There is no room for error when contracts are being translated. Seemingly trivial or minor deviations in the meaning of words used can cause unexpected disadvantages that will last for the life of the contract, or even costly mediation and legal fees.
Legally binding contracts should be translated by experienced professional translators with prior knowledge which provides them with a specialization in legal translation services. Although high-quality translation services for contracts will come at a cost, there are ways you can minimize this and reduce turnaround time all at once.
Terms specific to particular industries are unlikely to be understood by others outside of the profession. As a result, such use of these should be prevented where possible.
Contracts should be clear and precise. Jargon complicates the understanding (and translation). It also exposes the contract to ambiguity and possible alternate meanings, which is exactly the thing a contract should avoid.
Legally binding contracts should be short and concise and written in straightforward and clear language that leaves little or no room for misunderstanding. By choosing words that can be translated precisely in the original document, you will protect the initial intent and meaning of the contract. This also allows for faster and more accurate results from the Language Service Provider (LSP) you utilize.
By definition, contracts often include legal terminology or ‘legalese’. While some legalese is unavoidable, words without clear definitions such as ‘hitherto’ and forthwith’ should be avoided. Not only do these sound archaic, but also they are unclear and without precise alternatives in other languages. Rather than using ambiguous terminology, target legal terms that make the contract clear and enforceable.
In some situations, legalese will be the most useful terminology you have available. In this case, these words should be used. A general rule to keep in mind is: If words make the contract’s meaning more clear, use them – if not, avoid at all costs.
Many contracts use unnecessary word-numeral pairs or sequenced synonyms. A common instance of this is where numerical figures are given, such as “$65,000 (sixty-five thousand dollars)” or employment agreements stating that the employer “engages, hires, and employs” a person rather than simply “employing” them.
This type of doubling-up on words is unnecessary and can even introduce ambiguity or redundancy to a contract. Most professional translators charge by the word, so to avoid these pitfalls and significantly reduce the cost of translation, duplication of words and/or terms should be removed.
Utilize Your LSP’s Translation Memory
Translation memory is a database, or library, of phrases, terms, sentences, headings, and other fragments that are kept on file to reuse in the future. If you translate contracts and other documents into the same languages regularly, and these document often contains the exact same phrases, sentences or paragraphs, you can request the LSP implements translation memory for your job.
Professional translators avail themselves of the computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool to identify and ‘remember’ previously translated sections of your documents. This allows previously translated provisions, clauses, or conditions to be stored and used for future projects. This not only cuts the cost of translation and reduces turnaround times, but also ensures consistency and accuracy across all documentation.
Work with Contract Templates
Different countries and cultures apply differing presentation rules to contracts and other documentation. For example, the order of principles, language, and tone of American contracts may need significant changes for French or Chinese settings.
Understanding how a contract should be presented in the target language will help you create an easily translatable contract. An appreciation of document flow, standard information, and suitable appearance for the target language is crucial for a reduction in translation costs.
Working with contract templates will save time on standard sections of contracts for different countries. They will also help expose areas of ambiguity or parts that are too technical for translation.
Maintaining Quality While Reducing Cost
Quality translations of contracts and other legal documentation are paramount for ensuring enforceable contracts are in place and clearly understood by all relevant parties and jurisdictions. However, quality can be maintained while translation costs are reduced if contracts are drafted with translation needs in mind. Reductions legalese and fewer unnecessary words will result in cost efficiency, lower turnarounds, and better, clearer contracts overall.