Translation of contracts, theoretical question
Thread poster: Irene_IT_EN_ES_

Irene_IT_EN_ES_  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:22
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
May 7, 2016

Hello,
I am translating a contract from English to Italian and I don't know how to behave regarding the issue I am about to explain.
There is a substantial difference between the way contracts are written in English and the way they are written in Italian; while in English they tend to address the other party directly (e.g. "You shall not..."), in Italian they tend to be less straightforward (e.g. "L'utente non deve...", that is to "The user shall not..."). So my question is: in translating a contract from English into Italian should I reflect the English form or should I adjust it to what would be more natural in Italian? In considering both option, at first I decided to keep the English form in order not to "contaminate" the meaning (in my case "You" can be replaced with "Our architects", but what if they are using different contracts with different teams of architects?). However, I am also aware that anyway the contract would be valid only for those who executed it, and not for the other architects for whom a different contract has been used. Do you know what I should do from a theoretical point of view? Thanks!


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 19:22
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Check May 7, 2016

I would check this with the client.

 

Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Must sound natural in Italian May 7, 2016

Irene_IT_EN_ES_ wrote:

So my question is: in translating a contract from English into Italian should I reflect the English form or should I adjust it to what would be more natural in Italian? In considering both option, at first I decided to keep the English form in order not to "contaminate" the meaning (in my case "You" can be replaced with "Our architects", but what if they are using different contracts with different teams of architects?). However, I am also aware that anyway the contract would be valid only for those who executed it, and not for the other architects for whom a different contract has been used. Do you know what I should do from a theoretical point of view? Thanks!


You should use the legal standard used by Italian legalese, but not changing the meaning. Please post an example a bit more clear.

Good luck!


 

Irene_IT_EN_ES_  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:22
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Here is a better example May 7, 2016

Thank you both! Here is the example Angie asked for:

The first paragraph of the contract states as follows:

"This letter sets out the terms of your appointment ("the Appointment") as our architects in connection with..."

Then the body of the agreement starts (I have copied just a few points):

- You shall provide the services listed in schedule 1.

- You shall comply with all reasonable instructions given by us in writing under or in connection with the Appointment.

- You shall provide any other services we may request, reasonably incidental to the above.

If this contract were originally written in Italian, I think it would be:

- I nostri architetti dovranno fornire i servizi indicati nella tabella 1.

- I nostri architetti dovranno adempiere a tutte le disposizioni ragionevoli da noi impartite per iscritto ai sensi di o in relazione alla Nomina.

- I nostri architetti dovranno prestare eventuali altri servizi da noi richiesti, quando ragionevolmente connessi con quanto sopra.

I am not sure whether I should keep the English form or go for the one I have written here...


 

Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Ok, now I understand May 7, 2016

Irene_IT_EN_ES_ wrote:

Thank you both! Here is the example Angie asked for:



If this contract were originally written in Italian, I think it would be:

- I nostri architetti dovranno fornire i servizi indicati nella tabella 1.

- I nostri architetti dovranno adempiere a tutte le disposizioni ragionevoli da noi impartite per iscritto ai sensi di o in relazione alla Nomina.

- I nostri architetti dovranno prestare eventuali altri servizi da noi richiesti, quando ragionevolmente connessi con quanto sopra.

I am not sure whether I should keep the English form or go for the one I have written here...


I beg to disagree, a correct Italian legalese should be:

"This letter sets out the terms of your appointment ("the Appointment") as our architects in connection with..." = La presente lettera stabilisce i termini del vostro incarico..... in qualità di nostri architetti in relazione a....


- You shall provide the services listed in schedule 1. = dovrete fornire (or fornirete) etc... etc..

- You shall comply with all reasonable instructions given by us in writing under or in connection with the Appointment. = dovrete attenervi (or vi atterrete) a.... etc etc

To me this is clear, is Italian legalese and does not change the meaning.





-


 

Irene_IT_EN_ES_  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:22
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! May 7, 2016

Thank you for your help. The doubt arose after downloading some contract samples.

 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 03:22
English to Polish
+ ...
... May 8, 2016

Irene_IT_EN_ES_ wrote:

Hello,
I am translating a contract from English to Italian and I don't know how to behave regarding the issue I am about to explain.
There is a substantial difference between the way contracts are written in English and the way they are written in Italian; while in English they tend to address the other party directly (e.g. "You shall not..."), in Italian they tend to be less straightforward (e.g. "L'utente non deve...", that is to "The user shall not..."). So my question is: in translating a contract from English into Italian should I reflect the English form or should I adjust it to what would be more natural in Italian? In considering both option, at first I decided to keep the English form in order not to "contaminate" the meaning (in my case "You" can be replaced with "Our architects", but what if they are using different contracts with different teams of architects?). However, I am also aware that anyway the contract would be valid only for those who executed it, and not for the other architects for whom a different contract has been used. Do you know what I should do from a theoretical point of view? Thanks!


Either way will be fine. We have a similar problem in EN-PL translation, and philologists tend to redact away any direct (second-person) address. That seems to be what the general consensus is among them. On the other hand, plenty of IT companies use elegantly translated 2nd-person address, and it doesn't look bad at all. In my opinion, it's probably better than the circumlocutory third-person address. 'By clicking the button below the user agrees to…,' seriously? It's odd.

Plus, second-person address is not exclusively English in the administration of oaths and in similar applications (check out military oaths, jury oaths and such like in native Italian, especially the 19th–20th century).

As long as it's clear from your translation that the agreement doesn't purport to bind people who haven't got an opportunity to read it, you should be fine. You would only need to preserve the 2nd-person address if it really were crucial to the meaning, especially re: formation of the contract.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:22
French to English
The "art" of translating May 8, 2016

My professional instinct dictates that the whole idea behind producing a good translation is that the final document should not read like a translation. In your case, that would mean repsecting the linguistic legal drafting conventions of Italian legalese. However, I take your point and sometimes it is necessary to bend the rules, not least to satisfy the client.

From a practical point of view, then client education principle might be to contact your client, explain the particular difference, then indicate that for an authentic final document, it would be best to respect the Italian tradition (if you go along with that general idea). You can then point out to your client, that it is possible to bend the rule and to stick to the formulation used oin the English source document.

By the way, I have seen more English contracts using the neutral formulations you say are more common in Italian. It strikes me as less common to see "you" being used in contracts in English too, in the way you describe. It makes for a less formal style.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:22
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
personally May 9, 2016

personally, I wouldn't contact the client over this, it's not a client-specific issue so the translator should know what to do (or come to a translator forum to find outicon_wink.gif ).

If you choose to do something not very conventional you might just flag it as you deliver. For example, any time I use the word "badass" in a fashion translation I flag it because my French clients usually freak out over that word which was not used so liberally in the days when they learned English.


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:22
Member (2008)
French to English
UK vs US English May 9, 2016

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

By the way, I have seen more English contracts using the neutral formulations you say are more common in Italian. It strikes me as less common to see "you" being used in contracts in English too, in the way you describe. It makes for a less formal style.


I believe the neutral, indirect and more formal formulation is more common to UK English while the direct, personal formulation is more common in US English contracts, from what I have observed.


 

sailingshoes
Local time: 03:22
Spanish to English
This is a letter of appointment May 10, 2016

Most written agreements constituting or included in legal contracts in English and any other languages I know are also written in the third person. (Agreement... between ... and .... whereas... the parties now hereby agree as follows... etc)

I translate contacts from Italian every week and this question doesn't usually arise.

This is a letter of appointment, which is why it uses the second person and probably ends with a first-person undertaking by the employee. You can feel free to use 'Lei' in Italian (see web.poliba.it/CISQ/Lettera%20incarico%20RSPP.doc)


 


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