How to brief a legal translator for optimal results

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How to brief a legal translator for optimal results

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Once you have engaged the services of a professional legal translation firm you will be required to brief the linguist selected to undertake this work so that they are able to meet your needs precisely, accurately and within your time-scales.

Ideally, you will ensure that the linguist receives a comprehensive brief which they will use to ensure that you receive a translation that is as accurate as possible in as short a time as possible.

A precise and accurate brief will contain as much information as possible and address any questions and queries your translator may have as they progress through the work.  Your linguist is your ally on this project and it’s important that you work with them not only by providing them with as much informations as you can, but additionally that you keep them up to date when there are changes to project deadlines, key milestones or to your requirements.

What should the brief consist of?

In order to ensure that you receive a legal translation of the highest quality, there are a number of elements that must be addressed in your brief. In addition to deadlines and key milestones your brief should include:

Purpose: the brief should explain how the text will be used, who the audience is, in what context will the document be used, as well as any possible restrictions;

Source text: source texts vary in quality, and in their format. So it is important that your instructions are precise.  For legal purposes it’s highly likely that complete texts maybe translated. However,  what about margin annotations, charts and graphs and what about supporting notes that accompany the text? It is worth bearing in mind that where something is poorly written in English, this will be reflected in your translation;

Language:  it is insufficient to simply request the services of a translator of a particular language. This is because  not only are there the obvious differences between languages, but there are also differences in the way people in different countries speak the same language.  Spanish and Portuguese are two examples where different dialects are spoken in different countries, and there are others. It is vital that state clearly which country your translation will be used in so that the translation company can ensure that your translator is a mother tongue speaker of the language in that country;

Uses: your linguist will be able to provide you with a higher level of service if they know how you are going to use your translated document. For example, a document being translated with the intention of it forming evidence in a court case in another country will be handled differently by your translator compared with a document detailing legal terms and conditions with the intention of creating a legally binding contract that is enforceable in that country. In the first one it may be that a precise and accurate translation is required. In the second, the translation will have to take into factors prevailing in the target country such as legislation, currency, the specific legal terminology and prevailing contract law there;

Key vocabulary and layout: if possible, you are advised to agree with your translator, right from the start, what the foreign language equivalent of English language legal terms used in your document are. This helps keep your document consistent, throughout.  This is a good time to also agree document layout and how you want tables and graphs to be presented;