Legal translation is extremely complex and should never be done by someone who is not qualified to translate legal documents accurately to the target language. A legal translator not only translates from one language into another but also from one legal system to another. The translator must understand local culture and have detailed knowledge of the legal system in the country for which the translation is intended.
The legal translator should also be a native speaker of the target language and have a fundamental understanding of the source language. Legal Mistranslations can have devastating consequences and even result in legal action against the company or person involved. A slight paraphrase can change the legal meaning of a document
On 13 November 2007, during the long-running media pursuit of the case of the missing English girl in Portugal, reporter Fiona Govan filed a report on ‘Madeleine McCann: Possible translation errors’ in the UK Telegraph.
“Inconsistencies in the statements given by the McCanns and the group of friends who were dining with them at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance may have been caused by errors in translation, it emerged today. Portuguese detectives investigating the case of the missing four-year-old have admitted that they are reassessing the original witness statements to look for inaccuracies in their translation.”
Terminology plays a key role and the legal translator should have a full understanding in this area and be able to adapt the text from the source language to the target language without losing anything in translation. This requires expertise and experience. Legal matters are constantly changing throughout the world and the legal translator must keep abreast with these changes.
When sourcing legal translators it is important that they fulfil the following criteria:
Familiarity with the relevant legal terminology
Knowledge of the legal systems, both of the source and target languages;
Timely delivery of your translated documents.
Accuracy and attention to detail
Accurate legal translations can be delivered only by highly specialised translators who have a comprehensive working knowledge and experience in the legal industry.
A good legal translator should also be a specialist in a particular legal area, such as:
Tax and accounting law
Patent law and etc.