Beginner Difficulties in Legal Translation and How to Deal with Them

Translating legal documents is often considered a difficult and complicated task in the universe of translation, especially if you’re a beginner. You may find difficulties in translating legal documents because of the specific style which are unfamiliar to you. What makes legal translation seem harder than other translations is that the documents contain legal language. 

Legal language style itself is very different from the language and vocabularies of daily use or other writings. The technical and specific terms and differences in syntactic and semantic features used in the legal translation are more than usual translations which somehow make them reader-unfriendly. Legal language used in the documents also contains archaic expressions which have to be translated carefully to prevent misconceptions leading to wrong accusations.

Deborah Cao in her book Translating Law states there are 3 characteristics of legal language which are normative because it is representing the function of law itself as regulations and guidance between humans where language serves as the medium. Next, it is also performative because the words used in legal documents defined the actions performed as legal consequences of the documents. The last is that legal translations are dealing with specialized words and texts of law which makes them very technical. 

So, if you are a beginner in translating legal documents or texts, these are some important notes you might want to take before surfing the legal translation projects. 

Mastering basic knowledge of the legal systems in both source language (SL) and target language (TL) 

Right, having a good comprehension in both legal systems of the SL and TL will be very helpful. You can start by looking for references from judicial literature in both languages. It helps you in understanding the subject matter as different countries have different laws applied. 

Familiar with legal terminologies in both languages

Legal terminologies are rarely used daily. Reading more references will enrich your knowledge of legal terminologies. Nice tips, listing the terminologies will be very useful. You can also use the description technique while translating legal documents. This also helps you to understand the context of the terminology in case the word is not well recognized. 

Competencies in the specific legal writing style of the target language

Even though the target language of the legal translations will be conducted in your mother tongue, it is also important that you have competencies in the legal writing style. Competencies in legal writing style can also be learned by doing more practice on legal translation. 

Well, to get used to the challenges, you can also take a specialization in legal translation class anywhere. It is indeed complicated but you will never know if you never try. Broaden your knowledge in various fields will never go wrong. Good luck!

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