Source errors
Thread poster: Mariusz Kuklinski

Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:41
Member
English to Polish
+ ...
Jan 7, 2016

Hello Forum

I do not have a legal background but I have a few decades of hard-earned experience, I am a member of a professional association and I have been doing Commercial Law translations into my native Polish for some of the leading, global law firms. More recently, I have done quite a lot of translations of English Family Law papers and it is there where I have come across a delicate issue.

I am staggered by the amount of factual errors both in submissions by the solicitors and in the courts' decisions: misspelt names, wrong birthplaces, a Murphy's law running amok. I receive these documents for translation weeks after the fact. What should I do when I notice an error which to me looks significant?

So far, when in doubt, I have been asking the client for clarifications - and some of them are more willing to respond constructively than other. I have also found myself in a situation where the client persisted in denying that there was an error, where two different birthplaces had been attributed in the same document to the same person. How should I reconcile my professional ethics with keeping the client sweet? And what should I do when I find a substantive error in a court's decision which has already become valid? My last line of defence is making a Sic! comment in a footnote, which is, of course, a CYA measure but it doesn't help the interested parties.

[Edited at 2016-01-08 00:02 GMT]


 

fbbest  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:41
English to Italian
+ ...
If you deem as more approriate Jan 7, 2016

to highlight the "misprint/typo" insert SIC+the correct word in squared brackets soon after the mispelled word and in footnote simply Translator's Note. In brief, not vice versa.... .

Kind Regards,
fb


 

Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:41
Member
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Perhaps but Jan 7, 2016

The problem is, who am I to correct a solicitor or a judge? That's why I have been, so far, telling the world, in effect, "nothing to do with me, guv" rather than introducing corrections on my own. Perhaps I am just timid but to me, it would be a step too far, bearing also in mind that I am being commissioned to translate a text rather than to edit it. Thank you for your response though.

[Edited at 2016-01-07 23:33 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-01-07 23:54 GMT]


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 05:12
English to Hindi
+ ...
Legal translation is not like marketing translation Jan 8, 2016

You will need to make a distinction between a beautiful translation and an accurate translation, while doing legal translation.

And here accurate does not mean factual accuracy, but fidelity to the source. If the source gives two different dates of birth for the same person, the translation will have exactly the same different dates too. The reason is, later on, a lawyer or some one else may use this inaccuracy to prove a point and may be even acquit his client of a serious charge, by perhaps claiming that the two are not the same person, as the dates of birth are different. But if you correct this error in your translation, you will come in the way of administering justice as it is understood in current times. This is just to take an example.

So, my advice would be to keep the translation exactly as the source, warts and all.

In this sense, legal translation is different from marketing translation, for example, where more than accuracy, leaving a positive impact on the reader is more important. Here we have creative licence to pick and choose word, sentence structures and even more.


 

Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:42
Member
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agree Jan 8, 2016

I agree. Please see my response to fbbest. Thanks for your contribution.

 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:42
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I agree with Balasubramaniam Jan 8, 2016

I translate a lot of legal material (judgements, pleadings, contracts, etc.) and fairly often come across inconsistencies in the source document like the ones you describe.
Like Bala, I think it's essential to translate what the text says as exactly as possible and, when apparent inconsistencies occur in the source text (dates, names, amounts, etc.), to insert a brief translator's footnote pointing it out. I certainly wouldn't "correct" the source without a note.
As far as I can remember, no client has ever objected to my (brief) translator's notes.
Bonne chance!


 

Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:42
Member
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Jenny Jan 8, 2016

Thank you, Jenny. I agree that all interventions should be scrupulously marked.

 

Françoise Vogel  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:42
English to French
+ ...
Translator's notes Jan 8, 2016

In such cases, my "translator's notes" - pointing out errors or inconsistencies in the source text - are in a separate file.

[Edited at 2016-01-08 15:50 GMT]


 

Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:42
Member
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, and Jan 8, 2016

Je vous remercie, Françoise. That's what I do too, in a "Clarifications Request" file, usually a table with four columns, with location of a doubtful word in the first column, the doubtful word itself in the second one, a detailed query in the third and an empty place for the client's response in the fourth column. In this approach I do not make translator's notes but I highlight the doubtful words in the main text, using an aggressive colour to attract attention to them. The advantage of highlighting against making footnotes is, IMO, that one can remove it throughout the document in three moves: Select All >Highlight >None.

I noted that agencies looked at me with suspicion when the Clarifications Request was more than half a page long. I was told more than once that it made me look incompetent. I am highly tempted in such situations to respond that it makes the client look incompetent but bearing in mind that a client may be incompetent but they are always right I try not to talk back. Well, who pays the piper...

[Edited at 2016-01-08 18:26 GMT]


 


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