What is the legal translator's role in mediating style?
Maeva Cifuentes, Barcelona, Spain
Richard Lackey, London, UK
Legal translations into English can be produced in two very different registers. One is archaic, traditional, and a more literal rendering of the source text, sometimes done deliberately to avoid liability or, perhaps, because that is the way it has always been done. The second register re-casts voices, reorders sentences and removes redundancies to produce a clear, concise text. Both approaches are valid, yet deviating from the client’s preferences can be the difference between a happy and a disappointed client.
Based on a recent translation that the presenters worked on together and upon which we received extensive feedback from the client, we tested those translation decisions among legal translators and clients. We all know that clients have different stylistic preferences but, without a style guide, it is not always clear how to figure out what these are. We present the method we found for approaching client style and register preferences. We also look at the pros and cons of what is currently practiced and accepted among legal translators, including translation dilemmas related to the use of plain legal English, formulaic source and target language, and register.
Our research aims foremost to engage both translation buyers and suppliers in a lively discussion on possible approaches. We hope to receive feedback from METM18 participants on our research to date. Ultimately, we are working towards developing a simple checklist or style guide for legal translators to use with their clients in order to develop the approach to a given job, thus creating a win-win situation for all parties involved. Clients rarely provide an extensive brief on the purpose of a translation and even fewer outline their stylistic preferences. However, a checklist could establish dialogue in order to improve quality, meet clients’ expectations, and seek greater recognition for the tricky task of legal translation.
About the presenters
Maeva Cifuentes is a legal translator and copywriter working from Spanish and French into English. She translates mainly contracts and marketing materials for law firms and businesses. Maeva is interested in the translator’s role in the choice of legal drafting style and in the stylistic balance that leaves both the translator and the client satisfied.
Richard Lackey has been translating from Spanish and French to English since 2011 and trades as Contractually Speaking Ltd. His work focuses on contract translations and business communications. Richard is a keen advocate of plain legal English but is also interested in engaging clients to discover their preferences.