headphone and mic on desk

7 Things You Need To Know About Legal Translation

87% of U.S. companies agree that international expansion is necessary for long-term growth. Our digital age has made it increasingly possible to do business on a global scale.

However, in order to successfully accomplish these overseas or multilingual business transactions, companies need the help of commercial translation service providers.

Read on to learn 7 things you need to know about legal translation.


1. What is legal translation?

While translation, in general, is more nuanced than people think, legal translation is much more complex than transposing words from one language to another.

Legal translation is used in a wide range of documents, such as wills, litigation papers, financial documents, transcripts, patents, and legal rulings.

Legal translators must have expert knowledge of the subject matter. They must also have a thorough understanding of the laws of both the source and target languages to avoid incorrect translations.


2. Legal translation is different than other types of translation

Legal documents, more than other types of business documents, have a specific and unique set of terms. Legal translators need to be able to translate concepts correctly into the target language. They can’t stop at simply replacing words.

Legal text often has multiple meanings behind each particular word choice. Also, misinterpretation and ambiguity can result in a legal document becoming void. There can be expensive complications due to a small mistake.

Legalese is complex with specific terminology. Add to that the cultural and regional differences of the target language or country, and you can see how difficult legal translations can be.

Law translators work to transpose a legal concept into a different language. To be legally binding, legal terminology must be accurate.

Legal English is often written in long, compound sentences with high complexity. Also, legal discourse in English is regularly written in passive voice. Certain languages use only active voice, thereby making translation a challenge.


3. Legal translation rules vary by country

Each country has specific rules regarding how legal translators are licensed. Many times, law translators require a legal translation degree as well as a business degree.

In some countries, the state certifies all legal translators. In other parts of the world, legal translators must swear an oath before being accredited. In some places, such as Italy, every legal translation is certified by a lawyer or paralegal.

In North America, employers often hire legal translators who speak a foreign language. They also regularly have a bachelor’s degree in a second language or legal studies.

Many legal translators choose to become accredited or certified to prove they have the skills to translate materials on a professional level. This can be done with post-graduate degrees or professional certifications.

The American Translator’s Association likewise offers certification programs. To be certified as a legal translator, law translators may be certified by the state courts or the federal courts.

To be competitive in this industry, many translators choose to take a language proficiency test in their target language.


4. There is a difference between interpretation and translation

Many people confuse translation and interpretation, but they are quite different. Interpreters translate oral or signed language into another spoken or signed language. This process happens in real-time.

Translation deals with written text for both the source and target language.

In both interpretation and translation, the goal is for the tone, style, and content of the original to remain the same in the other language.

Credentials are different for both of these types of language-based industries.

Sight translation is a hybrid of these 2 forms. With sight translation, a written text in a language is rendered orally into another language.

Check out this guide to discover whether an interpreter or a translator is a better fit for your business.


5. Legal translators rely on reference material

Legal translators use various reference materials to aid them in their work. These include legal codes and regulations, amendments, legal consult documents, and more.

Law translators rely heavily on the target country’s codes for criminal and civil procedures and civil and commercial law. These codes provide the necessary legal concepts established in a particular language.

Reference materials help to confirm to the translator that they are using the correct nuanced word that is always used in legal proceedings.


6. Specific locales impact legal translation

It is not enough to translate a document into the target language. Various locales may share a common language but not necessarily the same laws.

For example, Spanish is spoken in 26 countries with different laws and legal contexts. A legal translator must be knowledgeable about the target locale and the target language.

Often, an in-country review can ensure that the appropriate legal jargon is in place.


7. Translation is a $46 billion industry

The language industry is a booming industry. In 2018, the global market for language services was $46.52 billion. Estimates expect the market will continue to grow and reach $56.18 billion USD by the year 2021.

There are 26,104 language service providers worldwide. The biggest companies provide services such as dubbing, voice-over, and narration for audio and video content, desktop publishing, consulting, and more.

Worldwide, there are currently an estimated 300,000 professional translators. In terms of legal translators, it is difficult to get an exact number of how many are working in the legal translation field as a large percentage work purely on a freelance basis. Therefore, your best bet is to work through an accredited, professional language services provider to find the perfect fit for your legal projects.


Final thoughts 

We hope you found this list of facts on legal translation eye-opening and that you now have a better understanding of the translation industry, as well as how important accurate legal translations are.

If you are in the market for any kind of translation, take time to ask questions to ensure that you protect your sensitive information and receive the most accurate finished project possible.

Still curious about what you should be asking your language services provider? Review these 5 questions to ask regarding translation and confidential information.


Related Blog Articles

person holding holographic globe
The Politics of Translation
Read article ›
person typing on computer and writing in notebook
4 Things Your Translation Provider Can Do With Legacy Translations
Read article ›
machine translation written on whiteboard
Pros and Cons of Machine Translation
Read article ›
cloud icon with file cabinet
What You Need To Know About Cloud-Based Translation Memory
Read article ›