4 Useful Tips in Translating Legal Documents from English to Chinese
Maria Krisette Capati, Author
10 Nov 2019
Translating legal documents from English to Chinese isn’t like a walk in the park. Expertise and translation skills are non-negotiable when handling projects.
When it comes to legal systems, China is very different from Western concepts and laws. Sometimes, the policies and regulations aren’t seen as rigid, and sometimes they’re flexible. They can change with discretion, too, because social harmony and unity must exist.
That’s why for contracts, it’s best to consult with legal translators and lawyers. Translating the source texts from English to Chinese must be handled with care. Here are 4 useful tips to make sure those legal texts are correct and accurate.
#1 Don’t yield to the temptation of cheap translation
In the legal sector, you’re paying for the expertise and knowledge of translators and lawyers. There’s no such thing as cheap translation with high-quality output, that’s too good to be true. So, make sure you set a budget for your contracts, and you can always compare rates as you go through the process.
Keep in mind that you also need to give more time for legal translation projects. If someone or an agency is touting you a $10 high-quality translation, that’s a trap. You’ll face problems later on.
#2 Ask for a test translation to see if you’re fit to work together
If this is your first time to work with local suppliers in China, you can also ask for a test translation. Depending on the number of words, some agencies have set minimum words for a free test translation.
You can also ask for a paid test translation and set the minimum number of words or even pages. It can be daunting to find a legal translator in China. You may also read one of the guides about the traits of local agencies to help you on your quest to find the right one.
#3 Consult to lawyers and law firms for crucial cases
Your reputation matters. If you work with translators who are not proficient in Chinese laws, you’ll get into trouble in the future. Work with legal translators who are also specializing in that specific branch of law (e.g., civil law, property, law, labor law, sales of good law, etc.).
Better have third and even fourth sets of eyes on your final documents for crucial cases. Mistranslation of texts can ruin your reputation and may also result in a lawsuit against your company.
If you have IP (intellectual property) documents, make sure that the legal translators will not omit technical features. Or add something that may result in a change of scope of trademark protection.
#4 Legal translators should understand the nuances and mindful of details
Translating some words from English to Chinese can be sometimes tricky. Legal translators should be careful with the terms and nuances. They might change the texts or the thought of what the original version is actually stipulating.
The words “one” or “more” can be overlooked by inexperienced legal translators. Some may use and translate these words to “a” or “an” that may mean “one” sort or a piece or “one” piece. But the original texts may have a different meaning.
In the Chinese language, the word “必须 (bixu)” can have the English equivalent to “must”, “may,” “should,” and “shall.” Just imagine these words that are always seen and used in legal documents. The and headaches this can cause whenever you translate Chinese contracts. Have a panel of lawyers and professional legal translators to work with and consult with these details.
If you have legal documents that need Chinese translation, feel free to contact the team. It’s hard to find a long-term supplier of legal translations in Chinese.
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Maria Krisette Capati
Krisette or "Sette" for short is a professional writer and copywriter who loves to cover disruptive technologies, digital trends in China, and a myriad of geeky and innovative topics. She's the Content Strategist at AZ-Loc and currently manages the English website and in-charge of the social media channels. She has been writing about China markets, business, and startups since 2012. She has gained her expertise as a China internet specialist and is fascinated by its business ethics, language, and culture. She's a major of Business Management and Entrepreneurship and an advocate of faith-based non-profit organizations. When she's not writing or dabbling with Sophie and the team, she satiates her wanderlust as a digital nomad.