A translation can make or break a legal case. Therefore, when clients approach translators, they want to be assured that the work product will enhance their chances of being successful. Following are some quick tips that will help to put you on the way to providing a great legal translation.
1. When providing legal translations, unless otherwise instructed, do not reproduce images such as photos, letterheads, logos, emblems, coats of arms, stamps, seals, signatures, etc. Instead, refer to the image in the target language in square brackets. For example, describe a stamp as [Stamp] if the target language is English or use the corresponding word in the target language. Immediately beside or below this, in the target language, provide a full description of the text within and surrounding the image.
2. Portions in source documents that are handwritten should be noted as handwritten in the translations. If handwritten portions are illegible, they should be noted as [illegible handwriting] in the target language; e.g., [letra ilegible] if the target language is Spanish.
3. Always make sure the appropriate Bates number appears on each page in the translation in the place where it is located in the source file. This also applies to other numerals and marginal notes.
4. Even though you will not be reproducing images, the layout, formatting and pagination in the translated file should always be as similar as possible to the layout, formatting and pagination in the source file.
5. Normally, names and addresses should not be translated. In the first occurrence of each name and/or address, leave the original name and/or address in the source language and if applicable, place the translated name and/or address in square brackets next to it. For each subsequent appearance, keep the name and/or address in the source language. For example, the Spanish translation of The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) should be rendered as The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) [Departamento de Vivienda y Desarrollo Urbano de los EE.UU, o HUD, por sus siglas en inglés]. This should be done in the first instance only. After that, use the name in the source language alone, unless there is a change to the name. It is not appropriate to put the translation first and the source text after.
6. Do not leave electronic comments for your clients in the translation. Translate the document as accurately as possible and if absolutely necessary for clarification purposes, place your comment at the end of the document after the words “Translator’s Note.” You may use footnotes that refer to specific areas of the text or endnotes if your comments generally refer to the entire source file. Otherwise, send your comment(s) to your clients in your email, along with the delivery.
7. Never be pressured by anyone to add to or subtract from the meaning of the source text in your translation. If you cannot see it, it probably is not there. While it is acceptable to be flexible to accommodate preferential changes, your legal translation needs to accurately reflect the source document.