The challenges of legal translation

August 12, 2014 by admin

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It’s no secret that translation is a difficult process at the best of times, with those doing the work needing to possess a number of key skills in order to be successful in their jobs. However, the best translators are not only talented in the act of reproducing literature from one tongue into another, but they also specialise in particular areas where there is a high demand for their work. One of these sectors is legal translation and Rosetta Translation Ltd prides itself on having some of the best in the business when it comes to carrying out these types of assignments. So what are the challenges of legal translation?

But why is it that this form of translation is so different from regular projects and what are the challenges that professionals working on legal documents regularly come up against?

Challenges of legal translation 1: Structure

Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that it’s highly unlikely the layout and structure of the two documents (the source and the translated target text) will be the same. Every country has its own legal culture and a translator needs to understand how the differences between them should be represented as part of their assignment.

In addition to the physical design of the page, another problem legal translators encounter is the variation of linguistic structure. Even those who are reading a legal document in their mother tongue may have difficulty understanding what it means because of how it has been written and the language it uses. With this in mind, imagine how much harder it is to read, understand and translate such a record from another country!

Challenges of legal translation 2: Deadlines

All translation work has deadlines, but you will be hard-pressed to find a sector where an inability to complete an assignment on time can have such serious ramifications.

Unlike other translations where deadlines are generally set by clients to help them keep to their own internal timetables, the time limits set in the legal sector are often imposed by the courts themselves.

As a result, it’s entirely feasible that a failure to meet them could result in a case being delayed or thrown out, while the validity of the document itself can be voided if it is not delivered within the time constraints set out.

When you couple this with the level of technical accuracy that is required of the person carrying out the assignment, it’s easy to see why legal translators need to be able to handle a considerable amount of pressure.


Ideally, any legal translator should have experience in the sector, as it is never as simple as taking one language and turning it into another. Often, there are legal issues that need to be considered and regulations that have to be adhered to.

Confidentiality usually forms a large part of this for obvious reasons, while understanding the context of a legal document is often the key to unlocking its meaning and ensuring it is accurately translated.

Every legislative system has its own terminologies and these can prove to be a stumbling block even to experienced translators if they don’t have a legal background, while precedents and protocols can also play their part in muddying the waters when it comes to making certain that an assignment can be completed effectively.

It means that as well as being skilled in the art of languages, a legal translator needs to be able to do their own detective work from time to time, researching what is required of them as part of individual jobs and making sure the completed document will fulfill its requirements. So, bear this in mind when choosing who you trust to carry out your assignments.

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Andreea Mohan

Taylor Wessing LLP

We are very pleased with the services provided by Rosetta Translations. They always send very prompt responses, transparent prices and deliver their work product at the highest standards.

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American Express

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Conor McLarnon

Maximus Crushing and Screening

I have translated multiple projects with Rosetta now and I cannot emphasise how great the service they provide is; quality, turnaround time and pricing is the best I have found yet. The qualities of translations we receive are of the highest standard and communication from the start of a project to the end is consistent.

For a company looking into translations, I would highly recommend Rosetta as first pick, as the support and service they provide is first class.

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