The Translation of Legal English

The Translation of Glossary of the Normative Document of Law When translating the Chinese agreements and documents of joint adventure or foreign funded enterprises, several translation rules should be complied with in order to make sure that both English and Chinese versions shall have the same force as the agreement itself. First, General rules: the consistency of terminology The normative documents may have different names, such as law, decree, regulations and etc., so it is of crucial importance to keep consistency of all names in the normative documents. In legal documents or agreements, the meaning of all names generally keep the same, therefore, there is no need translating different meaning for every Chinese name, and all need to do is to select the English term that contains the closest meaning with the relevant Chinese expression and keep consistency throughout the whole text. Second, Specific rules and the possible problems

  • Scope
Both Chinese and English words have the same extent. Problem: Sometimes there may not have the proper vocabulary in English. For example: the word ‘Legislation’ often means the document promulgated by legislative body, but in Chinese, it may mean the governmental administrative agencies, such as the document issued by the State Council.
  • Ambiguity in the context
The usage of the English words should show the same ambiguity as Chinese ones Problem: There are more words that contain ambiguity in Chinese than that in English.
  • Ambiguity of Names or Usual Names
Regarding to names or usual names, the usage of English words should show the same ambiguity as Chinese ones. Problem: There are fewer such words that contain ambiguity in Chinese that in English. Such as “规章” is just a usual name in Chinese but the name of a document. But ‘rules’ can be both as the name of a document and the usual name of the document. Therefore, if translating “规章” as ‘rules’ would make the English reader misunderstand that it is the name of a document. But the truth is no.
  • Usage
The usage of the English words should keep the same as Chinese ones. Problem: Sometimes, the Chinese words can only used with one preposition, but not in English words. “法” is a good example: In legal document, “法” can only used as “依法”, but its relevant English words can be used with different prepositions. In conclusion, because of the difference in Chinese and English, it is impossible to perform the above rules in many cases. It is truly a challenge.

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