Equivalence in the translation of legal documents
Translation of legal documents can not be done without assessing the legal and cultural concepts and differences between legal systems. The level of equivalence of conditions depends on the degree of coherence of legal systems, and not on the languages used.
Researchers describe legal translation as an independent category. This is mainly due to the complexity of legal speech, which combines the two extremes: the ingenuity of the literary language used to interpret ambiguous meanings and the terminology of specialized translation. Translation of legal documents requires special attention, because it consists, first of all, of abstract terms deeply and firmly rooted in the domestic culture and intellectual tradition and thus entails the transfer between two different legal systems, each of which has its own uniqueness.
The law remains, first of all, a national phenomenon. Every national or municipal law is an independent legal system with its own terminological apparatus and basic conceptual structure, its own classification rules, sources of law, methodological approaches and socio-economic principles.
This means that in order to accurately translate terminology written in different legal traditions, it is necessary to understand these traditions, since the main problem of a legal translator is the discrepancy of legal systems. Translation of legal texts directly depends on the legal systems connected with them, connected with the translation. For example, the Persian legal system is based on Islamic law, that is, in civil law, and has a civil code, the Civil Code of Persia. In the United Kingdom there is no “written” constitution, and its law consists of four main parts: statute law, common law, conventions and powers. Thus, the common law, which consists of rules based on common customs and judgments, has very little to do with any of the legal systems.
Most often, the history and traditions of different countries also have little in common, and therefore the languages of law are subject to various influences. In international practice, most of the legal documentation is presented in English. English legal terms have their roots in Latin, French and Norman, Greek, Anglo-Saxon and English traditions.
In the theoretical plan, which will be discussed here, the research views of scientists on the methods of translation used to translate a legal language, the position of an interpreter when choosing the appropriate method and the question of the equivalence of the main component of the legal language are examined.
The most common view is the difference, which refers to foreign language and adaptation of the translated text. In support of foreign policy strategies, Kohler insists that full adaptation is not an acceptable method of translation in legal texts, since this leads to semantic distortion. Nord, further argues that the translated legal material can not be considered a translation, unless it is “connected” with the source text.
Cesana also supports foreign legal formulation and suggests using neologisms and borrowed words to create new legal concepts: “it’s fidelity to the original that matters, not the beauty or elegance of the target language.” Viptselog, who advocates formal equivalence, also known as “formal correspondence,” also supports this view.
Tomashek proposes that legal translation “be a procedure based on both linguistic and legal comparative approaches.” He supports the view that it is necessary to focus on the target language and divides the process of translation into “intrasemiological” and “interemiotic”. Intrasemiological translation is the transfer of information from the first to the second semantic level of the language, i.e., translation from the legal language to the legal metalanguage, while the interemyotic translation is the translation of the legal text from the source language into the target language.
In legal translation, many scholars associate legal equivalence with the degree to which the same “legal effect” can be obtained in the translated text, while remaining faithful to the original text. This method, often called functional equivalence, is described as a procedure that occupies a universal domain between input and output languages. Many scientists recommend using functional equivalence for official translation, because it makes the translated text understandable to the target reader and to the correct original text.
When working with legal documents, the translator must focus on a communicative approach that is oriented towards the translated text. When choosing the most appropriate transfer strategy, legal criteria should be taken into account, since the meaning of legal texts is determined by the legal context. In official translations, the strategies used should, first of all, focus on one basic principle that is faithful to the source text.
Legal translators are traditionally bound by the principle of fidelity. Convinced that the main purpose of a legal translation is to reproduce as accurately as possible the contents of the source text, both lawyers and linguists have agreed that legal texts should be translated literally. In order to preserve the letter of the law, the main reference point for legal translation is the fidelity to the original text. Even after the legal translators got the right to prepare texts in the spirit of the target language, the general leadership remained faithful to the original text.