There are many mistakes in English contract translation. When translating, every aspect should be taken into consideration. Following are some common mistakes occurred in translation.

1. Misunderstanding of Polysemous Lexis

As we all known, a word may have many meanings, which is called polysemy. Polysemy means that a given word has more than one meaning. For example, in many languages, there are more polysemous words than words with one meaning. To choose the right meaning is important. For instance,

interest (兴趣,爱好,利息,利益,企业股份),

balance (平衡,余额,剩余部分)

E.g. His business interests are very extensive.


The balance of your order will be supplied when we receive fresh stock.


We can easily find that these two examples are incorrectly translated. In the first sentence, the meaning of interest should not be “兴趣”. Its meaning is “企业股份”. Therefore, the meaning of the whole sentence is “他在多家企业中拥有股份”. As for the second sentence, the word balance is translated as “平衡”. However, its correct translation is “剩余部分”.

Therefore, the meaning of the second sentence is “贵方所订购货物之剩余部分,一旦我方进货即可供应”. In conclusion, if the meaning of polysemous lexis is misused or incorrectly chose in a certain context, mistakes will never be avoided, nor can you translate the contract well.

2. Mistranslating of the Specialized Lexis

Some terms are used in business English to represent the specific meaning. It means that the meaning of such terms is fixed and no alterative. Such as,

Terms of payment (付款方式)

Insurance terms and conditions (保险条款)

Bill of lading (提单)

E.g. Due diligence should be done before finalizing any large investment or acquisition.


In this sentence, due diligence is translated as “非常勤奋”. However, in business contract, its specific meaning is “尽职调查”. Therefore, the meaning of the whole sentence is “在确定大笔投资或收购前需进行尽职调查”.

In business English contract, such kind of terms has their specific meaning. Misunderstanding of the meaning of these terms may make the translation completely wrong.

3. Mistranslating of the Long Sentences

Admittedly, English long sentences are difficult to be translated perfectly. A lot of participial phrase, infinitive phrase and parenthesis are used. Besides, all kinds of structures are mixed up in a sentence, such as, appositive structure and absolute structure, etc.

Particularly, the transfer between the long complex sentences in English and the short compound sentences in Chinese requires more attention to the different characteristics of their expressions. Some translators just ignore the characteristics or structures and translate long sentences word by word.

Since long sentences translation demands more in-depth and comprehensive studies, it is necessary to use the methods provided above to comprehend and translate them. So in translation of long sentences, every possible aspect should be considered.

E.g. By Irrevocable Letter of Credit available by the seller’s documentary bill at sight, to be valid for negotiation in China until 15 days after the date of shipment, the Letter of Credit must reach the sellers 30 days before the contracted month of shipment.


In the sentence provided above, there are four mistakes in its translation. First, “Irrevocable Letter of Credit” means that a letter of Credit which can not be altered or canceled once it has been negotiated between the buyer and his bank.

Therefore, its meaning is not “不可取销的信用证”, but “不可撤销的信用证”. Second, “documentary bill at sight” is translated as “即期付有单据的票据”. However, documentary bill means that bill to which documents are attached. Therefore, its meaning is “跟单汇票”.

Third, “negotiation” means that the giving of value for bills or documents by the bank authorized to negotiate. Therefore, its meaning is “议付”. The fourth, “until 15 days after the date of shipment” should be translated as “装运期后的15天”. In conclusion,the whole text should be translated as “以不可撤销的信用证付款,该证凭卖方即期跟单汇票获得,信用证议付有效期应为装运期后第15天在中国到期,该信用证必须于合同规定的装运月份前30天到达买方”.

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