Reporting from Caserta – Part 2

This second post includes a further selection of papers from the conference Law, Language and Professional Practice held in Caserta last week. Apologies to all those whose presentations have not been included here – there were two or three parallel sessions at the conference, and it was impossible to attend all of them. However, the full book of abstracts can be downloaded.


M. C. Acuyo Verdejo, University of Grenada

Plain Language and Translation: New challenges for new realities

This talk explained the role of translation in cultural mediation, in particular when communicating with immigrant communities. In Spain, English is now being used as a lingua franca for this audience.

Recent moves have been made by the Spanish Ministry of Justice regarding plain language, and Dr Acuyo Verdejo gave several practical examples of terminological and phraseological insufficiencies in legal information published by the Andalusian Regional Government.

M. R. DircksEn, North-West University (South Africa)

Latin and the law: a new relevancy

Professor Dirckson first presented the arguments of the two opposing camps in the pre-1996 debate on retaining Latin in the South African LLB curriculum (the “retentionists” and the “abolutionists”). The abolutionists argued that black students had to learn three foreign languages and cultures to become legal practitioners – English, Afrikaans & Latin. After the abolishment of Latin as a compulsory subject in 1996, Latin, although now an optional elective, plays an even more crucial part in the training of law students.

We then heard about a fascinating new way to use Latin. Professor Dirckson mentioned a project involving schoolchildren in the townships which uses Latin to improve language and other skills, citing similar projects in Oxford (the Iris Project) and in Scotland. She ended with a quote from one of the children – “Latin makes us smart”.

I. Garrido Rodriguez, University of Vigo

Relevance of textual genre to explain professional translation practice; the case of imported vehicles

A very interesting survey of practice by vehicle registration agencies in Spain that require translations of either a sales invoice or purchase agreement in order to process car imports. We saw how procedures differ from agency to agency, and how officials often do not insist on translations being provided, saying that they “understand enough” (!) to process the application, despite the fact that a translation is required by law.

Mention was also made of the standardization of information in vehicle invoices due to EU regulations, and indeed the speaker questioned whether translation was in fact necessary in view of the type of information (mainly numerical) and recurring content. Clearly this might also apply to other areas of “certified” translation.

M. I. del Pozo Triviño, University of Vigo

Court Translation and Interpretation in Spain. Towards a better future!

The Picasso image of chaos was used to open this talk and describe the current situation in Spain. A law dating from 2000 states that “anybody” can be an interpreter. We heard how in cases of phone tapping, translations have been performed by non-professionals, who are not bound by a code of ethics.

The Spanish legal custom giving the defendant an “invitation to say the last word” is often not made use of – with no interpretation of the proceedings, a non-Spanish speaker will have nothing to contribute.

We learnt how the 17 autonomous regions, 2 autonomous cites and the central administration all do things differently, and how the outsourcing of translation and interpreting to private companies is leading to earnings taking precedence over quality. The talk ended with an expression of hope in the 2010 EU Directive on the right to interpreting and translation, and a question – Who is going to train interpreters in Urdu and Swahili?

G. CVIJANOVIĆ Vuković & J. Doranić, CROATIAN Ministry of Foreign Affairs & European Integration

The Regulatory Framework and Practice of Legal Translation and Interpreting in Croatia

We started with an interesting point of language – contemporary Croatian makes no distinction between “translator” and “interpreter”. This leads to a lack of understanding of the different skills involved.

The speakers described developments in legislation on court interpreting, taking as a guiding thread changes in the oath sworn by interpreters – at the turn of the century sworn to God, during the communist period sworn to “the people” and now on personal honor. The quality that they swear to provide has also changed from ‘perfection’ to a more pragmatic wording.

Some key points raised include the current lack of an umbrella translators and interpreters’ organization (such as a professional body) in Croatia to protect the profession and enforce a code of ethics, and once again the issue of how interpreters can be found (and trained) in rare languages.

R. S. Evans, The University of the West Indies

“We do it ourselves”: Interpreting in the Pre-Court Phases of the Legal System in St. Lucia

Languages spoken in St. Lucia include English, and Kwéyòl – a Creole language related to French but not understandable by either French or English speakers. The numbers of Kwéyòl speakers generate a need for interpreting within the legal system.

In contrast to other jurisdictions, in St. Lucia there are no sworn/certified interpreters. In fact, we discovered that regular police officers interpret for Kwéyòl speakers in all official procedures. Sergeants also act as prosecutors in the magistrate’s court, where interpreting is carried out by the clerk of the court, if required by the judge. This study aimed to appraise the current state of affairs, with a view to possibly making recommendations for improvements at a later stage. It is the first research project of this nature in St. Lucia.

L. Socanac, University of Zagreb

Language and the Law: Curriculum design for lawyers

This talk described the wide range of language training programmes being run in Zagreb, from lifelong learning for lawyers, foreign languages for law students, to translator training workshops, as well as lawyer-linguist training, and even intensive courses on Croatian language and law for foreigners.

Participation in a EU Tempus project “Foreign Languages in the field of law” was also described, involving centres in Antwerp, Wales, Innsbruck and Mannheim as well as various locations in Croatia.

We understood that Zagreb is a playing a dynamic role in promoting links between language and the law, not only nationally but at European level.


Lastly, a selection of quotes I took away from the conference:

  • “Context IS everything”
  • “if you pay peanuts you get monkeys”
  • “Is translation really necessary?”
  • “The most important skill a translator has is the ability to write”
  • “answers should be sought through interdisciplinarity”
  • “Confusion arises from forcing language into unnatural shapes”
  • “the narratives of legal professionals typically contain recurring mistakes that make them barely comprehensible texts”
  • “the language of the law is difficult for non-lawyers. Much of the time it fails a primary purpose – that of simply communicating”
  • “There is no law without language”


 You may also be interested to read Part 1 of this conference report.

4 thoughts on “Reporting from Caserta – Part 2

  1. Pingback: Reporting from Caserta – Part 1 « From Words to Deeds: translation & the law

  2. Pingback: Reporting from Poznan – Part 2 « From Words to Deeds: translation & the law

  3. Pingback: Conference – Language and Law in Social Practice, Caserta, Italy | From Words to Deeds: translation & the law

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