Legal translation is delicate work. It requires the transposition of legal concepts from one language to another, taking into account the differences between the two legal systems. All versions of the document must be identical in meaning and even a small error could alter or invalidate it. However, translators are human and can sometimes make legal translation errors. Here are six.
Relying too much on your memory
Having confidence in your abilities is important, but when we talk about legal translations it is also quite risky. Translating large projects of a technical nature by relying exclusively on one’s own abilities and skills risks creating monsters of inconsistencies with erratic meanings.
Use a glossary, write down a legend of the terms, especially the more technical ones, to be translated and make sure you don’t use more than one synonym for each of those. The goal is not to impoverish the language or stick to a low-quality word-for-word translation, but on the contrary it is to improve the quality of the translation, giving it formal coherence and elegance.
Use different formats
When you translate a large legal project it’s easy to ‘get lost’. So, without realizing it, it is easy for you to use different formats within it to report numbers, prices, addresses and data in general.
Make sure all data is in the same format. Scroll through the text more than once, if necessary. If the original text has different formats, it is important to understand whether it is due to a precise stylistic or register choice, or whether it is instead an inconsistency that needs to be corrected.
Lose the negatives
It’s nothing to worry about, but you might as well pay a little extra attention to the negatives to determine whether or not they’ve been lost. Translators, especially when the material is substantial, can easily miss a ‘not’ along the way. When you reread the translation, do so by reminding yourself that this is one of the most common omissions.
In this regard, remember to constantly monitor your emotional state: you will in fact need more checks if you feel tired, ill or more distracted than usual.
Sacrificing content for form
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that an extremely demanding, complex and convoluted original text, as those of a legal nature generally are, must necessarily be translated into simple and direct language.
Legal translation requires intellectual rigor. You are not an editor, nor a language facilitator. Your task is to translate a text in the most faithful, coherent and contextualized way possible.
A literal translation is automatic machine stuff, right? Right, but sometimes it happens that the internalization of this axiom is so powerful as to make the translator fall into the trap of “translated”.
Sometimes, in fact, especially in legal translations, the literal translation of a word is the most correct solution, but the translator’s prejudice means that he is unable to even contemplate the idea. Here then we witness the funny phenomenon of “tradottose”, such that we end up inventing meaningless words rather than using a literal and linear translation that would have made the concept crystal clear.
Don’t ask questions
To avoid the trap of “translated” it doesn’t take much at all: just ask the agency or the client for clarification and clarification. Unfortunately, sometimes it happens that an agency ends up behaving in an unprofessional manner, avoiding translators’ questions or not forwarding them to the client. Professionals don’t act like scared puppies. Acting like a scared puppy can have serious consequences because being intimidated by your client is no defense against negligence charges.
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