The Judicial Analogy

The job of the legal translator thus resembles the task of the judge in interpreting legislation and contractual terms. Broadly speaking, intent is to be ignored when ambiguity is absent. If a plain meaning is present, that meaning is to be adopted. Unless a circumstance is apparent that demonstrates that the plain meaning must be understood as unintended by all - essentially amounting to the impossible or nonsensical - and the meaning that was certainly intended is just as clear, it is inappropriate to correct errors in drafting after the fact where accurate representation is the goal, as in legal translation.

This reticence to extrapolate (and care to note any necessary or helpful extrapolation made) has manifold benefits for the translator's client. Beyond the delineated scope of the subject matter of a given allegation, admission, finding, order, etc., when a legal translator faithfully reproduces original content the translation will give the client insight into the original writer's style of - and proficiency in - presenting concepts and assertions and into the writer's level of literacy, even state of mind or soundness of mind. Such information may be if use to the translator's client in subsequent decision-making, particularly where the original author is the opposition, is of-counsel, is rendering a decision susceptible to review, is a witness, etc.

(from Legal Translation - Is There a Legal Language? - The Language of Lawyers - The Language of Judges - The Language of Witnesses - The Language of the Law - Why Legal Translation!)

Thomas Edsell, 25 years experience in confidential, effective, fast, inexpensive translation of court, corporate, commercial documents for law firms and translation agencies

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