Translation of names of laws, etc.
Thread poster: Buck

Local time: 19:19
Dutch to English
Feb 20, 2007

Hi. In addition to my fulltime job as a translator, I recently started freelancing. At work, we would translate something like, say Rijksoctrooiwet 1995 as Rijksoctrooiwet 1995 (1995 Dutch Patent Act). Do any of you do it differently?


Mónica Algazi  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:19
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
SAME HERE Feb 20, 2007

Hello Buck,

We also write the original name of the law in italics and the Spanish translation in brackets. Hope it helps!


Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 10:19
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Footnotes, most of the time Feb 20, 2007

When I'm working with contracts or similar documents, what I do is research reputable sources to see if a translation already exists or simply adapt the name of a law or foreign organization and add a footnote. As an example, on a PT>EN translation, it would be something like:

... the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) ¹ ...


1. Translator's Note: From the original Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis.

I usually don't follow this format when dealing with consumer-oriented translations, because I believe that pretty much a layperson does not need to know the original name of a law or organization, since the context is more important than this detail in such publications. However, when dealing with legal or business texts, I know that those reading the translation may need to refer to the original law or organization to fulfill their contract or business deal, so that's where the rule applies.

I also throw this little rule out of the window when dealing with well-known organizations worldwide, such as the UN. In a EN>PT translation, for example, there's no need for me to use the American abbreviation and/or name of the organization in English, since "Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU)" is how they're widely known in Brazil.

Hope it helps!


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:19
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
English - Afrikaans Feb 21, 2007

Buck wrote:
At work, we would translate something like, say Rijksoctrooiwet 1995 as Rijksoctrooiwet 1995 (1995 Dutch Patent Act). Do any of you do it differently?

The South African companies legislation states that proper names can be translated if the translation is literal, unambiguous and backtranslatable.

Therefore, if the target audience is in South Africa, I translate the English law name into Afrikaans without giving the English name, regardless of whether there is an official Afrikaans version. If there is an official Afrikaans version, I try to find out the name, obviously.

If it is not a South African law, but the name is in English, and the target audience is in South Africa, I might still translate it but I will indicate in the text that it is a law from another country. If the name is not in English, I will translate it and give the non-Afrikaans form in brackets next to it), and still indicate the country of origin.

If I translate for any other target audience not in South Africa, I may translate it but I will give the original version also, and indicate the country of origin (unless the country of origin is the target audience's country, or if it is crystal clear from the context).


Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:19
Turkish to English
+ ...
I translate names of Turkish Laws Feb 21, 2007

Legal documents in Turkish use acronyms to refer to Laws and my practice is simply to provide a full translation of the name of the law, without quoting the original acronym. I happen to have such a document on my desk as I write and by way of example I see:
HMUK'nun 96. Maddesi uyarınca ...
which I would translate as:
pursuant to Article 96 of the Code of Civil Procedure ...
I wonder if I should be writing
pursuant to Article 96 of HMUK (Code of Civil Procedure). I am sure that if I just wrote "HMUK", or invented an acronym such as "CCP" this would not mean much to the majority of end clients. It is a pity that there are no authoritative guidelines for legal translations that provide prescriptive rules for this and similar situations that cause confusion.


Local time: 19:19
Dutch to English
Thanks Feb 21, 2007

This is very helpful. Thank you.


Local time: 19:19
Dutch to English
Guidelines Feb 21, 2007

Hi Tim. Thanks for your input.


David Le Cou (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:19
German to English
Translation of German texts Feb 21, 2007

I translate topics related to the pharmaceutical and chemical industries and I take two apporaches. If the law is unique to Germany and abbreviated, such as the AMG, I also put in full in parenthesis followed by an English equivalent (Arzneimittelgesetz - Medicines Act) for the first mention.

If it is an EU law covering the whole of the EU I search out the exact English equivalent by searching under a number of key words. This can work well with safety data sheets.


Local time: 19:19
Dutch to English
good solution Feb 21, 2007

I think this is a good solution. Thanks.


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