Article on translating contracts into German/Probleme beim Übersetzen englischer Vertragstexte

I’ve mentioned Suzanne Balansat-Aebi before, but I only recently encountered her article/paper on translating English-language contacts into German.

The link on this page opens a PDF file.

This is an excellent introduction to the subject. The fact that the target language is Swiss German should not cause insuperable problems.

In contrast to German contracts, English contracts are long and wordy. I know one German translator who always translates contracts into English, because German contracts are so much easier to understand. that’s mainly because continental lawyers rely on codified law to fill in the details. In common-law countries, in contrast, everything including the kitchen sink has to be thrown into the contract: by the parol (= mündlich) evidence rule, nothing outside the contract can be regarded as binding.

Possibly the biggest problem is what to do with legal doublets and triplets in German. (Legal doublets are a topic for a future separate entry!).

Many doublets are genuine synonyms, so only one word is needed in German. Examples given here: warrants and undertakes; indemnify and hold harmless; cancel, annul and set aside; a right, title and interest.

Unfortunately, the terms are not always synonyms. And in the worst case, the translator wonders whether they have slightly different meanings, and if so, what those meanings are. Even the drafter may not know. Some of these terms have been discussed by the courts, but how much time can we spend on research?

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