Tag: Legal linguistics

The call for proposals for “Jurilinguistics III: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Language and Law” has been extended to 18 March.

If you work in the fields of legal translation/interpreting, and have something interesting to say about them, the training of legal translators, or terminology resources in those fields, do consider submitting a paper. The last two editions in Seville were great. The third edition will be in Cambridge later this year (1-2 October 2020). Jurtrans will be there, and hopefully I’ll be presenting a paper.

The Crépeau Centre, in collaboration with the Network of Jurilinguistics Centres, has just announced the programme for the 12th Summer Institute of Jurilinguistics to be held at McGill University’s Faculty of Law on  15 June 2018.

summer institute of jurilinguistics

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Hard on the heels of the very interesting event “Legal translation to the next level” held on 4 February here in London come a series of other events and conferences all relating to the topic.  The tagline for the London conference was that legal translators should ‘roar to the world’ about their existence.  Another 5 conferences happening this year will certainly help get the message out there about what legal translators do and the important role they play. So here’s a quick round-up of forthcoming legal translation events:Continue Reading..

“Legal translation has been regarded as the ‘ultimate linguistic challenge’, ‘combining the inventiveness of literary translation with the terminological precision of technical translation’ … It is marked by a strong conflict between accuracy and naturalness. …  This conflict is widespread in all types of translation; however it is escalated in legal translation. Accuracy is of primary importance in legal translation and takes precedence over stylistic considerations.”


Lucja Biel, Lost in the Eurofog: The textual fit of translated law, Peter Lang Editions (2014), p.  49

Translated law, legal translation and textual fit 

“… legal terms  tend to be incongruous, the degree of incongruity depending on the affinity between the systems and languages… The differences are greater between the common law system and the civil law system … than between two civil law systems … Some areas of law are more prone to globalisation and a harmonisation of concepts, for example, business law tenders to show higher affinity between legal systems than criminal law, subject to the culture-specific axiological and moral assessment of what is socially unacceptable and punishable. The incongruity is one of the major challenges in legal translation: it is found not only at the level of terms but more importantly at the level of concept systems, which affects how conceptual networks and conceptual fields are organised…. In legal translation it is unavoidable for recipients to access the unfamiliar (source language concepts and knowledge structures) through the familiar (target source language concepts and knowledge structures) by establishing epistemic correspondence between incongruous structures.”


Lucja Biel, Lost in the Eurofog: The textual fit of translated law, Peter Lang Editions (2014), p.  50




“Experts Talk About Legal Translation” is a series of interesting quotes from some of the world’s leading academics and writers from the field of legal translation. The series highlights some of the complexities and difficulties involved in legal translation and seeks to raise awareness among clients, translators and the general public about legal translation which is proving to be one of the fast-growing, most interesting segments of the translation market.


“Because of the system-bound nature of legal terms, full equivalence between terms from two legal systems is rare: translators most often deal with partial or zero equivalence / conceptual voids. Kjaer argues that ‘non-equivalence is the rule rather than the exception’ .. When searching for an equivalent, the translator should first decide whether it is possible to use a functional equivalent, also known as a dynamic or natural equivalent, that is a term which exists in the target legal system. This technique is regarded as the ideal solution …; however, Sarvcevic emphasises that its acceptability depends on the degree of incongruity between source language and target language concepts … functional equivalents are possible when incongruity is relatively small …”

Lucja Biel, Lost in the Eurofog: The textual fit of translated law, Peter Lang Editions (2014), p. 42


“The fuzziness of the category of legal translation derives from the fuzziness of the category of legal language. Legal translation is unquestionably a type of specialised translation and, as demonstrated by Asensio, is notoriously difficult to define through traditional criteria applied to specialised translation … As to the degree of specialisation, legal translation is not only a communication between experts but also may be addressed to citizens (e.g. judgments, legislation). In respect of the subject matter, it should be treated as a category with fuzzy boundaries, as law regulates various fields and areas of life and the ‘legal frame of activity’ may sometimes be decisive in classifying a text as legal translation.”

Lucja Biel, Lost in the Eurofog: The textual fit of translated law, Peter Lang Editions (2014), p. 50-51

“Why is legal language so complicated? Legislative drafters and linguists compare notes”

Dealing with legal language all day long, legal translators are definitely aware that it is complicated stuff. This workshop, to be held in London by the Institute of Modern Languages Research at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies on 29.6.2016, takes a look at how the viewpoint of the linguist can be co-opted to help legislative drafters produce better quality texts (and hopefully make legal translation an easier process too).


More information: http://www.sas.ac.uk/support-research/public-events/2016/why-legal-language-so-complicated-legislative-drafters-and-lin-1

Not translating legal content can be costly

Legal translation is becoming increasingly important in a globalised economy,

Legal translation: not translating legal content can be costly

A recent German court ruling highlights the importance of legal translation in an increasingly globalised market. Social media apps have a massive user base. App developers understand the importance of localising their content for the markets they operate in, but terms and conditions of use, privacy policies and other legal content may not necessarily be translated into the local language, as this case indicates.

The language industry blog Slator reported the other day that WhatsApp faces a potential € 250,000 fine for failing to translate the applications’ terms and conditions of use from English into German so local users could comprehend them.

Proceedings were brought before Berlin’s Kammergericht court by a local consumer organisation (VZBZ) because key terms and conditions of use of the application and the privacy policy had not been translated into German and had been left in English.

While WhatsApp content is available in German, the consumer organisation which launched the case complained that the terms and conditions contained “technical legal language”, meaning it was mostly incomprehensible to German users of the app.

Berlin’s Kammergericht court acknowledged that many Germans are capable of getting by in everyday English but that legal English is not something they are familiar with. The VZBV’s press release on the ruling states that “The court noted that no customer should have to face ‘an extensive, complex set of rules with a very large number of clauses’ in a foreign language,” thereby highlighting the importance of translating key legal terms when localising apps for other markets.

VZBZ’s press release also points out that “in the absence of a German translation, all the clauses lack transparency and are therefore legally void”.

The cost of legal translations is often minimal compared to the costs that can be payable in the event of litigation or administrative proceedings. Slator points out that WhatsApp would have paid around € 1,500 to get the documentation translated before publishing the content, but the cost could now be a € 250,000 administrative fine.

“From a legal point of view, adding or subtracting information in legal translation is a high-risk procedure, because of the potential change of legal meaning and/or effect of the target text, and therefore it is reasonable to assume that explicitation and implicitation will be a relatively rare phenomenon in legal translation”

Hjort-Pedersen, M. & Faber, D. (2010), “Explicitation and implicitation in legal translation – A process study of trainee translators” Meta: Translators’ Journal 55(2), 237-250 at 238


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