Legal translation

Legal translation

Legal translation is the translation of texts within the field of law. As law is a culture-dependent subject field, legal translation is not a simple task.

Only professional translators specialising in legal translation should translate legal documents and scholarly writings. The mistranslation of a passage in a contract, for example, could lead to lawsuits and loss of money.

When translating a text within the field of law, the translator should keep the following in mind. The legal system of the source text is structured in a way that suits that culture and this is reflected in the legal language; similarly, the target text is to be read by someone who is familiar with another legal system and its language. Most forms of legal writing, and contracts in particular, seek to establish clearly defined rights and duties for certain individuals. It is essential to ensure precise correspondence of these rights and duties in the source text and in the translation. Legal translation may also involve, Certificates of Accuracy, Witness Statements, Property/Exhibit Labels and in some cases attendance in court by the translator(s).

Apart from terminological lacunae, or lexical gaps, the translator may focus on the following aspects. Textual conventions in the source language are often culture-dependent and may not correspond to conventions in the target culture. Linguistic structures that are often found in the source language have no direct equivalent structures in the target language. The translator therefore has to find target language structures with the same functions as those in the source language.

Translators of legal texts often consult law dictionaries, especially bilingual law dictionaries. Care should be taken, as some bilingual law dictionaries are of poor quality and their use may lead to mistranslation.

ee also

* Translating "law" to other European languages
* Translating for legal equivalence

Relevant literature

*cite web
last = Garzone
first = Giuliana
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Legal translation and functionalist approaches: a contradiction in terms?
publisher = University of Bologna
date = 2000
url =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-07-19

*cite journal
last = Hjort-Pedersen
first = Mett
authorlink =
coauthors = Faber, Dorrit
title = Lexical ambiguity and legal translation: a discussion
journal = Multilingua
volume = 20
issue = 4
pages = 379–392
date = 2001
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate =

*cite book
last = Nielsen
first = Sandro
authorlink = Sandro Nielsen
coauthors =
title = The bilingual LSP dictionary. Principles and practice for legal language
publisher = Gunter Narr Verlag
date = 1994
location =
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 978-3823345336

*cite web
last = Šarčević
first = Susan
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Legal translation and translation theory: a receiver-oriented approach
publisher = University of Rijeka
date = 2000
url =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-07-19


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