Perhaps one of the most famous examples of why the translation of legal documents needs to be accurate is the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1840, the British government made a deal with the Maori chiefs in New Zealand; however, both sides were signing different versions of the treaty. In the English version, the Maori were to “cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty.” However, the Maori translation stated they were not to give up sovereignty, but only governance. Decades later, the meaning of this treaty is still unclear.
What is legal translation?
Legal translation is the translation of text into a different language(s) for use in a legal context. Surrey Translation Bureau (STB) has been offering quality legal translation to professional organisations, public sector, corporate and individual clients for over 30 years:
- Professional organisations and/or public sector
Professional bodies such as the European Union, trade authorities and the NHS are in constant need of translation for their regulations, contracts or processes. Any errors may damage their reputation and delay important decisions. For instance, in 2011, a free trade agreement between the US and South Korea was delayed due to major errors in the translation of the draft agreement. This came shortly after similar delays in another agreement between South Korea and the European Union due to a whopping 207 translation errors in the document.
- Corporate clients
Whether it’s the business contract, companies’ terms and conditions, financial transcripts or safety regulations for employees, professional translation can protect the companies against massive lawsuits, profit losses, PR nightmares and baseless controversies. In a 2011 case in China, a contract between a local and a foreign company mistranslated “dry docking” as “tank washing,” and another policy had domestic “service” wrongly translated as domestic “flights.” This led to conflicts between the two parties about their rights, obligations and the share of costs.
- Legal sector and individual clients
Most law firms and agencies use trusted translation partners to ensure they have their clients’ documents ready in the right language and format for use in cases relating to immigration, divorce, lawsuits, property settlement and the registration of patents, to name just a few.
A professional translation company like STB will not only give you precise translation, but also ensure it is ready to use by offering additional services such as notarisation or apostilles. This is particularly useful for individual clients who either don’t have the knowledge or the right connections to get their documents legalised for specific purposes.
In the UK, a common-law country, translators can obtain independent certification (as STB has), and can take an oath in front of a solicitor or notary public, confirming that the document is a true and accurate translation of the original and that they carried it out to the best of their ability. In civil law countries, such as Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Mexico, Spain and South Africa, translators are usually appointed by court or by the state.
How to choose a good translation partner for legal documents
“The aim of legal translation is not to erase linguistic and cultural differences, but to accommodate them, fully and unapologetically. The legal translator needs awareness of how the text functions in the source country’s institutional, political, and economic context.” Leon Wolff, The Oxford Handbook of Translation Studies
There are various reasons why you should always work with a professional, skilled and experienced team of translators when it comes to your legal materials.
A professional agency will:
- – ensure the translation is correct and comprehensible, by using qualified translators who are native speakers and specialise or have experience in that specific branch of law.
- – offer quick turnaround without compromising on the quality of the translation to ensure cases or contracts are not delayed in the process. At STB, we often deal with urgent requests for our clients.
- – make sure the translation is valid in the country it is to be used in and for the purpose it is meant for.
- – take the hassle out of legalising the translated text, whether it is notarisation, Apostille or certification, based on the requirements of its final legal purpose. This means keeping up-to-date with changes in legal requirements.
- – give you peace of mind about the confidentiality of your critical documents. Most professional agencies comply with GDPR regulations and are also willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement with clients.
“I started using STB’s services when another supplier was unable to turn around a piece of work for me within the required time. I have used them ever since. All of the staff have been a pleasure to deal with and every time my sometimes-slightly-unorthodox requests have been put to them, they have always made every effort to find a way to accommodate me.”
Solicitor, Travel Law, Penningtons Solicitors LLP
If you would like to discuss the translation of your legal documents, please contact our award-winning team at email@example.com or call 01252 730024.
Written by Marya Jabeen