Among legal and legal translation circles there is a popular saying at All contracts are agreements but all agreements are not contracts As we can see, the translation of legal deals and papers is a distinctly specific and expert area of translation. It needs to combine the technicalities of legalese and languages. An international agreement crosses boundaries, legal contexts, communities, and culture. Translation does get lost in vague wordings and translator’s interpretation. Furthermore, the legal international translations and wordings which can have various legal impacts, so it’s imperative that the language used is both appropriate and unambiguous.
To decipher a legal contract or document with absolute exactness, here are some things you should keep in mind:
Avoiding Vitiating Factors Through Expert Translators
Vitiating factors are issues that might spoil the contract. The main vitiating factors of a contract are inaccuracy, undue influence, duress, misrepresentation, frustration, unconscionability, incapacity, and illegality. An example of a vitiating factor is when a party has been lied into entering into the contract due to false claims or misrepresentation. These vitiating factors can be avoided by the use of expert translators when drafting a contract.
To translate a legal contract precisely, a translator must have exceptional command over legal lingo. As mentioned improper translation can lead to confusion, or be open to misinterpretation. Be aware that your work could be the object of scrutiny later on. Legal contracts and documentation are related to the law of the land - a good translator should be familiar with local law and also to the fact that these laws can change.
Selection of Words and Phrases
The translation should convey the message of the original contract both suitably and in its totality. In legal contracts, any statement that contains vagueness could be subject to concentrated scrutiny. Also, the use of appropriate punctuation is crucial, since misappropriation could result in a modification of the original meaning.
A knowledgeable translator or translation agency must recognize that between any two languages, it is often arduous to refashion even a simple sentence with similar wordings. Besides, doing so can result in syntactic inconsistencies and will sound disjointed. Colloquial phrasings and construction often aid towards clarity.
As such dense literature has been written to help assist the process of contract translation. A good read might be a Systematic Approach to Translating Contracts into English by Robb Lunn. A legal contract might essentially be divided into -
- Set formulas which are the phrases laden with legalese,
- Structural elements like clause numbering,
- Housekeeping clauses which provides the details of contracts, which are formulaic but differs greatly among languages. They also contain more legalese and set phrases than other clauses.
- Headings (of clauses, sections, and the contract).
- Style and syntax the verbs, tenses, and sentence structure in the operative clauses. The most important part of the contract.
The legal phrasings and construction of contracts for global languages are not the same. Even for countries with the same language, the construction of contracts will vary. Legal contracts in Mexico widely vary from Spanish contracts - the translation depends on the legal conventions of a country. Native experts are a necessity for legal translations.
The contract being translated may contain information that should be hidden from competitors. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is essentially a contract that demands confidentiality from agreeing parties. The contracts being translated may refer to an on-going investigation or process. During moments of uncertainty, it’s best to assume that the contents of a legal document cannot be shared.
There are certain tips that one can methodically use to avoid translation errors (as Described by Rob Lunn). Here are some that can be used to translate to and from English:
- Do change verbs and tenses - Various languages use various language categories (the language of obligation, discretion, prohibition, etc.) for which verbs and tenses need to be modified accordingly. For example it is a word used as the language of discretion - many languages might not use the word at all to signify discretion.
- Use shall properly (if at all) - as it is a language of obligation
- Use hereby properly (if at all) - because it is a legal register
- Recast, a lot, especially to active voice - cut and join the sentences according to requirements
- Be specific and consistent (even when the source text isn’t) - such as using the party name many times, English favors clarity and repetition over variety (thus use actual terms in place of synonyms and pronouns), and make sure all terms are uniform (such as capitalization).
- Be judgmental in use of legalese - there is certain legalese to avoid such as here/there, pursuant to, duly, not limited to, etc.
- Decide on the register of the noticeable bits - Signpost languages (hereinafter, of the one/first part, whereas) should be used optionally.
- Don’t use doublets – Don’t reproduce any redundancy in the source text. Don’t use English doublets in your translations and synonymize the doublets to the respective terms (make and enter into - enter into, etc.).
- Avoid non-equivalent English terms - non-equivalent terms avoid the exact meaning of the expression, however, might also add additional meaning to the expression.
Various Translation Modalities - Contract Translation Services
Tradition translation methods
Hiring a traditional translator makes sense whenever one thinks of translating from one language to another. Experienced translators definitely provide precise translations. Translations today are, however, not limited to a single language - the requirement of accurate translation is a global phenomenon. The old-style method for translation, thus, for contracts into multiple languages is unwieldy and inefficient.
Machine translation method
Machine translation is inexpensive (sometimes free). It is also speedy and provides provisions for all the major global languages. Automated translation, however, is inaccurate. Exactness for logographic vernaculars lies in the range of 70-80%, and in the case of contract translation, this is impracticable.
Online Contract Translation Services
Contract translations are made easy with online translation services. Legal contract translation services employ native legal experts during the translation process to ensure that the translation is accurate, leaving little ground for misrepresentation. Confidentiality is maintained through end-to-end encryption and NDA during communication and translation. After the completion of translation, in house quality controllers ensure closure of every legal loophole. The finished contract translation is provided all under the provided timeline. The complete Business Contract Translation Services progression is efficient, effective, and errorless.