MET workshops

A systematic approach to translating contracts into English

What’s the best way to translate a contract? As there's more than one way of doing it, it’s easy to fall into the trap of dillydallying between different approaches and terminology options. This usually leads to wasted time and effort and sometimes even inconsistent and incoherent translations. This workshop introduces some principles and tips that will save you some of that time and effort and help you to produce more consistent and coherent contract translations.

Facilitator: Rob Lunn

Purpose: To provide a framework and guidelines for translating contracts into English that aim to make the process easier and help produce better results, i.e. more consistent, accurate and useful contract translations.

Description/structure: The first part of the workshop introduces some general principles that a) help to understand and navigate the source contract and b) lay the foundations for translating the different types of language in the contract. In particular, we look at
  • Why it’s useful to distinguish between form and content in contracts
  • How to apply a concept of transparency versus equivalence when translating contracts
  • Why we might want to define a default audience and purpose for our contract translations
  • Why a modern rather than a traditional legal register may be preferable
We build upon these principles in the second part of the workshop by looking at specific tips for translating contracts into English based on modern contract drafting guidelines. These tips fall into the following three areas:
  • Replicating English contract syntax and conventions
  • Using only “useful” legalese
  • Knowing when to go for transparency or equivalence
The second part of the workshop is more hands-on, and we have a go at putting into practice the tips discussed at each step of the way. The workshop ends with an activity in which participants assess the principles and tips covered and reflect on how they might incorporate them into their translation process. Please note, this is a workshop on how to translate contracts; not the law. The focus is entirely practical and on technique and approach. Even the general principles we look at in the first part are directly applicable.

Who should attend? Anyone who translates contracts into English, experienced or otherwise. While examples are taken from Spanish (e.g., we compare the structure of an English and Spanish contract), all the principles and tips are applicable to translating into English from any language as our focus is always on the English translation. Indeed, the point of the workshop is to provide an approach and guidelines, not a list of translations.

Outcomes: Participants will come away with ideas they can use to improve their approach to translating contracts and practical tips they can apply directly in their next contract translation. Specifically, participants will come away knowing
  • How to not get bogged down in the more formal elements of the source contract
  • What verbs and tenses to use for translating the different types of language in a contract
  • What needs to be translated accurately in a contract and how to do it
  • How and when to replicate English contract syntax and conventions in a translation
  • How to recognise and deal with non-equivalent legal terms in contracts
  • How and when to use legalese

About the facilitator: Rob Lunn is a freelance translator based in Barcelona. He translates from Spanish and Catalan into English and specialises in legal and business translation. He is currently working on a style guide for translating contracts. You can contact him through his blog Legally Yours from Spain.