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5 Common Challenges of Legal Document Translation and How to Overcome Them

Posted by Ariel D. on May 23, 2022.

Legal document translation is not an easy task since it requires not only a high level of language but also a deep understanding of local laws and legislation. Just the tiniest mistranslation can have serious consequences, even influencing the result of a court case.

So how to effectively translate legal documents? Let’s have a look at the article below to know more about its importance and tips to deal with its top 5 most common challenges you might probably have to confront.

1. The Importance Of Legal Document Translation

Document translation in the legal field is almost a must, and it is not only limited to court depositions, witness statements, or legal briefs.

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In fact, many companies might need to have their business contracts or financial statements translated when doing business in a foreign market.

In many cases, individuals are required to submit their birth certificates, marriage certificates, or adoption papers in another language rather than their mother tongue.

However, because most legal papers are complicated, translating them requires a significantly greater degree of precision and accuracy than translating normal documentation. When it comes to legislation and rules, anything less than perfection might have serious consequences.


2. 5 Typical Challenges of Legal Document Translation

When translating legal documents, here are the most common issues that you might encounter.

2.1. Different Legal Systems among Countries

Each nation has its own distinctive legal systems and documents. This wide variety of paperwork means that without a clear understanding of local legislation, ambiguous translation, or even worse, mistranslation is likely to occur.

Many multinational companies tend to provide detailed guidance instructing how to translate legal documents, yet the work will remain challenging for an unspecialized legal translator.

In order to fulfill this task, you might need to learn more, or train your employees about:

  • The legal systems and terms in the target language;
  • Whether the terms you want to translate have no, one or more than one equivalent in the target language;
  • Meanings of words based on different contexts.

This takes time, so if you want to ensure high-quality legal document translation in a short period of time, outsourcing will be a better idea. A team of expert linguists in local laws, especially in the field you are working in, can help.

2.2. Ever-changing Laws and Systems

There’s one thing that never changes in the legal field, that is laws and legislation will evolve and change, non-stop. Chances are that the legal template that still worked last month might not be applicable at the moment.

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Hence, legal document translation providers have to stay abreast with a constantly changing set of rules and laws. It entails being informed about events in both nations as well as keeping track of any new legislation that may influence legal document translation.

So how to keep your knowledge up-to-date? With years of experience, we recommend your legal translators should subscribe to legal periodicals or join a professional association in this field like EULITA to stay well-updated about changes in local laws and legislation.

2.3. No Flexibility for Word Selection

Usually, legal professionals employ terminology that even native speakers struggle to grasp and may misunderstand. This challenge becomes even harder for translators, especially since legal document translation leaves hardly any room for flexibility.

In other words, creativity takes a back seat in the legal field. Instead, legal vocabulary is frequently rigid, so it’s precision that holds the top priority. Legal translators must select the exact right word.

The best approach to overcome this issue is to provide your translation staff with a glossary of legal terminology to use during the whole translating process to minimize mistakes.

2.4. Under Tight Deadlines

Legal papers are frequently linked to events such as courtrooms or business deals. They all follow the same rigid timelines, so delays in this field can result in a slew of dire consequences for all parties.

Moreover, translation itself is a difficult process requiring a wide range of talents. Translating legal papers is significantly more difficult because even a minor error triggers a lengthy legal process, not to mention the cost of fixing the problem. As a result, a good legal document translation takes time.

Translators’ high commitment is required to handle this. Also, those legal document translations must be aware of any hurdles that may slow down the process and be quick-witted to solve arising problems.

2.5. Attention to Syntax and Punctuation

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The most difficult aspect of translating legal papers is figuring out their syntax. Furthermore, most of these documentations employ “wooden language,” which consists of pretentious and confusing terms that make the whole sentence difficult to comprehend.

In the legal field, while the passive voice is customary, long and winding phrases with a great number of commas, semicolons, and apostrophes are also widely used. Every omission can lead to undesired changes and misunderstandings of the terms and conditions.

On top of that, punctuation rules are varied from country to country. For example, the Oxford comma, despite being believed to be common, can not be found in many languages.

Using the Oxford comma can confuse readers in various countries. Or if you change a comma into a semicolon, confusion can be caused too.

Legal documentation requires high-quality translation to the finest details, so you must pay heed to syntax and punctuation.

The tip here is to have another employee proofread or hire a local professional to review the translated document. If possible, your company is recommended to go for a trustworthy and experienced agency for this.


Choosing a Reliable Legal Document Translation Partner

When working on any localization project, you need to choose a company that ensures good quality of legal document translation and must know how to solve the above problems.

With a network of 1,200+ native linguists around the globe experienced in translation of these documents, GTE Localize is pleased to offer well-rounded translations of not only business contracts and legal documents but also marketing materials and digital content.

We have been trusted by several prestigious international organizations including Abbott, Boston Scientific, etc. GTE Localize has also been recognized as one of the top translation firms in the world.

Learn more about our document translation and legal translation services, then do not hesitate to drop us a line for 1:1 consultancy or a free test!

Legal Document translation