What makes Legal Translations Different?

Like other types of translation, legal translation is the replacement of one language to any other language. However, legal translations are different from others because the law is dependent on the culture.

Legal translation uses terms and content within the legal system of the country where source documents are made. As the world has become more localized, the legal translation needs also escalates.

Apart from the language barrier, the differences in legal systems of many regions make legal translations more complex.

There are some countries where there is a clear segregation between religious and secular law. But in others, these laws are not separated.

The legal system of Saudi Arabia is greatly organized according to the laws of Islam, but its governments also added secular codes in the law because the country desire to be a great player in the business. There are also agencies which offer Arabic translations for laws. On the other hand, Morocco has a system that is a combination of Islamic and French law.

What exactly is Legal Translation?

Do you want to know what is a legal translation? It is more complex as compared to a regular or standard translation that requires simple translation from one language to another.

Legal translation is required for the official language of the jurisdiction, so it covers a number of texts. Legal translations include financial documents, identity documents, transcripts, official reports, precedent, filed patents, witness statements and legal rulings. Legal translations also required for litigation papers, immigration documents, incorporation articles, trusts, and wills.

Legal document translation must be done by SMEs with all the required knowledge of the laws and the source as well as the target language.

Each country has its own regulations for legal translators. Legal translators must hold a degree in legal and business translations. Countries like Sweden, Spain, and Netherlands requires a legal oath from translators. They also examine to ensure the proficiency and practice of the translators. They are centrally regulated.

Why is Legal Translation Different?

As mentioned earlier, legal translation is one if the complex forms of document translation. Ambiguity, mistakes, and misinterpretation, either small, have no room in legal translation because such documents can become void. Moreover, there are many financial and legal complications that can arise just because of a simple error.

Legal translations are more complex because of its unique terminology which is coupled with differences in language and cultural factors. These translations do about not replace source text with target text.

The translator needs to transpose the law concepts into another language. Because of tradition and legal expression differences, the translator must be specific about the language of the target jurisdiction.

A specific type of language is used in the legal texts and if a lawyer or judge sees wrong words used, the translation may not be trusted anymore. The translator must fix the legal translation purpose. There is a difference between legal translation and legally binding legalese for public consumption.

The one who is familiar with the legal text also understands that legalese is wordy. The legal English contains compound and complex sentence structures and different subjects. Legal English has a very formal tone and is usual to write the legal documents in the passive voice. So it is critical for the translator to convert passive voice into an active voice.


Maryum is a freelance writer and IT Professional living in Pakistan. Her technical and transcription blogs about software solutions have been published on various websites. With her hands on experience in translation tools like CATMATE, OMEGAt and TRADOS and advisor of technological tools for big transcription and translation projects. Maryum has the capability of delivering high-quality knowledge in just a few words on her articles and blogs.

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