Choosing the right legal translation services is particularly challenging because of how much language can vary from country to country, firm to firm, and even person to person. A word to word translation does not always convey the correct tone, context, or meaning, leaving legal contracts open to serious consequences.
That is why industry-specific expertise is critical. The translators not only need a thorough understanding of the linguistics, but also the associated laws. It is also important to note that legalities differ widely across international borders, so ensuring a translated document has the same level of effectiveness is especially challenging. However, having the right technology in place makes legal translation services much more manageable.
Challenges With Technical Details and Tone in Legal Translation
Both technical details and tone are challenging areas within legal translation services. A word for word translation may wind up missing nuances that make the product technically inaccurate. This could have significant repercussions and even cause the rejection of necessary legal filings.
Consider the translation of a birth certificate for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. There’s not much text on it, so it may seem like a straightforward job that can quickly be completed by machine translation. But there is a significant risk here, simply due to the ways formatting can vary. The U.S. predominantly uses a month-day-year format. Meanwhile, most Latin American and European countries use a day-month-year format. This difference could lead the translator to transpose the dates and put the wrong birthday on the translated birth certificate. The person reviewing the translated application at USCIS won’t have access to the original document; they will only see the birthday discrepancy and be unable to verify the identity of the applicant. This tiny error could end up taking months to fix.
In contracts, this becomes even more complicated. Lawyers spend a lot of time designing documents to support their client’s best interests. A bad translation could result in many vital components being omitted, eliminating the legal shield they provide.
Even if a document is technically accurate, attorneys also need to consider tone. Cultures have different ways of dealing with the law. The Brazilian court system, for example, is based on the European civil code, while the American one comes from English common law. This creates a major difference in existing legal precedents, statutes, and processes. Someone who translates American contracts for a Brazilian firm without taking these changes into account can come off as inexperienced and unintentionally damage relationships.
Since legal translation can be extremely subjective based on the topic, firm, and country, it’s essential to cultivate a program that takes these changes into account by building on past successful translations.
Tools to Improve Legal Translation Services
When you correctly manage a legal translation, you want to leverage that knowledge for future translations. This is where a localization management platform comes in. This technology has the ability to be customized, catering to particular nuances that could apply when translating. Specifically, there are four tools for this:
- Term management: This is the process of managing product- or client-specific terminology to ensure it’s translated accurately across different languages. Powerful term management builds consistency and reinforces the tone of the firm.
- Glossaries: Glossaries are great for managing industry-specific terminology in a multilingual environment. Specific phrases will have accompanying approved translations in target languages to ensure the right legal doctrines, cases, and laws are cited.
- Translation memories: A translation memory (TM) will store large segments of content for future use in various languages. With the addition of new data, the TM grows more intelligent. It is an ever-growing, dynamic tool that expands with a firm.
- Change tracking: If someone makes a change to translated content, there should be reasoning behind it. Change tracking ensures that translations are only updated based on necessity rather than personal preference. Associated annotations can also give needed context to translators, so they’re better able to edit documents in the future.
The key to using technology as part of legal translation is eliminating duplicate work. A correctly translated Brazilian birth certificate could serve as a model for one from Portugal. A good non-disclosure agreement could be the jumping-off point for a confidentiality contract. It’s about leveraging the hard work done in the first translations to guide linguists on the work that follows.
The right legal translation services allow linguists to leverage technology to ensure accuracy in the technical details and tone in all work. By building on previously completed strong translations with tools like termbases, glossaries, translation memories, and comment tracking, linguists have the needed context to provide precise translations that capture all necessary information. Since even the smallest error can lead to significant legal consequences, it’s vital to use the right tools to ensure accurate translations that authentically reflect the firm’s culture.