Legal translation is the translation of texts within the field of law. As law is a culture-dependent subject field, legal translation is not a simple task.
Only professional translators specialising in legal translation should translate legal documents and scholarly writings. The mistranslation of a passage in a contract, for example, could lead to law suits and loss of money.
When translating a text within the field of law, the translator should keep the following in mind. The legal system of the source text is structured in a way that suits that culture and this is reflected in the legal language; similarly, the target text is to be read by someone who is familiar with another legal system and its language.
Apart from terminological lacunae, or lexical gaps, the translator may focus on the following aspects. Textual conventions in the source language are often culture-dependent and may not correspond to conventions in the target culture. Linguistic structures that are often found in the source language have no direct equivalent structures in the target language. The translator therefore has to find target language structures with the same functions as those in the source language.
Translators of legal texts often consult law dictionaries, especially bilingual law dictionaries. Care should be taken, as some bilingual law dictionaries are of poor quality and their use may lead to mistranslation.
Legal interpreting, or court or judicial interpreting, takes place in courts of justice or administrative tribunals and wherever a legal proceeding is held (such as a conference room for a deposition or the location of a sworn statement). Legal interpreting can take the form of consecutive interpreting of witnesses’ statements, for example, or simultaneous interpreting of the entire proceedings by electronic means for one or more of the people in attendance.
Depending on the regulations and standards adhered to per state and venue, court interpreters usually work alone when providing consecutive interpreting services, or as a team when simultaneous interpreting is required. In addition to mastery of the source and target language, an excellent knowledge of law and court procedure is required of court interpreters.