METM10 presentation     Thread: Knowledge Updates

Legal terminology overview: How the UK and US systems affect the choice of terms used by freelance translators

Caroline Devitt -” Salamanca, Spain

Rationale: Legal translation is an area in which accuracy is paramount: a seemingly small error can have major consequences. It is also a complex field. This is a brief overview of the main features of the judicial systems in the US and the UK, to aid understanding of the materials we come across and, in the case of those of us who translate into English, avoid unintentional slips into the language of the other side of the Atlantic.

Purpose: Attendees will become more aware of the key differences between the judicial frameworks in the UK and the USA, the reasons for them and the potential terminology-related pitfalls for translators and others.

Content: During the session we will briefly examine the types of court in the two countries, selection of judges and juries, and other differences. We will also look at their relationships with other, international frameworks. This will lead to discussion of terminological and other linguistic variations that arise. We will touch briefly on some differences between UK and US practice and other systems which are based on Roman/civil law.


Caroline Devitt MA (Cantab), MITI (Professional Member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, UK) graduated in Russian and Spanish in 2002 and spent the following three years in St Petersburg, Russia, working first as an English teacher and then as a translator in a CRO (clinical research organisation). She has lived in Spain since late 2005 and has been working as a freelance translator since 2007. This presentation is based on questions raised during Caroline's experience of translating legal documents as a freelance translator.