Top 5 questions about legal translation – Answered!

Legal translation is one of the most delicate fields of translation. It simply has no margin of error. So if you are a client seeking a professional translation service that suits your needs, you may have a lot of questions in mind.

In this article, we have answered 5 of the most frequent questions about legal translation for you. This should help clarify some of the ambiguities you may be facing.

What to expect from a legal translator?

To be a legal translator, one must possess exceptional writing skills. Additionally, an extensive legal vocabulary is essential for a legal translator who knows how to utilize the terminology in an appropriate manner. They are constantly needed to deliver certified legal translations that are beneficial, lucid and grammatically accurate.

what to expect from a legal translator


What qualifications are required in a legal translator?

For someone to qualify as a certified, reliable legal translator, there are some basic qualifications that they must possess. Here are 3 of the most essential ones:

  1. Integrity and ethics: Legal translation is a very sensitive field of work. Any slight miscommunication can have catastrophic ramifications and potentially change the course of the legal procedure entirely. Therefore, a good legal translator must have a keen sense of ethics and integrity in conveying the exact, true meaning of the legal information without alterations, whether intentional or unintentional. To make sure this is the case, governments around the world often require a legal translator to take an oath before the court that they shall uphold maximum ethical standards and that they would be held accountable should they fail to do so.
  2. Solid language and subject matter experience: Pursuing a career in legal translation requires excellent command of both the source and target languages. It also necessitates having a deep knowledge of different legal systems and the ability to translate clearly and accurately between them.
  3. Years of legal experience: While this may not be mandatory, having actual experience working in the legal system can indeed be a huge plus. A legal translator who has proven work experience in the bar can give them great insight into the ins and outs of legal practise and jargon.
  4. Managing workload and deadlines: Lawyers often have large volume of documents that are required to be translated in a timely manner. Keeping this in perspective, it is essential for a legal translator to manage the workload in a best way possible and deliver those translations as per the given deadlines.

These were 4 of the most important characteristics of a professional legal translator. Having them is essential for anyone to be qualified as a reliable authority in this delicate profession.

How does legal translation differ from other types of translation?

More so than in other sorts of commercial writing, legal documents have their own specialized vocabulary. The ability to convey the intended meaning in the target language is essential for legal translators. It’s not enough for them to just switch out a few words.

Each term in a legal document may have more than one interpretation. A legal document may be rendered null and invalid if it is open to many interpretations or is too vague. A simple error might lead to costly consequences.

The language of law is sophisticated and full of technical jargon. You can imagine the difficulty of legal translation when you factor in the cultural and geographical characteristics of the target language or nation.

Those who specialize in translating legal documents do so in order to convey a very specific idea or piece of information from one legal system to another. Accurate use of legal language is essential for legal bindingness.

Sentences in legal writing tend to be very lengthy and convoluted. Not only that, but the passive voice is often used in legal discourse written in English. As an example, the active voice is used exclusively in certain languages, making translation difficult.

Therefore, a highly capable legal translator must be able to take these challenges into account successfully to deliver an accurate and error-free translation.

What are the most common mistakes made by legal translators?

The delicate nature of legal translation also makes it prone to many kinds of mistakes and incorrect practices. Below are 3 of most common problems in legal translation:

  1. Misuse of machine translation: AI generated machine translation is a big trend nowadays, yet its disadvantages are also known to everyone. And in the legal translation sector, there is very little that machine translation can provide if we are talking about professional, extremely accurate translation to be used in court or arbitration proceedings. While machine translation can be used for internal review or informational use, any translation that is required for court proceedings should be carried out by experienced legal translator.
  2. Literal translation: Literal translation is one of the most popular cardinal sins in the world of translation, and the legal translation sector is no exception. It’s a known fact that every language has its own linguistic nature; therefore, a seasoned legal translator knows how to reformulate the meaning in the target language in a precise, grammatically, and politically correct fashion.
  3. Lack of proper legal experience: More often than not, legal translation necessitates extensive command not only of language itself, but of legal language and terminology as well. Not only that, but a reliable legal translator must also be well-versed in the intricacies of multiple legal systems in several countries so that they are able to communicate this highly specialized information between them.



These were the answers to 5 of the most frequently asked questions about the field of legal translation. You can check another article that answers the question of how to become a certified legal translator.

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