The complexity of legal translation.

Legal translation, like any other type of translation work, is the replacement of the source language with the target language, it involves a code switching from one language to another. However, legal translation is different because law is culture-dependent. To translate legal documents requires not only the expertise and professionalism of an experienced translator but a translator who must specialize in the field of law to ensure that he or she is familiar with legal terminology and concepts. In other words, the proper translation of legal content begins with a dedicated legal translation professional who must be familiar with the law of both of the legal systems involved: the legal system from the source text, and the legal system that the target text will be translated into. The difficulty involved in legal translations generally depends entirely on the level of affinity between the legal systems, culture and languages involved. A legal translator must properly understand the source material so as to properly and accurately transfer the source message to the target audience. Apart from the language barriers, the differences in legal systems, culture make legal translation very complex.

As Catherine Way points it out, Legal translation bears the added burden of taking into account legal aspects that are not found in other texts. Legal translators must work not only between two languages and two cultures but between legal systems that are very different due to the strong sociocultural and historical influence exerted on them. This is aggravated by the fact that the systems are not even synonymous with countries: Common law, as the basis of the legal system, may apply in the United States, England, and Wales, but not in Scotland; nor entirely in the state of Louisiana, which has a mixed legal system due to the French influence there; Australia may use common law, but this has developed according to its own sociocultural context. In the United States, the division of federal law and state law also complicates the task. Roman law extended from Spain to much of South America, where it evolved differently within each system and is subject to the linguistic variations of each country. This added complexity is partly to blame for the neglected field of legal terminology.

Law affects almost every part of our lives, as such, legal translators must be able to comprehend legal concepts sufficiently enough to translate them. Translators should equally be able to produce texts in the target language that are accurate and transparent enough to ensure the same legal effects in practice.