METM15 presentation

Translating contracts with coherence and confidence

 Rob Lunn, Premià de Mar, Spain

What’s the best way to translate a contract? As there are, in fact, many good ways of doing it, and many decisions to be made along the way, translators can fall into the trap of mixing and matching styles and terminology. This talk introduces some general principles and specific language points to help translators produce more consistent and better contract translations.

Firstly, we will look at some general principles translators can apply to help better direct their efforts at a macro level, including the register dilemma (plain English versus legalese), useful distinctions you can make between different types of language and terminology in the source document (formulaic language versus contract information and system-specific versus universal legal concepts), the equivalency versus transparency question and, in general, using the macro structure as your compass.

Secondly, based on these general principles and current expectations for what a legal contract should look like in English, we will look at some specific language points, mainly questions about syntax, register and usage (e.g., recasting and the use of shall) but also practical details like how to work out what to call the document and its different parts and elements and other tips for producing more “authentic” contract translations. We will also touch upon common problems encountered when translating from civil-law languages into English.

The aim is to provide translators with criteria and strategies for translating contracts better, faster and with more confidence so they might even come to enjoy rather than dread that occasional contract translation they’d rather not turn down from their number one client, thus making them more versatile.

For more seasoned legal translators, the talk will be an opportunity to reassess and compare criteria.

Languages/legal systems: While the talk is aimed at into-English translators working from any civil-law language, reference is made to Spanish and Spain’s legal system to illustrate some points.

Rob Lunn is a freelance translator based near Barcelona (Premià de Mar). 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.
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