Translating legal documents: is knowledge of exact terms only half a deal?
Legal translation is a widespread service of translation agencies. You order it and it is done. However, unfortunately it is not unusual for simple terminology matching is presented as a valid translation. If you are a potential client, be careful. Experience shows that correct translation of special terms is not a guarantee that justice will be done to the source document.
What’s the same about a translator and a surgeon?
A translator dealing with a written legal translation must handle words as accurately as an eye surgeon in the course of an operation. Only one mistake in a contract, a power of attorney, a certificate, a license or a treaty may cause unexpected bureaucratic acrimony, losses and even claims. Moreover, legal speech is actually a set of professional phrases and so-called ‘boiler plate’ turns of speech, i.e. standard phrases used in laws and regulations of a particular country. It goes without saying that translation of legal documents should not be ordered from a generalist translator: it’s simply unreasonable, because even if he/she can check the meaning of separate words, he/she will never succeed in faithfully reproducing both the ‘letter and the intent’ of the text in question.
In this case a quality legal translation can be made only by a translator possessing the following three qualities.
- High expertise in law of the two countries: the country where the source document was made, and the country whose official language the document is to be translated into. Otherwise a translator will fail to provide faultless translation of all language patterns and lexical constructions which have no equivalents in the translation language. Specifics of legal translation include the fact that legal practitioners must be brought in. They help the translation company ensure complete correspondence of the finished text with the original.
- Extensive practical experience with legal translations. A professional translator must have a thorough knowledge of translation specifics even for documents which can be considered secondary by some international lawyers, like powers of attorney, customs declarations with attachments, applications, statements, identity documents and more.
- Hyper-responsibility. Translating legal documents involves extreme accuracy and maximum concentration: incorrect translation of one term may change the legal sense of the whole document and completely spoil the results of laborious work.
Each legal translation is like a small diplomatic mission which often affects the successful outcome of foreign trade transactions. In translation companies which focus on quality and not profit, a written legal translation is done by translators with extensive experience, and the finished text is always edited by an expert lawyer.
A procedure for making a legal translation valid in 100 countries
A translation company renders translation services together with assistance in notarization, i.e. the Apostille, a procedure for a legalizing documents which entails affixing a special "apostille" stamp on it. The Apostille makes a document valid in nearly a hundred countries which ratified the Hague Convention of 1961, including but not limited to all European Union member countries, Russia, the USA, the Chinese National Republic, Japan, India, Israel and more.
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