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October 4, 2022By legaltranslationsTranslations Tips

English to Italian Legal Translation Challenges

There are five legal systems that are used in the world today. These are the civil law, customary law, common law, religious law, as well as the mixed legal system. The Italian legal system is based on a civil law state, which is governed by codified law. Italy’s government system is a parliamentary republic. 

The Republic of Italy was formed after the abolition of the monarchy occurred following a popular referendum that took place on June 2nd, 1946. Italy’s Constitution was later adopted on 22nd December 1947. The English legal system is based firstly on legislation, Statutes or Acts of Parliament, statutory instruments and Orders in Council, and secondly on case law which are decisions made by the higher courts which are binding and should be applied and followed by the less senior courts.


    Challenges in Italian legal translation

    1. Two different language groups

    The first serious challenge that an English to Italian translator has to handle is the fact that each language belongs to a different language group. Italian is part of the Romance group of languages, which includes French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian while English is a Germanic language, which simply means it is much more closely related to languages such as German and Dutch, and Danish rather than the Italian language. However, both Italian and English do share one language family, which both the Romance and Germanic languages belong and that is the Indo-European language family.

    2. Grammar Rules

    Italian has gendered nouns but English nouns have no gender which makes it more difficult to translate from English to Italian.

    3. Five different dialect groups of Italian

    Another challenge that an English-to-Italian translator has to be prepared to handle is the large number of different Italian dialects which are used in Italy. There are around 5 different dialect groups and some can be further divided into several subgroups. A good translator should be familiar with these dialects and should know which of the dialects they need to translate into if it has to be translated into a dialect that isn’t standard Italian.

    4. Cultural aspects

    Any local technical legal terms should be avoided. For example, “Legge” is a valid legal expression in Britain and Italy. But the British version of an Italian legal text cannot use this term as cultural confusion may be the outcome. “Avocatto” means lawyer in Italian, but any translation from Italian to English will have to be able to tell apart attorney, barrister, solicitor, counsel, and advocate, depending on what position the person holds in the British legal system and the duties which are performed.

    5. Terminology

    The terms used in the Italian legal system vary a lot from the terms in other legal systems so it is hard to find an appropriate translation. For example, Italian legislation uses codes, like Codice Civile (C.C.), Codice de Procedura Civile (C.P.C.), and Codice Penale (C.P.), Translating these terms into the target language like Italian to English will not be sufficient, particularly if the legal system of the country is totally different. Also, the terms will need to be thoroughly explained. This means the translator needs to have a thorough understanding of both the English and Italian legal systems.

    6. The Italian legal system

    The Italian legal system, like all other legal systems, is constantly evolving, giving rise to new concepts and new terminology. The translator must keep abreast of all such changes.

    Hire a professional Italian translator

    The Italian people are very attached to their Italian language including the local dialects. If you want to be sure your legal documents really resonate with your Italian audience you will need a native Italian translator to perform your translations. This should preferably be an experienced translator who lives in Italy but understands both the English and Italian legal systems.

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