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Top Things To Consider When Getting a Legal Translation

Certified Translations
Top Things To Consider When Getting a Legal Translation
on May, 18 2017

The Internet serves as an “introduction portal” of the Digital Age between legal translation agencies and their clients. However, distinguishing reliable players from less reliable ones in the Digital Age is difficult, especially when there’s so much “marketing speak” out there.

Today, clients everywhere can access qualified translation providers; many of which are located in different regions or abroad. As a result, most translation providers are typically sized up by the client from a distance, over the phone or Internet.

This makes it tricky for a client to know what kind of service to expect. What’s the process like? What makes for a reliable, trustworthy legal translation services provider?

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The Challenges Behind a Legal Translation



Don’t make the mistake of being the kind of client who views the negotiation and drafting of the contract, as just another “problem” to get out of the way.

If you truly want all parties to understand the true parameters of the contract, take the time to look for a quality translation provider who will help clarify the legal points to all sides of the negotiation deal.

But even clients who are interested in getting legal translation of quality, may not know how to identify a good legal translation services provider.

The key to this is to, first, understand the kinds of challenges that exist for the legal translator. And, second, understand that to solve these challenges, they must have a good grasp of the legal notions and concepts between the two texts.

After all, when a problem in quality in the certified translation arises, it is usually too late to improve the translated document. So, to avoid this mess of a scenario from taking place, try to understand what the translator must contend with, when faced with a legal translation task.

The Deadline Pressure of a Legal Translation

Understanding the nature of meaningful legal notions, and verifying these, often take up a lot of time. Naturally, the legal translation provider wants to do a good job, but can only do so much within a given time frame.

Linguistic subtleties are in play, when a translation is made, which means having a deep understanding of the legal systems in question, the specific contexts of the societies of the parties, and more.

The Problem of “Untranslatable” Concepts

Certain legal expressions, so specific to their area, are judged "untranslatable" because the legal concepts underlying them are so different. For example, the concept of “habeas corpus” that is found in the U.S. and U.K does not exist in other countries, or refers to something different.

Another example is the term “consideration” used in contracts under American Common Law. This essential concept that is a standard part of many American contracts cannot be translated into another language without an in-depth explanation.

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Legalese and Regional Variations


Legal Translation

Legal verbiage can also vary significantly between one country and another. As is the case for the legal languages of France, Quebec, Wallonia, Senegal and other French-speaking areas.

There is variation even among legal languages at the regional level, which are tied to the formality and structure of the legal systems, the vocabularies, and the legal expressions.

Legal languages also reflect the different cultures, and political, economic, and social histories of the community.

The term "Jurisprudencia" does not have the same legal meaning in Mexico as it does in Spain, just as "consideration" is not the same in Connecticut as it is in London.

Grammar, Punctuation and Terminologies in Notarized Translation

Beyond the words, punctuation, within the context of grammar, can also change meanings. As is also the case of terminologies used within the field, which seek to convey nuance, and clarify ambiguities.

As clarity is the goal; knowing the translator understands how grammar, punctuation and knowledge of terminologies interplay with each other, is the secret to a good certified translation.

Legal Concepts

Because legal concepts have effects within the system/s, explanations within the translated text are sometimes necessary. This enables all parties affected by the systems of laws to have a notion of what legal effects may happen.


Fluency is key, so that the meaning of the legal languages, terminologies concepts, systems, etc. between the two societies may be understood by all parties.

Still, even advanced knowledge of a certain language does not guarantee a successful translation. Understanding subtleties while having an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter being translated is what makes a real difference.

So what to look for in getting legal translation? Plenty of experience in translation, a strong knowledge of the legal languages in question, are two indicators of how to acquire a good legal translation.

Translations and Project Management

Carrying out the research, so necessary to understanding the source text, for a quality translation is often the first step in the process. Sometimes outside sources are consulted for a particularly difficult project, and project tasks divvied up by a team of translators.

When a term seems uncrackable, some teams even transcreate, that is, creatively interpret “untranslatable concepts” so that clarity between the two texts is attained as much as possible.

Good translation teams have a project manager to oversee team functionality, the editing process, client communication, and final quality control.

Related Post: Transcreation vs Translation – What’s the Difference?


Translations and Ancillary Services

Notarization and certification are often part of the process of having translated documents be accepted in court. The bureaucracy behind such processes vary by country, of course, so the time to certify the final documents must be considered.

Sometimes, digitization, character recognition or desktop publishing services are used by translation providers to make the certified translation look clean, polished and professional.

These are some of the parameters all legal translation providers take into consideration when tackling a notarized translation project. Hopefully these insights help you better recognize a good translation team when you talk to them, or read their work!

Denise Recalde

Denise Recalde is a Senior Content Writer at Day Translations. A seasoned writer and editor with eleven years of experience under her belt, she is a bonafide wordsmith who loves playing with the written word creatively and always takes care to lend a certain hue of snap and color to her drafts. Always one to rise up to challenges, she has traveled to 14 countries and has worked on a smorgasbord of writing projects that spanned several industries, from finance to health to beauty and fashion.

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