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The Difficulties of Legal Translations

Translating is more than just taking a text in a particular language and then converting it into the text of a totally different language. So that it makes sense and flows in a clear and accurate legal language, the translator needs to have in depth knowledge of the particular legal systems involved. This sort of knowledge takes years to develop and a legal translator is only good enough if no mistakes are made in the translation.  This is one of the main challenges in legal translation.

Translators when given a legal translation to complete have to take the job seriously as just one simple error could have a dramatic effect on the translation.  There are so many legal documents that need to be accurate whether in the original language or as a translation. These include:


  • birth and marriage certificates;
  • patent documents;
  • contracts between companies;
  • degree certificates;
  • affidavits;
  • court documents;
  • witness’ accounts for a court case.

When translating court documents, for example, it’s essential the translators are able to tell the difference between the legal systems that operate in different countries so that the translation can be adapted to suit these needs. Any mistakes are simply not acceptable.

Challenges in a Legal Translation

It is the legal language that accounts for most of the challenges involved in the legal translation of a document. There are very few countries which share the same legal system so it’s important for a legal translator to know the equivalent legal terminology when translating documents between languages from countries that have completely different legal systems.

Legal systems have developed and evolved from the foundation of a society and in many cases they are unique with their own cultural and linguistic formations. It is a difficult task for a legal translator to ensure the meaning of a document comes out the same in both the source and targeted languages.

Terminologies are Too Different

The legal terminology of the source and target language are often very different. When tackling a translation the translator has to consistently be ready to compare the 2 legal systems before releasing the final translation. This is just one of the many challenges in legal translation.

Degree of Difficulties in Legal Translations

How difficult a translation is depends entirely on the legal systems of the source and target languages. No translator will take on a legal translation unless they know these differences. Generally though, despite the translators experience legal translations are still more complex than say translating children’s movies or books. Each requires a different skill set.

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