Guest post – An attorney’s view of translation

guest bookToday I am delighted to introduce Steven M. Kahaner, Esq.,  the founder and Executive Director of the legal translation agency Juriscribe, whose valuable comments some of you may have seen on this blog. Like other legal professionals that read WordstoDeeds, Steven is a lawyer who is genuinely interested in dialogue with translators and linguists. Not only that, but he is an American that builds bridges with Europe! Sorry to all those from the US out there, but you must admit that it’s not so common 😉 This is borne out, amongst other things, by his attending translation conferences (such as this one in Lisbon) and his membership in EULITA (the European Legal Interpreters and Translators Association). You can read more about Steven’s profile here.

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The Writer’s Diet test

I found this wonderful tool recently and just had to share it with you. There are several tests to evaluate how readable texts are, but the results of this one are such fun!

Helen Sword, who offers the free online tool, is a scholar, award-winning teacher, and poet who has published books and articles on modernist literature, higher education pedagogy, digital poetics, and academic writing. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and now teaches in the Centre for Academic Development at the University of Auckland.

To try it out, I entered a sample of text that was used by the press a few months ago as an example of impenetrable legalese (see this post for more details). You can see the results in the screenshot below.

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Spanish bailout conditions impenetrable behind a thicket of legalese (or not)

As readers know, I do like a bit of legalese 🙂 – see recent posts on whether Business-ese is worse than legalese, and Translating through the fog.

Today, hot off the presses of Reuters and the UK’s New Statesman, questions are being raised about the legal conditions governing the ranking of Spain’s creditors, citing part (Section 2.19, (b), (i), (B)) of the Credit Derivatives Definitions issued by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA).

The following paragraph is being used as an example of impenetrable legal theory. You will notice liberal use of acronyms in the above articles (one of my favourite things… see here):

  • CDS – credit default swaps
  • EFSF – European Financial Stability Facility
  • ESM – European Stability Mechanism

‘Business-ese’ may be worse than legalese

I don’t fully agree with plain language campaigns as regards legal documents – I guess I go along with those who say that the law has to be precise enough and should be interpreted by experts – i.e. lawyers and the judiciary rather than non-specialists – but I certainly think that a lot can be (and is being) done to make legal language more accessible where possible.

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