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Legal Terminology Nuances and Impact on Legal Translation Services

Jul 26, 2021

Clear, incontrovertible language is crucial for legal documents. Many of these materials are being entered into the public record or must withstand rigorous scrutiny in the event of litigation or other legal dispute.

However, as with all translations into multiple languages, nuance plays an important role in legal translations. Most languages involve regional-specific colloquialisms but take on even more specificity when translated for legal purposes. In short, legal translations add another layer of complexity—and the stakes for mistranslation are high.

Legal language nuances

Though many legal professionals are adopting a more plain, direct manner of writing, there are still industry-specific phrases that confuse those without legal experience. For example, the phrase “robbed” versus “burglarized.” These words have distinct definitions under the law and must be translated correctly into the appropriate legal term in the associated target language to maintain their legal significance. Translation providers must take care to preserve these nuances as part of their legal translation services.

Experienced legal translators required

Legal translators must capture and translate complex phrases correctly to remain valid in legal applications. Translators who lack experience specifically handling legal documents will require more time to achieve consistency and accuracy. Therefore, reputable legal translation services companies will assign translators who already possess expertise in converting legal documents from one language to another. Their understanding of legal terminology ensures accuracy and can save time and costs.

Translation memory tools: a key advantage

Contracts, court records, and other legal documents by their nature contain specific sets of language that repeat across materials of a similar nature. However, many of these materials do not require full translation from scratch. Instead, it’s often possible to make updates based on previously existing documents. In these instances, leveraging previous translations will ensure consistency and can control costs, since translated word count will be lower.

Termbases and other language asset management tools enable your legal translation services partner to store a growing bank of phrases that will remain consistent across all your documents. This increases the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of legal document translation as your termbases continue to grow.

Centralize translation with a single provider

Legal document translation can quickly become fractured in legal applications, as clients often use one language services provider (LSP), attorneys distribute documents to their own translation partners, investigators use their own translators, and so on.

We recommend consolidating your needs with a trusted legal translation services partners. This enables your LSP to integrate more seamlessly with your workflow and build up valuable translation memory resources over time.

If you decide to switch to a new legal translation services partner, request your organization’s translation memory files from your original partner. This will save time and ensure consistency with future legal translations.

Never trade quality for speed

Many attorneys move so quickly that they emphasize speed above all. However, this can compromise the accuracy of translations, especially with finely nuanced legal language. Just because a company is fast doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best.

Ensuring accuracy across legal translations requires translator experience, modern technology tools, and proven processes. Paying attention to the specialized needs unique to legal document translation enables you to protect the intended meaning of these highly specific terms across every translation application.


Partner with experienced legal translators for your next project. Request a quote from Morningside today.


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