some errors in translation throughout the text (thankfully few in number).
(a) Terminology errors
For example, the word “ονομαστικοί” has been wrongly translated in Article 56(8) of Law 4548/2018.
GR: Οι τίτλοι κτήσης μετοχών είναι ονομαστικοί.
EN: Share warrants shall be nominal.
This should be “Share warrants shall be registered”.
(b) Wrong numbers
Another category of error identified was discrepancies between the numbers used in the source and target text. For example:
GR: όπως ο τίτλος τροποποιήθηκε με το άρθρο 5 του Π.Δ. 419/1986 (Α` 197).
EN: as the title of the Article was replaced by Article 4 of Presidential Decree 419/1986.
Here of course, this error is compounded by an error of omission. The reference to the Government Gazette issue in the original text is missing in the translation. The verb has also been wrongly translated (the title was “amended” and not “replaced” as the translation suggests).
Explicitation means adding something into a text to better convey the meaning, even though it was not in the source text. A fine line divides explicitation from over-translation.
While explicitation is a well-established strategy in legal translation, it does not appear to have been adopted in these translations, and on the few occasions where extra information is added in, the impression is more of over-translation.
GR: Ο θάνατος, η πτώχευση ή η απαγόρευση εταίρου
EN: Instances of death, bankruptcy or interdiction of a partner
This particular example also sounds somewhat awkward; the awkwardness concerns “instances of death”, as if it’s a regular occurrence in a company or a recurrent experience for the deceased person.
(a) Quotation marks
For some reason, Greek quotation marks are used considerably throughout the book instead of English ones. For example, we find the phrase:
On the same day or at the latest on the following working day and after completion of the actions provided for in paragraph (1), the «One Stop Shop» shall:
The valuation of the contributions in kind during the incorporation of the company as well as in any capital increase shall be carried out in accordance with the provisions of Law 2190 «on Sociétés Anonymes», as amended, which apply mutatis mutandis.
In keeping with the general inconsistencies one encounters throughout the book, we also have the correct use of quotation marks, as here:
In the company’s international transactions, the aforementioned words shall be translated as “Limited Liability Company” and the abbreviation as “LLC” or “LTD”.
(b) Repeat words
There are quite a few instances of “by by” and “with with” and similar through the text. We also have “shall shall”. Take for example, Article 37(2), first line of Law 3190/1955: “The sale shall shall be carried out”.
While not a repetition of words, Article 40(4) of Law 3190-1955 contains “the this”:
“Within ten days from the lapse of the time period provided in paragraph (2) of the this Article…”.
All in all, after having picked up the gauntlet thrown down by Mr Constantinos Lambadarios in the foreword, so to speak, asking for “comments or suggestions which could be used for the next edition of the book”, and after having exhaustively read and compared the texts against their Greek counterparts, the impression we garner is that the translations were not edited to the fullest extent (or at all). In fact, it appears that at no stage of the process, from translation to proofreading to editing to publishing, was a cursory spellcheck carried out, which would have immediately identified many of the errors highlighted above. Additionally, one gets the feeling the laws were translated by different people and while this is not a bad thing per se, coordination between the team of translators is required in order to avoid errors and inconsistencies; sadly, such coordination appears to have been lacking here.
Do these oversights and inconsistencies seriously affect the book’s reliability as a work of reference for translators?
On balance, we would say no. Professional legal translators are the closest and most scrupulous readers of any text. They are likely to spot the errors and any possible mistranslation, recognise them as inconveniences and correct them in their own translations. What they are though is seriously annoying for the translator using this work, especially given the cost of the book, but they are not fatal flaws. One would like to hope that any in future edition these points would be rectified and we remain at the disposal of Lambadarios and the publishers to correct the proofs of any second edition of this version or any future version.
A further recommendation for a future edition would be the inclusion of a glossary. Legal terms are highly context-bound. How a term is translated in the context of company law might not be how it would be translated in another context. A context-specific glossary would again promote accuracy in translated documents and improve legal certainty for the users of those documents.
So, would we recommend it to Greek-English legal translators? Probably yes, but …
John O’Shea LL.B (Hons.) LL.M
 Ádám Fuglinszky – Réka Somssich, Language‑bound terms—term‑bound languages: the difficulties of translating a national civil code into a lingua franca, , Int J Semiot Law https://doi.org/10.1007/s11196-020-09704-x