The Linguist

The Linguist 55,1

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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12 The Linguist Vol/55 No/1 2016 ANOTHER UNUSUAL CASE "There is also a difficulty that words might be altogether alien to the contemporary lawyer." An illustration of a trial at the Old Bailey, c.1808, which appeared in The Microcosm of London (above) Ramon Pils outlines some of the unusual challenges involved in the translation of historic legal documents As a legal translator, I particularly enjoy working with texts that deal with the historical and theoretical aspects of the law. This allows me to make use of the knowledge and skills acquired through my Law and History degrees, but while concentrating on such a small field has the advantage of making me one of only a few experts, it also comes with some extra challenges. One of these is securing a sufficient number of clients and commissions. In my area of specialisation, the clients are usually scholars based at a university or other research institution. Establishing and cultivating a network of contacts within the academic community is vital. Due to the increasingly international character of research at law schools, there is a high demand for qualified translators, but academics need to know that you are out there and that you are offering the service they need. The work itself covers a broad range of text types. Often clients will require translations of research proposals that are targeted at funding bodies whose working language is not their own. If the project is approved, they will also need translations of progress and closing reports. These are often produced in a hurry, with the deadline fast approaching, and clients are not always aware of how much time the translator will need to get the document ready for submission. Other frequent requests include New words for old laws the translation of conference papers, articles for academic journals and book chapters, and sometimes also websites and teaching and learning materials. Working with legal terminology requires a certain degree of insight into the world of law. Due to the fundamental differences between case law and civil law jurisdictions, and their different understandings of how the law functions, it is often impossible to find an exact equivalent for a word. Even such a seemingly basic concept as murder in English law does not correspond exactly to Mord in Austrian law, which in turn is not the same as Mord in Germany. In the field of legal history, both with regard to historic documents and to the 21st-century scholarly texts based on them, there is also the difficulty that words might be altogether alien to the contemporary lawyer or have undergone semantic changes. In such cases, it may be difficult for someone without specialist knowledge to find an appropriate equivalent in the target language. I remember a student of mine giving a presentation, in English, about 19th-century Austrian constitutional law in which an unspecified 'manor house' was attributed some significance in the legislative process. Checking our students' preferred German-English online dictionary, it did not take me long to pinpoint what had gone wrong.

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