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The Anatomy of a Great Legal Translation – 7 Basic Tips

law and legal compressed
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.

When clients approach translators, they want to be assured that the work product will enhance their chances of being successful.
When clients approach translators, they want to be assured that the work product will enhance their chances of being successful.

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.

The Importance of Good Customer Relations in the Translation Process

Why Informed Clients Receive Better Quality Translation Service

Indeed, simply knowing a foreign language does not a translator make

Informed clients who understand the various stages of the translation process are more likely to receive better quality translation service. The more educated you are as a client about the professional nature of translation is the more time, resources and energy you will spare yourself in the long run. Sometimes, when clients believe they can save money by having an acquaintance who is “bilingual” provide a certified translation, they end up losing more than if they had simply hired a professional service in the first place. Indeed, simply knowing a foreign language does not a translator make and botched translations will not be accepted in an official capacity.

Clients can experience a great deal of frustration when after a translation has been completed by someone they know who lives down the street, they learn that qualified translators are unwilling to certify the translation that has not been properly done. Sworn translation or certified translation must be done by a professional translator who has obtained certification from a recognized authority such as a university or a professional translator association such as the American Translators Association.

Even though it may seem to be less expensive to hire a freelancer, direct clients will stand to benefit more by hiring a translation agency to complete their important projects and the accountability of project manager to clients will prove to be a less stressful solution for tight deadlines and specific budgets. A translation agency with a group of competent freelancers will be better equipped than a lone freelancer to handle larger projects in a shorter space of time. Furthermore, an agency with a competent team will also be able to satisfactorily complete important projects since the team will comprise of editors who will be on the lookout for missing text, inaccurate grammar, spelling, punctuation, in addition to stylistic gaucheries in the target language and formatting that is inconsistent with that of the source language.

It is essential for clients to clearly communicate their needs to their language service providers who will be better able to evaluate the respective translation projects that they present for quotations. For example, when a client or prospective client simply requests rates without providing other essential information such as subject material, source and target file formats, deadlines, volumes and special requirements and instructions, the language service provider will not be able to properly evaluate the project. The project manager’s willingness and ability to keep the client appraised of the status of each respective project and provide options during the process will ensure the client’s total satisfaction.

During the entire translation process from the moment of the initial inquiry up to and including after the project has been delivered, constant communication between the project manager and the client and also between the project manager and the rest of the team is necessary to ensure the desired outcome.

Choosing Your Language Service Provider

Choosing your Language Service Provider

How do you choose a language service provider when there are so many clamoring for your attention? It goes without saying that you have a lot on the line and require an error-free product that is appropriate for your language needs. Below are some guidelines to take into consideration when choosing a language service provider.

Your language service provider should be knowledgeable and adept
at meeting your needs, be they:
Translation: the transference of documents into a second (target) language so that they have the same meaning as the documents in the first (source) language. Source documents may come in typed format as well as in audio or video format.
Interpreting: the transference of speech from one language into another.
Editing: the revision of a document that has been translated by a second person comparing the translation against the source document. Translation projects should be edited by a second language professional for missing text, missing lines, missing or inaccurate numbers, dates, etc., errors in spelling, grammar and style and inconsistencies in formatting.
Proofreading: the revision of a finished project to ensure that the language flows and is flawless. Only the target document is reviewed and no reference is made to the source document in the proofreading process.
Transcription: the transfer of audio material into a document. This can be in any language.

Experience: Your language service provider should have a proven track record providing the services you are seeking. However, the length of time in the business will not always guarantee that the work being done is accurate since a language service provider can repeat the same mistakes in each project. Your language service provider will be able to provide you with references who should attest to the good service they have provided.

The cost for the service should be within your budget. Try not to cut corners, though. The lowest price should not be your sole motivation for selecting a language service provider and the highest price does not necessarily mean that the quality of the service is the highest.

Your language service provider should keep you informed. A good vendor will explain to you the details of your project and provide you with options and give you an idea of how your project will be completed, if necessary. You can ask for as much information that will make you comfortable that your job is in the right hands.

Timeline: Every project has a beginning, a middle and an end. You should be provided with a schedule for the completion of your project. This should be realistic and it should serve your corporate goals.

Team: You can ask for details about the team who will be handling your project. Remember that all work should be handled by native speakers of the target language(s) and experts in the area of specialization under which your project falls. For extremely rare languages, this may not always be possible but language service providers should have near native proficiency in the target language through solid experience, time spent living, being educated and working in a country where the target language is spoken. They should also have a background in the area of expertise of the project.