The art of translation is a delicate process, filled with plenty of potential pitfalls and misunderstandings. The translation of legal documents takes that to a whole new level. Breaking down ‘legal speak’ is something that we entrust to trained professionals, but translating that into an entirely new language (and, more importantly, an entirely new legal system) requires the highest level of skill, understanding, and expertise. As W.E. Weisflog said in his groundbreaking paper Problems in Legal Translation: “Legal Language is a technical language, but legal language is not a universal technical language.”
The actual act of translating such technical documents is not something that can be left to automated tools. Of course, in any situation, you want to be as accurate as possible with your translations, but in a legal environment this can be magnified exponentially – thousands of court cases are adjourned due to poor interpreting.
The only way to avoid such situations is to ensure you are hiring the best. Craig Lovatt, Commercial Director at Global Voices, says, “To ensure we only hire translators of the highest quality, we require as a minimum five years of professional translating experience, as well as five years of industry specific experience.”
This is why Global Voices translators consistently meet ISO 9001-2015 standards, which requires an overall accuracy of over 99.99%.
It’s not just human error that provides a barrier to effective legal translation. Trying to force a single document to mesh two different cultures together has a wide margin for error. As Deborah Cao mentions in her research paper Legal Translation, “The most important general characteristic of any legal translation is that an unusually large proportion of the text is culture-specific.”
She explains that there are ideological concepts missing between cultures; ideas and understandings we take for granted may not exist in other countries, which is then reflected in their legal systems. It is therefore vitally important that a translator working with legal documents is not just excellent at translation, but also familiar with the different cultures. With Global Voices’ vast network of translators (over 9,000 in over 140 different languages) we can promise that our translators are not just fluent in the language, but in the culture as well.
As Craig Lovatt says, “We only use mother tongue translators to ensure that not only the content, but the meaning is accurately translated across cultures.”
The extra caveat that comes from translating legal documents is trying to make sense of two legal systems, both equally valid, but often contradictory. To navigate such a situation requires an in–depth knowledge of law for both countries, as examined in this study looking at the types of translation errors in Taiwan legal documents. It concluded that one of the main causes of translation error was “failure to consult reliable law databases”, and an “insufficiency of legal knowledge”.
During the legal battle between Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent over the selling of ‘red soled’ shoes in 2012, lawyers were presented with an awkward situation: both companies were based in France, but the case was tried in America. The conflicting legal environments made many of the legal processes nearly impossible, particularly during the ‘discovery phase’ – France has extremely strict privacy laws limiting access to important documents, while the American courts required extensive evidence. It was a translation agency that offered the solution, creating a ‘silo system’ that adhered to France’s privacy laws but still allowed the courts access to all important documents.
This is why Global Voices’ expansive network of industry specialist translators is so important. It ensures that whatever your needs, regardless of specific laws or countries, we have the tools, network, and people available to provide the quality service you need.
Make sure that the best possible translator is working through your legal documents. Contact us for a quote and sign up to our free newsletter for news and updates.