How to translate a law text?

Legal translation: how to translate a legal text? 


Legal texts are assessed in the light of the institutions from which they originate and the branches of law. 

If we are to schematize, there is no precise definition of what a "legal text" is, but it is possible to determine a typology of texts based on the form and context of a legally binding statement. 

Thus, the translator will have a broader definition of a legal text than a lawyer, who will have to contextualize and understand its effects.  

The person responsible for translating legal texts will face a difficulty that the translator of technical texts is not familiar with: he or she will be confronted with a foreign legal text, relating to comparable provisions, without being identical. 


Locate the content by analogy


The translation process necessarily begins with a situation of the law applicable to the source law text, regardless of the law concerned (criminal law, business law, civil law, etc.). 

In addition, it will have to do the same with regard to the applicable law of the target language. 

Once this process has been completed, the translator applies the analogy technique, which allows similar situations in different contexts to be compared, and at this stage, the legal translator will have to compare the two rights, more precisely, establish the common points and the points of distinction. 


Compare to decrypt


In practice, it will be a matter of comparing the institutions set out in the source text with the institutions of the target text. 


The transfer of meaning


The last step is the transfer of meaning, after having determined and acquired the meaning of the provisions of the legal text in its entirety, the legal translator must proceed with the transfer of meaning. 

Whether it is a law, a circular or a decree, the target text must be both understood and given the same meaning as the original text. 

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