Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

The Complexity of Legal Translation: Social and Cultural Bounds Aspects

Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

The Complexity of Legal Translation: Social and Cultural Bounds Aspects

Article excerpt


The development of research in legal terminology translation is strongly related to the comprehension of cultural and social phenomena, as translation leads towards communication between cultures and represents an important link in understanding different legal systems. The translation analysis of any text is based on language culture peculiarities, types and mechanisms of social codes of both native and foreign languages. Above these elements, when legal texts are in question, there is specific juridical knowledge that must be observed, as it is generally accepted that among other disciplines, law is renowned to be interweaving with cultural values and national cultures. Each legal system has its own vocabulary and idioms; so that when transferring legal concepts from one language to another, a translator seeks for analogical legal institutions to obtain the same legal meaning of the translated message in the target language, as it has in the source language.

Keywords: legal language, culture-bound terms, legal equivalents

1. Translation as intercultural experience

It goes without saying that certain fragments of reality, communication and relationships are reflected in language as a social phenomenon. This is the case of legal systems, which represent the distinguishing factor between national cultures. "Legal systems have their own history, organizing principles, patterns of reasoning and have been designed to answer the needs of a particular nation. This inevitably leads to the incongruity of legal concepts between national systems."1 There are countries where legal issues are part of the mass culture, as in United States, where each citizen believes in fairness of its law enforcement system. This stereotype thinking is deeply enrooted in American history and culture, and in order for a translator to achieve a close and adequate perception of foreign lingua-cultural community, he or she must become a member of the communicative process through original texts, experience of legal translations. The translation process is a form of cultural interaction; it draws certain features about a foreign culture. During the translating process, one replaces culture elements in functional ways and adapts the text to other culture norms. The very notion of cultural interaction implies the presence of both general and peculiar elements, and the mismatch and match culture-bound term, which altogether allow distinguishing one community from another from linguistic and cultural points of view. Any translator, working with legal texts, must take into account the usage requirements-language usage habits of the source language, without violating the legal nature of the juridical perception. The analysis of linguistic and ethnic differences between the nature of the source language and that of the target language is based on cultural-historical and contemporary-every day character.

The most comprehensive communication between foreign cultures is made by creating in the target language an equivalent message, by means of translation. The notion of communicative equivalence of texts is crucial for understanding the mechanism of translation of foreign LSP material. For communicants two texts appear as equal forms of existence of the same message, they are equal in their functional, structural, and semantic identification. During the translation of legal texts to achieve such adequacy is possible only when that translator has legal literacy, both in foreign and native language. Legal knowledge and especially legal terminology contextual synonymy represent the most valuable skills for legal translator. The legal discourse represents the diversity and complexity of the judicial and procedural system of the state. Different countries have their different legal systems. The language of each nation has its own legal terms. For example, the English language serves the legal system of the USA, UK, and German - Germany, Switzerland and Austria. …

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