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 THE TRICKS OF LEGAL TRANSLATIONS
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Вашему вниманию представляется текст, написанный носителем языка (American English). Если Вы знаете английский, Вы получите истинное наслаждение, если же Вы только начали его изучать, этот текст послужит хорошим примером благозвучия и верного использования грамматических времен, предлогов и пр.; внимательный же читатель заметит, что, хотя автор и разбирается в русском языке, он не является для него родным.

 

THE TRICKS OF LEGAL TRANSLATIONS

By David Ricks

 

 

            Anyone who has ever glanced at a contract or listened to two lawyers discussing a case knows that the legal world has a language of its own.  “Attenuating and aggravating circumstances,” “force majeure,” and “encumbrance” are not terms that you run across every day.  The style of legal texts is also mind-boggling, using uncommon words such as “pursuant to” and “herein,” and the amount of run-on sentences would make my ninth-grade teacher scream.  Now take all of this and throw a second language into the mix, with its own legal language and style, and welcome to the challenging world of legal translations!

            I am a Russian to English translator, and there are many differences between the legal styles of these two languages.  For example, Russian typically uses the present tense, while English uses the future “shall.”  Сторона принимает на себя обязательства” is translated as “The Party shall assume the obligations.”  On the other hand, if Russian uses the past tense, English will use the present.  Стороны договорились о нижеследующем” is translated as “The Parties agree as set forth below.”  As seen in one of the examples above, Russian uses the word “сторона,” or “side,” to designate one of the participants of the contract/agreement, while English uses the word “Party.”  Why do these differences exist?  I do not know.  All I can say is that each language has developed its own set of rules and its own legal traditions, thereby complicating the task of the translator.  I am quite certain that Japanese, German, Norwegian, French, Spanish, Arabic, and all other languages that have a legal culture have developed their own linguistic style which the translator must duplicate.

            Although legal jargon can be extremely confusing and difficult to grasp, it is typically very precise in its meaning.  As a result, ambiguous sentences should be avoided in legal translations at all cost.  For example, the words “he,” “she,” and “it” are typically avoided in legal texts, where it is preferable to repeat the entity performing the action (unless the pronoun comes immediately after the antecedent so that there can be no confusion).  See the following Russian sentence and translation to better understand this point:

 

            Лицензиар заявляет, что он вправе предоставлять права, указанные в п. 2.1., и что на момент подписания настоящего договора ему ничего не известно о правах третьих лиц....

            The Licensor warrants that it is authorized to grant the rights set forth under Section 2.1. and effective on the execution date of this agreement the Licensor is aware of no third party rights….

           

            As seen in the example above, the word “it” does appear once, quickly following the antecedent, whereas the word “Licensor” was repeated later in the sentence in order to avoid using the word “it” again.  Russian, with its use of gender, prefers to use pronouns, but in English this is not the norm.

            So what does it take to be a legal translator?  Most people believe that translation is only a matter of replacing one word with another into nice-sounding sentences.  Translation does, of course, involve replacing words of one language with words of another, but it is much more difficult than looking at a dictionary and inserting words into a sentence correctly.  This is especially true in legal translations.  Anyone who has worked with a lawyer knows that they love to look for mistakes and loopholes and capitalize on them.  A mistake in a legal translation can be the difference between accepted and denied, grounded and ungrounded, and even guilty and innocent.  A mistake in a friendly correspondence is one thing, which rarely causes serious problems, but errors in a legally binding document can be a disaster.  By way of example, I was once editing a translation of a contract between two major companies and I realized that the texts in several of the documents were identical.  Apparently, the translator had noticed this too, and had decided to copy and paste his original translation of those passages so as not to do repetitive work.  No harm in that, right?  Well unfortunately for the translator, he had also copied and pasted in the term dates of these contracts, which could have been a disaster.  Thankfully I was able to identify the mistake and correct it before the translation was complete and a major problem (and potential law suit) was avoided.

            Being a legal translator involves studying the legal languages in which the translator is working, and having the ability to replicate that language and style.  It is challenging work, especially at first, but the challenge is what makes it so rewarding.

 

       

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