ATA Legal Translation Conference 3

The ATA Legal Translation Conference, ‘Raising the Bar’, Jersey City, NJ, May 2-4, 2003, was the second of what is planned to be a number of specialized conferences (the first one was on finance). The American Translators’ Association puts on a huge annual conference too (something the BDÜ in Germany doesn’t manage), so this was quite an achievement. The details of the programme are still on the ATA website, with speakers’ biographies and exhibitors and sponsors. This was all done to invite booking, so it may disappear. The organizers were Marian S. Greenfield, Teresa Kelly and Mary David, and Tom West, who is the ATA President and also a legal translator and former attorney (his company is Intermark Language Services in Atlanta, Georgia), had some hand in it too. It really all went off very well. I can’t describe it in detail here. There were language-neutral sessions, and sessions relating to French, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Russian. By my count there were at least 12 speakers for Spanish, 3 each for Portuguese and German and 2 each for French and Russian. I was talking to Joe McClinton, who also presented in German, when we went out for a speakers’ dinner the evening before the conference, and merely noted that the rest of our table seemed to be Argentinians. But it would have been useful to talk to or listen to some of these speakers from other language specializations.
There must have been a couple of hundred people there (‘attendees’, as the Americans call them), but German is a minority language so I had from 20 to 30 people, I think, and we were able to have a conversation throughout. The audiences were very friendly and keen to hear anything. German presentations were on translating German criminal law into English (me), German tax and social insurance law (Joe McClinton), Recurring problems in German>English legal translation (me again), Swiss Legal German (Tom West), and translating German contracts (Joe again, but I missed this because I had to get my plane). There was an excellent reception with complimentary hors d’oeuvres (or hors d’oeurves as they spelt it in the programme) by CLS Communication, Inc., a translation company, and some good bookstands.
I took away from the conference sessions mainly a collection of questions to pursue further. Swiss legal German always presents a challenge. Some regret was expressed that the new edition of Romain’s German-English law dictionary promises Austrian and Swiss legal terminology but seems to contain none (Romain/Byrd/Thielecke, Wörterbuch der Rechts- und Wirtschaftssprache / Dictionary of Legal and Commercial Terms DE>EN, ISBN 3 406 48068 3). I am very tempted to prepare a glossary of Swiss legal terms, but what with 26 cantons, each a separate jurisdiction, and what is the whole population? one wonders if it’s worth the effort. I think I will collect a list of 20 Swiss German legal terms and prepare a table showing how few reference works contain them. There’s a Swiss German legal dictionary, but it’s odd (Metzger, Schweizerisches juristisches Wörterbuch, ISBN 3 258 05191 7). For one thing, it often explains a term simply by giving the relevant paragraph of the Civil Code (which is better than nothing, of course), and it also contains non-legal terms. And some of its terms are not specifically Swiss, which is also OK, I suppose. It is just less use than it looks. The really good reference is the small Duden Wie sagt man in der Schweiz? Wörterbuch der schweizerischen Besonderheiten, ISBN 3 411 04131 5, which actually contains quite a few legal terms. Tom mainly discussed diverging corporate terminology, but he also had a list of types of legal fees taken from a judgment – the only way to research the meaning of these seems to be a Google search. He also talked about books and web sources.
To be continued…

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