Guest post – Café traduction juridique

Today I am delighted to hand over to Nelia Fahloun, who translates from English and Spanish into French, specialising in corporate communications and legal translation, with a strong focus on international law and justice. Nelia is kindly reporting for us on a new legal translation initiative recently launched by Frédéric Houbert – the Café traduction juridique. To find out more, read on!

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It all started on Twitter and LinkedIn: Frédéric Houbert, an experienced legal translator and published author of English/French legal dictionaries¹, gauged interest about a meet-up in Paris on the theme of legal translation, to take place on 23 April 2018. Several of us replied to him by email, with questions and ideas for discussion topics.

On the day, 8 legal translators met in a co-working space in Paris at around 10 a.m. for a “Café traduction juridique”. We all briefly introduced ourselves and shared our expectations regarding the event. Frédéric reminded us that the general idea was to exchange, share resources, challenges and insights, and to discuss some topics and questions he had gathered from the attendees beforehand.

Frédéric opened the discussion by sharing his feedback on the BP18 conference that had just taken place in Vienna, and the group discussed the value of attending conferences (general or more specialized ones), and even presenting when the opportunity arises.

During the introductions and the day itself, we all talked about the different types of clients we serve: translation agencies, law firms, academics, international organizations, courts, private clients…, and the challenges and opportunities each offer in terms of fees, rush work, quality of source documents, volume of work, etc.

We also discussed continuing professional development (CPD) and the various possibilities offered. Physical events may include (specialized) translation conferences, training courses offered by professional associations, or even courses and events where our clients may be present too. However, these tend to be harder to identify, and are sometimes very expensive. Distance-learning options were also discussed: webinars, MOOCs, or even longer self-paced online courses. A few of us mentioned that it could be hard to find events or material that went beyond introductory concepts.

After a nice lunch break à la française where several of us continued chatting, in the afternoon we talked about resources: terminology, reliability of information, tips and tricks, and even CAT tools. We all agreed that a polished translation requires a good deal of research to render complex notions. Incidentally, that is how Frédéric started writing dictionaries, after having compiled years of research and examples on concepts and terms that tend to be problematic or commonly misunderstood.

We also touched on the topic of working for international organizations. While getting access to them may be complicated, and sometimes the result of chance or word-of-mouth, the work is generally very interesting content-wise, but also highly demanding.

Although I had to leave earlier than most participants to catch a train, I came back home brimming with new information, contact details of potential colleagues to work with or refer work to, and more energized about my work – all in all, it was a very interesting event, well worth the day trip! I sincerely hope that the “Café traduction juridique” will become a recurrent event, to enable us to meet new colleagues and share common challenges and experiences.

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The organiser of the above event, Frédéric Houbert, is a legal and financial translator with 20 years’ experience. He has taught legal translation at postgraduate level and conducted seminars for professional bodies and academic institutions. He speaks regularly at translator events around the world, and has published numerous articles on legal translation and the language of the law, as well as being the author of three successful books on the subject. His current clients include the International Criminal Court and INTERPOL. His blog can be found here.


¹ Guide pratique de la traduction juridique : Anglais-Français, then Dictionnaire des des difficultés de l’anglais des contrats: anglais-français avec index français-anglais, and most recently Dictionnaire de terminologie juridique anglais-français. All three are published by La Maison du Dictionnaire, Paris, France.


Nelia Fahloun, our roving reporter 🙂 is a legal translation specialist, whose main clients include major international organizations, international courts and tribunals, public sector organisations, and private companies. You can find out more here.


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