Contract translation is a task of great responsibility. Much is often lost in translation even in the case of simpler texts, not to mention complex and dense legal documents such as contracts. At the same time, there are often large sums as well as important rights and obligations at stake, ensured only by accuracy and clarity. As such, it is crucial to choose your contract translation service provider carefully.
How can you recognise a poor contract translation?
The language used in contracts, as in law in general, contains a diverse variety of nuances, special terms and phrases, and long-standing traditions, which can differ wildly between different cultures and languages. This makes translating contracts difficult even for people that are otherwise proficient in the languages in question and frequently leads to the following common errors.
When it comes to contracts, the most important thing is generally that the content must be clear and unambiguous to all parties. However, this is often complicated by the fact that contract drafting is widely based on long-established practices, in some cases dating back into the distant past. Thus, contracts drafted in English abound with extremely archaic or needlessly long phrases, such as in respect thereof, hereinbefore, including but not limited to , etc., which are rooted in the long history of English law.
How can you translate phrases like ‘in respect thereof’, ‘hereinbefore’, ‘including but not limited to’, etc. in contracts?
Inexperienced translators tend to imitate the formality and wordiness of such archaic or redundant expressions in their translations, which only serves to make the text more complicated without actually adding anything meaningful. In any type of text, the real measures of the competence of a translator are simplicity, brevity, and clarity. Even complicated things can be expressed clearly and succinctly. Verbosity and unnecessary repetitions, on the other hand, are a clear sign of ‘hiding behind words’.
Translation of contracts and capitalisation
Another common mistake, which even non-lawyers have probably noticed, is the excessive capitalisation of terms in translations. This is another habit picked up from English, where sometimes, when a common word has previously been defined more specifically than or differently to its usual meaning, it may be capitalised in the middle of the text to highlight the fact.
Translation of contracts into Estonian and terminology
For some reason, however, people – including many of us here in Estonia – appear to have begun to believe that every single ‘important’ word in a contract needs to be capitalised. Generally, however, it is completely unnecessary, leads to innumerable problems in consistency, does not conform to Estonian grammar rules, and can be avoided through much clearer solutions, as our linguists and language planners have repeatedly pointed out1, 2.
Slight errors in contract translations
The issues discussed above are generally not severe, substantive errors (no proper contract translation should contain these), however they do make a complicated text even more difficult to understand and point to some inexperience on the part of the translator as well as an inability or unwillingness to think carefully about what is actually said.
Why should you choose a translation agency for contract translation?
Quality is important in any translation agency, and absolutely critical when it comes to contract translations. in terms of clarity, everything needs to be accurate in terms of content, while on the other, no compromises should be made in clarity and grammatical accuracy either. Important documents often also come with other special requirements that can only be met with the help of an organised team of experts – a translation agency. Here are the strengths of a translation agency.
1. A translation agency has extensive experience
Translating contracts is a routine part of the work of many translation agencies – that includes us. Transly Translation Agency translates employment contracts, contracts for services, agency agreements, sales contracts, purchase contracts, rental contracts, and much more besides. Our trained and experienced translators know the ins and outs of both the language of contracts as well as the wider world of legal matters.
The translator is committed to your project
Extensive experience is precisely what grants a translator the ability to not only search for the right words, but also to carefully consider the exact meaning of the text: think about whether something could be worded more simply, notice errors and inconsistencies in the source text and, thereby, help the client with more than just translation.
2. At a translation agency, every contract translation is born through collaboration between multiple experts
A translation agency is not just a translator When you turn to a translation agency, your exact needs and the most suitable translator are first identified by a dedicated project manager, then your text is translated by the translator, the translation is generally reviewed by an editor (for more information on edited translations, see here), and, if necessary, other experts may be included in the process as well. This way you can be sure that everything has been taken into account and the risk of human errors, which can be extremely costly when it comes to contracts, has been minimised.
Thus, the teamwork that characterises a translation agency is essentially an assurance of quality. None of us can be masters at everything and sometimes we all make mistakes even within our areas of expertise, but by dividing the different aspects of a complex and multi-faceted job between respective specialists and checking each other’s work, we can achieve significantly better results.
3. A translation agency translates your contracts using translation software
Today, no credible translation agency could manage without translation software. Translation software enables translators to work faster and more efficiently, and ensures the terminological and structural consistency as well as timely completion of translations. Transly Translation Agency also uses translation software to benefit clients by offering a discount on repeated segments in translation texts. This means that any future contract translations, including potential amendments and annexes, will be cheaper for you if they include previously translated sections.
4. A translation agency maintains confidentiality
When using the services of a translation agency, you can rest assured that your texts are handled by professionals. Transly Translation Agency ensures that your contracts and other translation materials never fall into the hands of unauthorised persons. Our employees are contractually obligated to keep clients’ information confidential. In the case of special requirements, we are also prepared to sign a confidentiality agreement.
5. A translation agency also offers additional services
As mentioned above, translation agencies are not just composed of translators, which is why they frequently also offer other services in addition to translation. We at Transly Translation Agency, for example, also provide editing of contract translations and assessment of translation quality.
If you need a certified translation, we can offer that as well. All you need to do for that is deliver the original document to Transly. Then we will supply it with our translation agency’s certification, or if the translation requires notarial certification or certification by a sworn translator, we will handle the rest through a notary or sworn translator. For certified translations, you should always make sure what kind of certification the recipient of the document accepts.
Fast and reliable contract translation!
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have other special requests either: send us an enquiry and we will do everything we can to help you out.
1Mäekivi, Helika. 2012. Kas Ostja, Müüja ja Leping või ostja, müüja ja leping?https://www.just.ee/sites/www.just.ee/files/oiguskeel_helika_19_12_loplik.pdf
2Reinsalu, Riina. 2016. Lepingukeel. Tartu: Keelehooldekeskus. http://engine.koduleht.net/templates/keelehooldekeskus/files/mdl_files.php/leping_17.indd.pdf