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Thread poster: Alayna Keller
Major difference between "section" and "article"?
Alayna Keller
Local time: 01:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 28, 2009

Here in Spain most translations -in fact, 90%- for domestic or EU consumption come asking for British English, please. One tries, one really does, but one is not English, and sometimes one slips up. Case in point: Translating a Spanish law into English. I've always blithely translated "artículo" as "article". A colleague has just called my attention to the fact that English laws tend to use "section" instead of "article." I've just scanned a couple of things (like the Data Protection Act), and she appears to be absolutely right. However, I've found a couple of references to articles at web sites with UK and Australian domain names. Have I been committing unpardonable howlers for years?

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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:53
German to English
+ ...
No, you're probably fine... Jan 29, 2009

I don't translate from Spanish, but rather from German into English, but I do specialize in legal translations.

In German there is a term "Artikel," which I simply translate as "article."

But there is also a "§" symbol, which stands for "Paragraf"; I translate this as "section," even though it is often translated as "article" (and even as "para.").

Then German has "Absatz," which is literally translated as "paragraph," but which I translate as "subsection."

I like this method: Law -> Title -> Chapter -> Article -> Section -> Subsection -> Sentence -> Number/Letter

In fact, most of the time I don't even use the term "para."; it is, however, used frequently in English legal texts.

As long as you are being consistent throughout your document, there really shouldn't be any problems, regardless of what term(s) you use.


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Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 01:53
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Articles and Sections Jan 29, 2009

Hi,

"El texto de la ley comprende las partes o capítulos (parts), secciones (articles), artículos (sections)..."

"...las leyes (acts) constan de partes o capítulos (parts), secciones (articles), artículos (sections), subartíclos (subsections) y párrafos o apartados (paragraphs)...."


Los falsos amigos

"...Otro falso amigo es el término legislature que no significa "legislatura" sino "poder legislativo". Otro es la palabra section que, referido a las leyes parlamentarias (acts, statutes) significa "artículo" mientras que article quiere decir "sección" o grupo de artículos.

El Inglés Jurídico. Enrique Alcaraz Varó.

In other words, your friend is quite right.

Alcaraz's book is a worthwhile investment,

Cheers,
And


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mylegalenglish
Poland
Local time: 01:53
English to Polish
Uses of article and section Sep 15, 2013

The issue here is that in Anglo American legal systems (generally speaking that is) statutes or acts use 'sections'.
On the other hand treaties, conventions etc use 'article'. Contracts tend to use 'clause' or 'section'

However, in some continental systems it is the other way round. For example Polish statutes use 'article' and in treaties use 'section'.

In a nut shell it depends on the type of document you are translating.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:53
Chinese to English
You can be wrong without it being a huge howler Sep 16, 2013

Once you get to be competent at translating, most of your errors will be small and subtle. Having a small error (or a small change that can make your texts better) spotted isn't a bad thing.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:53
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Also in EN/AF Sep 16, 2013


Alayna Keller wrote:
A colleague has just called my attention to the fact that English laws tend to use "section" instead of "article".


The same thing happens in Afrikaans -- the Afrikaans word "artikel" is the equivalent of the English word "section". It would considered a mistake (almost a howler, in fact) if you were to translate "artikel" as "article" (or vice versa, if you had translated "section" as "seksie") in legal contexts.

However, if you were consistent with it, a non-legal type of reader would not, I think, have been too terribly confused by it.


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Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 08:53
Member (2013)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Consistency Sep 16, 2013

The key is, as others have said, to be completely consistent within at least the same document or set of related documents (i.e. documents that may refer to sections of each other). The purpose of hierarchical headings such as these is simply to make locating/pinpointing a particular passage easier. As long as you are consistent, it doesn't seem to me that the ability to locate a specified reference would be affected in any way. I mean technically, even if you called them something like "Apples -> Oranges -> Bananas -> etc." it would be just as easy to locate a section of the document (after the reader recovered from the initial fruit shock).

Having said that, if you just found a better way to translate the headings for your intended target audience (B.E. in this case), then that's great too. I agree with Phil that these types of realizations are what makes us better translators. I think that's a large part of why experience matters so much in this industry.


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 01:53
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Section/Article Sep 16, 2013

Each culture has its conventional terms for each document type. For instance, Article is used in the the English version of EU laws (regulations, directives etc. issued by EU institutions).
So a British law will have Section 1/2/3 while an EU law (which applies to Britain, too) has Article 1/2/3. I think the term Article is used in international agreements as well.

When I translate Hungarian laws into Enlish, I use Section because a) that's what British law uses and b) Hungarian laws are usually translated into English using that term. You do run across the occasional "Article" here and there but the general consensus is behind "Section". To keep things interesting, "Article" is used in the translation of the Hungarian Consitution.
When translating Spanish law into English, you should try and find out what the convention is among colleagues/legal publishers and follow it. If there is no clear trend, I would go for Section.

[Edited at 2013-09-16 12:53 GMT]


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Rob Lunn  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends on how you translate ley Sep 17, 2013

I don't think any howler was committed by using "article". At the very least, it's a fairly accepted translation and is used in English in this sense in different types of documents (albeit not in Acts) and should always be understandable to English readers. In some cases, though, it might be the more appropriate translation.

The best approach I've come across for how to resolve the article/section dilemma is to be consistent with how you translate "ley" in the name of the legislation. If you decide to translate "ley" more literally as "law", also translate "artículo" literally as "article". If you translate ley as the more English-sounding "act", then use "section" for "artículo".

Unless otherwise instructed, I normally use law/article for legal documents because it's more transparent and may make it easier for the reader to do their own research. (E.g., Article X.X(x) of Spanish law no. XXXX on XXXX). Also, the structure of the hierarchical elements is not always as straightforward and consistent across legislation as it could be, and you can make it confusing when you start looking for legal-English equivalents for other elements in the document (section, paragraph, book, clauses (in bills), etc.). Even if you get it right, it could be a nightmare for someone referring to the original.

I was also originally swayed by West's suggestion in his Spanish-English dictionary to use "law" for countries in which the leyes are numbered (as they are in Spain), but then I saw he uses "act" to translate legislation names. Maybe he was only talking about when you refer to the law by its number, although using the structure "Spanish Law 15/1999 on Data Protection" gets around this problem (in legal documents at least) and is a good solution all round. However, it probably doesn't matter how you translate the name of the law in legal documents as you will most likely also put the Spanish name and law number in somewhere for reference purposes.

You also need to take into account what has been done in any translations of the legislation that the reader might have access to on the Web, although this kind of second guessing may be counterproductive, and it might be better just to stick to your own criteria.

As to non-specialised audiences, they'd probably be happier with "act", although I doubt they'd care either way about whether you used "article" or "section". Something like "Spain's Data Protection Act" or "Spain's equivalent to the Data Protection Act" might suffice in non-specialised documents.

I also agree with what Orrin and others have said about consistency, which is the key here.


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:53
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
fundamental point Sep 17, 2013


Rob Lunn wrote:


Unless otherwise instructed, I normally use law/article for legal documents because it's more transparent and may make it easier for the reader to do their own research. (E.g., Article X.X(x) of Spanish law no. XXXX on XXXX).



I agree with Rob in the sense that, when translating a law, the translation of which is for information purposes only, I think that ease of reference should always be a key consideration. The translation is, after all, for reference purposes.

It is of course different where the law/act in question has legal validity in both languages e.g. in countries with more than one official language. In that case, the terminology that prevails in that language and jurisdiction has to be researched.

I regularly translate laws from French into English and translate "loi" as "law" and "article" as "article".
I just think it's a lot clearer that way than messing around with English law equivalents. It is clear though in these cases that the English is a translation of the French and not an English legal text based on English law. I think that, even though of course you have to convey the same idea in an English-speaking reader's mind as was conveyed in a French-speaking reader's mind by the French text, there is no ambiguity inherent to the use of the word "law" for an act (everyone understands what a law is), neither is there any ambiguity in the use of the word "article" in English.

There are plenty of other (howler-worthy) false friends in both Spanish and French/English that come up often in laws (such as "elaborar" and "elaborate") but I don't think this is one of those.

It's always good to question yourself and research certain points on which a doubt may have been raised because it's the only way to continue improving. However, I personally think that this case is quite certainly howler-free!


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:53
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Seconded Sep 17, 2013


Andy Watkinson wrote:
"El texto de la ley comprende las partes o capítulos (parts), secciones (articles), artículos (sections)..."
"...las leyes (acts) constan de partes o capítulos (parts), secciones (articles), artículos (sections), subartíclos (subsections) y párrafos o apartados (paragraphs)...."

Los falsos amigos
"...Otro falso amigo es el término legislature que no significa "legislatura" sino "poder legislativo". Otro es la palabra section que, referido a las leyes parlamentarias (acts, statutes) significa "artículo" mientras que article quiere decir "sección" o grupo de artículos.
El Inglés Jurídico. Enrique Alcaraz Varó.

This is exactly the same our teacher --a seasoned sworn translator, PhD in translation, and university professor of legal translation-- explained in the legal and business translation seminars I have attended.

It is grand you spotted this issue and are straightening it now. I also encourage you to take a course or long seminar about this subject with a reputable teacher. Most interesting even if legal translation is not your main activity, as it is my case.


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lee roth
United States
Local time: 19:53
Romanian to English
+ ...
I agree with that Sep 17, 2013


mylegalenglish wrote:

The issue here is that in Anglo American legal systems (generally speaking that is) statutes or acts use 'sections'.
On the other hand treaties, conventions etc use 'article'. Contracts tend to use 'clause' or 'section'

However, in some continental systems it is the other way round. For example Polish statutes use 'article' and in treaties use 'section'.

In a nut shell it depends on the type of document you are translating.


If the legal document goes from jurist to jurist, or judicial entity to judicial entity, I do not change the name. Reason ? If the receiver of the translation tries to research in his language the specific statute, or Google it, he won't find anything.

If the legal document is for the public at large, then it is necessary to adapt to the specific language and legal system.

I translate legal documents for the US.Department of Justice and when the US refers to foreign statutes it mentions them by "law", "article" etc. So, if it is OK for them to do it,
why should't we ?

Lee

[Edited at 2013-09-18 00:15 GMT]


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Agustina21
Argentina
Local time: 17:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
About 'section' and 'article' Sep 18, 2013

In statues (rules enacted by Congress, in US, which are called ‘acts’) ‘section’ is the equivalent to ‘artículo’ in Spanish. Nevertheless, in some international agreements like the Convention on Human Rights, ‘article’ is the equivalent to ‘artículo’ in Spanish.
In U.S.A., the U.S. Code has 'sections' (artículos); the Constitution has 'sections' (artículos); the Fereal Rules of Civil Procedures has 'rules' (artículos). The best way to know is by looking at statutes (leyes).


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 01:53
Member (2013)
English to Polish
+ ...
... Sep 18, 2013


Alayna Keller wrote:


Here in Spain most translations -in fact, 90%- for domestic or EU consumption come asking for British English, please. One tries, one really does, but one is not English, and sometimes one slips up. Case in point: Translating a Spanish law into English. I've always blithely translated "artículo" as "article". A colleague has just called my attention to the fact that English laws tend to use "section" instead of "article." I've just scanned a couple of things (like the Data Protection Act), and she appears to be absolutely right. However, I've found a couple of references to articles at web sites with UK and Australian domain names. Have I been committing unpardonable howlers for years?



Dear Alayna, you are translating legal Spanish into legal English, not Spanish law into English law. English knows the meaning of 'Article' in the legal context, it's just that 'section' is often preferred in statutes (but not e.g. in international treaties). Plus, more importantly, you are translating those units, whatever they are, not replacing them with the most popular usage in the legal system of this or that country of the target language.

You can pursue the so called dynamic equivalence or make some cultural adaptations, or otherwise domesticate, you can even, I guess, translate the Cortes as 'Parliament', refer to Señor Rajoy as 'Prime Minister', but the King is not the Queen (or Duke of Edinburgh), the mayor of Madrid is not a Lord Mayor (except that the current one is a lady but anyway), appellate judges are not 'Lords Justices of Appeal', see where I'm driving at?

(There are idiots who would would put a 'crown court' in a republic. I've actually seen the mayor of a republican capital translated as a lord mayor. I think I've heard people defend the 'lords' in translation of the titles of republican judges, too.)

More importantly, you don't take a continental court judgement, you don't put 'in the court of' at the top, you don't extract the name of the reporting judge to use in the 'Gonzalez, J' pattern, and you don't convert the grammatical form into the first person. There are some limits. English law, American law, French law, Spanish law, Italian law, canon law, each have a different style in English. Something with, ironically, linguists often fail to understand.


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Major difference between "section" and "article"?






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