Legal terms hard to translate/Schwer zu übersetzende Rechtsbegriffe

In the legal section of the Times Online today (registration free), on the Legal Diary page, there is a paragraph on terms that translators out of English found hardest to translate:

LEGAL verbiage can be hard enough for English speakers to understand, but it can be a nightmare for translators. An agency specialising in work for the legal sector, Today Translations, has surveyed 1,000 of its linguists, asking them which words were hardest to translate. Top of the list was “leapfrog” as in “leapfrog appeal”, followed by “toxic tort” then “sectioned under the Mental Health Act”. Other words in the Top Ten were chambers, probation officer, trustee, common law, barrister, Michaelmas Term and Court of Appeal.

You can say Sprungrevision for leapfrog appeal in German: they have something similar. I see no problem with toxic tort, although there may not be a neat term. Lister/Veth have regresspflichtige Gesundheitsschädigung durch Giftstoff (z.B. Asbest). Sectioned is a similar case. Chambers is a problem because there are judge’s chambers and barristers’ chambers, and the latter can be used to refer both to a building and to the group of barristers who have their offices there (I’m sure AMM will wish to opine on this). Probation officer is Bewährungshelfer, trustee is Treuhänder, common law has four or five different meanings – perhaps I should set that out in a separate entry – all of which are translatable. I personally say der Barrister in special cases, where Anwalt is not precise enough, and for Court of Appeal I would also cite the English name once. For Michaelmas Term, Romain has (obs) Herbstsitzungsperiode (der englischen Gerichte). – Thisis all just off the top of my head except where I looked it up.

I’m not trying to disprove the article, which in any case refers to several languages and what’s more probably includes interpreting.

Of course, some of these terms are quite straightforward in some contexts. You don’t always need the precise term. And as long as you understand the English, you should be able to fit something to the text in question.

Thanks to Lanna Castellano for spotting it!

3 thoughts on “Legal terms hard to translate/Schwer zu übersetzende Rechtsbegriffe

  1. Nice translations into German, Margaret.

    For application to a judge or master in chambers, I’d use an expedited process/ injunctive turn of phrase out of Eng. into Fre etc. like juge des referes or im Eilverfahren in Ger. Mise en delibere is a process whereby Fr etc. judges etc adjourn into ‘Chambers’ to deliberate on the verdict. For their chambers otherwise, just room: Amtszimmer.

    For Barristers’ Chambers: die Kanzlei – Langenscheidt gives the anodyne Anwaltsbüro. In Fr. though few translators agree with me, societe civile de moyens (SCM) -> no client-or profit-sharing but just sharing of overheads: exactly like the Eng. Chambers Clerk-controlled model. Societe civile professionelle (SCP) is gen. a prof. partnership.

    Barrister again to German-speaking non-insiders: non-circus wigged lawyer -> Perückenanwalt (gen) & Trial Counsel/Prozeßbevollmächtigte (spec.) In Fr., avocat plaidant (no authority to bind client) as opposed to avocat postulant(instructing solicitor with such first-stage authority).

    Belg. used to have the divide up to 30 years ago: avocat = Barrister v. avoue = Solicitor and the latter title is still used in France, though supposed to be extinct.

    In Span., I have no problem using Procurador de los Tribunales for Barrister as opposed to Abogado or Notario loosely for Sol., though I’ve had a problem persuading the International Bar Association that the Span. model is an ‘Independent Referral Bar’ on Eng. Common Law lines.

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