Reporting from London – Qualetra, Part 2

Here is the second part of my report from the recent Qualetra conference held in London (see here for part 1).

On the registers of legal translators: what can be learnt from previous experiences

Francisco Vigier, Universidad de Alcalá, Spain

page1-378px-Redbook-1879_(17GA).pdfIntroducing the subject of registers through some examples of sworn translation in Spain and Argentina, Professor Vigier raised a number of central questions including:

  • Should legal translators and legal interpreters be kept separate or not?
  • What should ‘appropriate qualifications’ entail?
  • Could register members have more than one status? (such as full, interim, rare languages)
  • Should fees be fixed?
  • What would be an appropriate duration for registration?
  • Should there be continuing professional development (CPD) obligations?
  • Should there be a code of conduct and monitoring?

In conclusion, he stressed that the aims of a register should be kept in mind – to guarantee quality of service as well as to promote the profession concerned. An attendee, Ann Corsellis, made the interesting point that doctors, lawyers and other professions keep their own registers – rather than ministries or government departments doing so, which seems to be the case for sworn translator and interpreter registers in a number of countries. Professor Vigier added that such professional independence also serves to promote and consolidate professions.

A tandem training method for legal interpreters and translators

Christiane J. Driesen

800px-Tandem_VTT_doublettrack_TthunderFollowing an exemplary failure by all candidates at the first examination for sworn legal translators and interpreters in Hamburg, Germany, a special training programme was devised. Trainers comprised: legal and translation practitioners, linguists, terminologists, judges, police officers, and technical experts. The programme followed the tandem training model initiated by Danica Seleskovitch at the École Supérieure d’Interprètes et de Traducteurs (ESIT) during the Suez Crisis in the 1950s. Points covered during the training included: the typology of legal texts, an introduction to the specificities of legal German, analysis of legal texts, and an introduction to terminology and tools.

Updated tools for legal translators: the LAW10N Project

Carmen Bestué Salinas & Mariana Orozco Jutorán, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

LAW10n-FINAL-pequenoThe goal of this extremely interesting project is to create a tool in which a translator can find, for each entry, legal, terminological, and translational information to enable them to make informed decisions.

The example of “fit for purpose” from the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) was used as an illustration. The speakers showed how following the transposition into national law of European Directive 1999/44/EC on the same issue (the sale of consumer goods), terms were translated or transplanted in various ways, giving rise to: “merchantability”, “satisfactory quality”, in French “ce que l’acheteur peut légitimement attendre“, or in Spanish “fundadamente esperar“.

After having reviewed the legislation, a number of end-user license agreements (EULAs) were analyzed to see what happened to the term in translation, and a number of legal databases and termbases were consulted.

The speakers also stressed the importance of differentiating the function of the target text before translating – whether the function is to inform, or whether the target text is the contract.

The conclusion of the talk was that current resources are insufficient, and that principles of comparative law should be included when developing multilingual or bilingual resources across legal systems, through consultation with experts in specialist fields, in order to provide the translation market with the means to improve quality.

To find out more:


  • Christiane J. Driesen (trainer)
  • Louise Hodges, Vice-chair of the European Criminal Bar Association (lawyer)
  • Zofia Rybinska, Vice-president of TEPIS (legal translator)
  • Richard Monkhouse, Deputy Chairman of Magistrates Association (judge)

roundtablewinchesterMr Monkhouse underlined the key role of judges in ascertaining whether defendants’ rights to translation and interpreting are being fully respected – saying that in his experience defendants can often be acquiescent – not wanting to ‘rock the boat’.

Regarding translators and the judiciary he said “you are part of us and we are part of you – together we administrate justice and can help to educate people within and outside the criminal justice system“.

Ms Hodges stressed that it is not the gift of the defendant or of a lawyer to decide whether a document is essential or not. She said that if there is a mistake in a translated document “we are working on a false premise from the start“. Lastly, she outlined key issues for lawyers as regards translation: quality, accuracy, timeliness, confidentiality, absence of partiality, and cost.

Ms Rybinska pointed out that legal translations must be free from errors or entail “serious legal and financial problems”, as well as people’s lives being at stake. Rightly, she noted that translators “cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear“, referring to the fact that many legal source texts are muddled, grammatical, and of sub-standard quality. Furthermore, she highlighted the importance of contact between those commissioning the translation and the translator, as well as more comprehensive information on expectations. She concluded by saying that sworn translators are: “jurilinguistic experts, experts in cultural diversity, and public authenticators of facts“.

Ms Driesen spoke about training the legal profession on how to work and communicate with legal translators, and to enable lawyers to understand what it means to translate – so as to avoid the classic “you don’t need to know, you only need to translate“. She also suggested that if anybody wanted proof of ‘how ridiculous’ word for word translation was, they should put a birth certificate through Google Translate.

* * *

So, all in all a very intensive but highly interesting day. It will be interesting to see how the QUALETRA project progresses – and I will certainly keep you informed as I get any news. Do write in if you have any items to contribute.

3 thoughts on “Reporting from London – Qualetra, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Reporting from London – Qualetra, Part 1 | From Words to Deeds: translation & the law

  2. Pingback: QUALETRA – Final conference | From Words to Deeds: translation & the law

  3. Pingback: Conference – The Quest for Quality, Olomouc, Czech Republic | From Words to Deeds: translation & the law

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