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Guide to legal document translation in 2022

Did you ever play the children’s game, broken telephone? The objective of the game is to pass on a message by whispering it into one person’s ear and they whisper it into another, and so it goes down the line. In the end, the last person repeats back loudly what they have heard. This is compared to the original message but usually the message gets all garbled up along the way, leaving a trail of misunderstandings and miscommunications. Now, imagine playing that game with people who speak different languages and come from different backgrounds. It could be a linguistic mess.

Looking at the world of translating important legal documents, and completely or even slightly misinterpreting content in the translating process, could lead to serious legal issues and legitimacy of documentation. This is why translating legal documents require the utmost care and professionalism.

At its core, legal translation is any sort of conversion that consists of transforming legal documents from one source language into a different language – as accurate and respectable as possible. One simple mistake on a translation can lead to contract disputes or even lawsuits.

Furthermore, legal translation is not necessarily linguistically transparent. When it comes to taking testimonies, affidavits, and other legal documents, the translator cannot literally translate word-for-word. The nuances need to be accounted for. It requires an accredited translator who has the proper legal background, as well as cultural and social context.

“Legal discourse is in a state of constant flux: its meaning shifts depending on the language in which it is expressed and even depending on the reader.” - Harvey, M. 2002.

In this article, we will share with you why legal translation is important, what texts are considered legal documents and whether you should translate a legal document yourself.
In addition, we will also look at when is it appropriate to translate a document and requirements to do so, and most importantly, why you should use a translation company like DMME for legal document translation.

Why is legal translation important?

To put it simple, it is to avoid legal repercussion and that the people’s rights are not violated. It is also very important to ensure that accurate conversion of a document includes the correct interpretations of content that can have subtextual meaning and purpose. This usually aligns with cultural or social views and tone of voice, as well as different legislations and legal systems. A variety of terms may be defined differently. Therefore, it is highly recommended to use a translator that translate in their native language.

Legal translation requires the highest attention to detail because it needs to be as precise as possible. Whether it is for a person expanding their business across borders or an international court case procedure, every detail must convey the exact same component as the original document. A misplaced comma or incorrect full stop could potentially convey a different meaning for the other party.

There is usually a strict deadline for legal translations too, which requires an increased level of discipline and planning. This is pertinent for political and legal matters that have deadlines set in stone, especially when it comes to official court dates.

What texts are considered legal documents

Not all documents require the authentication stamp of a certified translator. Only when a document is intended to be enforced in a court of law, is it considered a legal document. This requires the document to adhere to the laws of the jurisdiction where it will be enforced and above all, the document must be properly signed, witnessed and filed to be considered legal.

Here are examples of popular legal document types that are considered constitutional:


Examples of contracts that may need translation
• Property/building contracts
• Confidentiality agreements
• Employment contracts
• Debt repayment contracts
• Purchase agreements
• Legal disclaimers and terms of service

Court documents

• Evidence documents
• Witness statements
• Court transcripts
• Litigation materials

Wills & trusts

Circumstances may require one to present a last will and testament in a foreign language for official purposes. There are cases where a person originally created their will abroad or there is a need to apply for a grant of representation or in a probate court.

Due to the sensitivities of the document, besides the importance of the content, one does require a certified translation to guarantee accuracy and validity.

Company policies

Anyone in a business will agree that it’s important for all employees to understand the company policies and their rights in order to create an inclusive and respectful work environment. If there is any potential for miscommunication in compliance, your company may face legal actions due to improper correspondence. Employees could also unintentionally break the rules and due to tension fuelled by miscommunication, the business can suffer loss of personnel.

Company policies may require translating if a company expands their business in a foreign country or there is a growing diverse workforce. There are many benefits to having a sundry of staff, each who have their own unique culture, language, and traditions. If a company is willing to adapt new approaches, including an organic drive for innovation and business growth, employing a diverse staff is a great way to do it.

However, the key to supporting different individuals while driving productivity, is to ensure everyone is fully aware of their rights and understand company policies. It’s about creating an inclusive environment that serves each individual.

If you are unsure whether your document requires a legal translator, we are more than happy to consult with you to determine your translation needs.

Can I translate a legal document myself?

Unfortunately, no. Legal translations are accompanied with a certificate of accuracy from the professional translator. The lack of contextual knowledge and skills can have an impact on the technical side of the document.

Legal translations are accompanied with a certificate of accuracy from the professional translator. The lack of contextual knowledge and skills can have an impact on the technical side of the document.

In addition, certified translators are not allowed to translate their own personal legal documents due to the risk of forgery. Therefore, it’s encouraged to hire another certified translator. As the saying goes, rather be safe than sorry.

It’s also advised to hire a professional translator from the get-go to avoid having court cases being moved out due to incorrect or invalid documentation. It will save you time and money to get it right the first time round.

When should I consider having a legal document translated?

Each country has its own set of legal translation protocols, because of this, when you are unaware or unsure of the exact requirements, it is better to partner with a translation company that does.

As mentioned before, this applies to whenever you need a certified translation of a document that is binding and when you need to follow court-specific rules that require document credibility.

Lastly, the main reason to consider having a legal document translated is to avoid malpractice lawsuits from incorrect contract translations or inaccurate policy documents.

Requirements for translating legal documents

For a legal document to be an authentic and certified, the translator must have specific qualifications to translate legally binding communication. This includes being fluent in both languages and having knowledge of both cultures and legal specificities.

Translators should have extensive knowledge in translating legal documents and access to a vast range of resources. Materials such as dictionaries, law books, and other reference documents are often used to clarify legal terms that may not exist in their native tongue. But being able to identify potential pitfalls is what sets a certified translator apart.

To reiterate, legal translations must be done accurately, as errors could complicate or even reverse the legal process.

The final translated text must always be thoroughly checked and proofread before it's submitted. This is preferably done by someone with a legal background too and who speaks and writes in the translated language.

Why should you use a translation company like DMME for legal document translation?

It’s in your best interest to translate your legal document in the most permissible manner possible. It saves time and money, while avoiding any potential legal push back or disputes. Not just that, we love what we do. Our translators are passionate about the smallest details such as subtleties and nuances of a language with the aim to convey their meaning as accurate as possible.

DMME translators guarantee an error-free final product that is court ready and binding.
Our vast pool of translators has a fundamental understanding of the legal intricacies of different constitutional systems and take this into account when doing translations related to law-binding documents. This allows you to be comfortable that we are accounting for the localised law of any given region when we translate. We also provide certified translations.
On top of it all – we’re deadline-driven and value great customer services.


Without a doubt, if there is any need for a document to be enforced in a court of law, whether it’s to serve as a binding contract, relay important policies in a foreign language or to adhere to a person’s last wishes in their will, a professional, accredited translator should be your first choice.
Contact DMME today if you require any legal translation services, we’re happy to help.
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