Updated: Oct 6
The Internet has brought us all types of hilarious and convoluted translations especially when Asian languages are translated to English. However, precise, correct translations are often needed in today’s shrinking marketplace. Most challenging of all are legal translations.
Translation Misunderstanding & Errors
Words don’t always mean what you think they mean and a small mistake in translation can lead to catastrophic consequences. Some mistakes only cost money, while others can bring devastation and change history forever. One of the most common translation errors occurred near the end of WW2. During the Potsdam Conference, the Allies demanded unconditional surrender by the Japanese. The Japanese replied with the word ''mokusatsu'', which can mean “we are thinking about it”. The translation the Allies received was that the Japanese were ignoring the request, which finalized the Allies decision to bomb Hiroshima.
Another expensive and tragic mistranslation led a Spanish speaking American patient to be treated incorrectly. The family brought a high school baseball player to the emergency room telling the doctors he was “intoxicado” which in Spanish means food poisoning, but the American doctors heard a word they thought they knew-- intoxicated as in alcohol or drugs. The young man was treated incorrectly and ended up as a quadriplegic. In the lawsuit, he was awarded 71 million dollars, but this was a mistake that never should have happened.
Legalize is a Language in Itself
Preventing mistakes like these and making sure that every legal translation is 100% accurate is not an easy job for a translator, which is the reason that legal translations are so demanding. Even though English is the international business language that does not cover all the “red tape” when your business moves into foreign markets. From complicated negotiations, to unclear documents to problematic contracts, these translations need to be letter perfect with zero errors. This is why legal translation is a growing niche in the translation industry, but it is also one of the most demanding. Legal documents must also reflect and translate the culture and meaning behind the actual words. Legal translators must have a very high level of both the source language and the target language. They must have a good grasp of the target’s legal system, terminology and culture. In addition, legal terminologies between both languages will often be hugely different and the translator needs to be able to compare both the legal systems and the languages. Legalize means that there are certain linguistic peculiarities that only a well-versed translator is able to recognize. We all know that legal documents in general are notorious for being problematic. While we laugh at the silly translations we see on the Internet, especially in real life legal documents there is just no room for even the slightest error. Mistakes may be overlooked if they don’t change the meaning or mislead. In court, "One inaccurately translated word can change the life of a person forever", says Dr. Victoria Froltsova, Head of Translation at a Vienna-based law firm. Froltsova points out that this can be especially important in criminal cases, where something as seemly insignificant as a slightly different translation of the color of the offender’s clothes could make a difference.
In business dealings, an astute legal translator can make the difference between winning and losing in a case. Having a legal translation agency with international legal experience likely made the difference between winning and losing in a recent case between shoemaker Christian Louboutin and fashion house Yves Saint-Laurent. Christian Louboutin, a shoemaker, sued Yves Saint-Laurent, a fashion house. YSL created a shoe with a red sole, a distinctive feature of Louboutin shoes. Even though both companies are French, the case was tried in America presenting more than a few translation problems. Since the concepts of privacy and discovery are different, the legal terminology in this case had to reflect not only language, but the culture. Louboutin won the case.
Main Factors for Accurate, Professional Legal Translations
When you are looking for professional and accurate translations, especially legal translations, you need to work with a firm that understands the intricacies of both the source and target language. The translator must take the following factors into account:
Suitable –the same information, but not necessarily a literal translation
Terminology – using the correct words for the document
Grammar – punctuation and syntax must be correct for the target language, and is essential for the literal meaning of the document
Style – manner of speaking ( for example: legal documents don’t use pronouns)
Understanding – the same word in one language may not mean the same in another even when the languages are similar such as British and American English or different dialects of the same language.
About AQ Group
AQ Group – Language Solutions can partner with your enterprise to provide you with professional legal translations. For more than 20 years, AQ has been serving the language community providing all types of translations in more than 50 languages. In addition, AQ Group provides strategic, targeted business and digital content for web sites, social media and more.