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4 Most Commonly Faced Challenges in Legal Translation

In today’s multilingual environment, there has been a steady demand for expert legal translators especially in areas such as court reporting, mediation, and patenting. You may already know that translation is much more than just converting a piece of text in one language to another. You’ve to take care of the tone of voice to help the translated piece fulfill its goal. However, when it comes to legal translation, things become even more complex because even a minor error in a translated legal document may lead to devastating results.

If you’re planning to take up legal translation as your profession, here are four most common challenges faced by legal translators. Take a look at them and prepare accordingly before you actually step into the field.




1. Different Legal Systems

Across the globe, legal systems vary greatly from one to the other. Some concepts and laws that exist in a particular country may not have an equivalent in another one. The absence of any cohesive “best practices” document may result in error or ambiguity in the translation. So, how can you eliminate the scope of ambiguity or error when working with two different legal systems? You must develop a robust understanding of both the legal systems that are described in the languages you’re working with.


2. Terminological Differences

This is another major challenge frequently faced by legal translators. Legal professionals appear with years of experience in working with complex legal documents and in their native language. For example, legal English is filled with complex multiple subjects and compound sentence structures along with niche legal terminology. Therefore, with similarly complex legal terminologies present in other countries, the job of legal translators becomes extremely challenging. To overcome this difficulty, you must develop a clear understanding of those different legal terminologies and the skill to perform the translation task with complete accuracy.


3. Appropriate Tone

As with any other translation work, translators always have to maintain the exact tone of legal documents. As legal English appears in a highly impersonal, formal tone and often comprises complex sentences, a mistranslation may lead to major complications. You may have also noticed that passive voice is frequently used in legal English. So, if you need to translate it into a language where active voice is primarily used, maintaining the right tone becomes a major challenge. However, similar to the above points, it’s possible to deal with this successfully by obtaining a solid grasp of the different languages.


4. Syntactic Differences

The syntax is another thing that you must handle very carefully when translating legal documents. For instance, elements such as commas, apostrophes, colons, etc that help form a particular sentence’s syntax must be dealt with appropriately when it comes to legal translation. Moving them around can alter the whole meaning of that sentence and in turn, of particular legal phrases. If done inappropriately, it may lead to inconsistencies and inaccuracies between the texts that may create ambiguities in interpretation and cause major complications. To avoid this, you must employ all of your linguistic knowledge when translating legal documents.


Closing Thoughts

As you can understand from the above, legal translators not only have to develop a robust linguistic knowledge of different languages but should have some relevant experience in translating documents for both legal systems. Therefore, to become a successful legal translator, focus on developing an extensive knowledge of certain legal systems and their terminologies along with other must-have skills for a perfect translation.


At Bare Bones Translations, we only employ experienced legal translators who are capable enough of providing different types of expert legal translation. If you’re looking for such a service, just contact us via phone: 512.571.2296 or email: info@barebones-translations.com and we’ll take it from there.


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