The translation may appear to be a relatively simple and uncomplicated task, but as they say, appearances can be deceptive. It is vitally important in the translation of any document that the professional assigned to the task remains as faithful and accurate to the original when translating, and in no other field is this one single criterion as important as in legal document translation.
Accuracy is of paramount importance since legal documents are very carefully worded, leaving no scope for mistakes. If at any time or stage, during the process of translation, if even a single word is misinterpreted or misunderstood, the meaning of the document can change and it can lead to a possible dispute or even an extended court case. Some of the documents where this kind of work is involved are:
Contract translations. Confidentiality agreements and documents containing sensitive information such as government documents. In all of the above, it is absolutely imperative that the translating party or agency adhere to certain guidelines. These are:
- The translation needs to be as faithful and accurate to the original text as is possible
- Confidentiality needs to be maintained especially in the case of documents containing sensitive information such as government documents, property dispute documents, and documents centering around military contracts. Hence extreme caution needs to be taken when outsourcing these tasks to private parties or freelancers.
- Language and choice of words. The language needs to be clear, without any form of ambiguity and certain words and jargon need to be retained as they are, without modification. Good grammar and syntax are as important for a legal document as for any other written piece of communication.
- In the legal world, rules change from time to time. Any verdict of the case can lead to a new rule known in legal circles as a precedent. It is important that the translating party (or parties) be familiar with such precedents.
- Maintain the tone of the document. Most documents are written in the passive voice. It is important that this tone be maintained throughout the document
In this kind of documents, there is neither room for error nor is there any necessity for any kind of flowery language or needless paraphrasing. It is also mandatory that legal documents be manually translated and one can’t put legal translation through a translation software. Where the document involves two countries, as for example migration documents, it is important that the translator understands the rules and laws of the country, even the culture of the country, other than his own, so that the document is culturally relevant. In the case of complex documents, there is no loss of dignity or image in seeking the help of legal professionals and experts in the field. The end result of such an exercise is that it rules out the possibility of any kind of accusation being leveled at the translating person or agency.
Translation of legal documents as you can see is a task involving precision, accuracy, and knowledge. Knowledge not just of the legal framework of your own country, but of rules and regulations of other countries, especially in the case of cross-cultural contracts and communication. But for the experts in this esoteric field, the rewards (financial and otherwise) more than compensate for the time and care taken in the translation of legal documents.