translation of contracts

With an increasingly global economy, international relations are becoming more frequent between companies and individuals, and even between individuals themselves.

As a result, legal translation has become a necessary means of recourse for international relationships. Indeed, contracts ensure the legal security of a relationship, and their translation is more than necessary for the future of said relationship.

It is important to note that the foreign development of an activity from France generates numerous translation obligations for a variety of official documents; and contracts concluded between stakeholders feature at the top of the list for such translations.

It therefore becomes necessary to call upon the services of a professional translator that will be able to carry out this work efficiently using their legal and linguistic training.
Legal translation can therefore be considered essential for many documents, in particular contracts; indeed, many contracts, such as sales contracts, merger-acquisition contracts and partnership contracts, may need to be translated.

Legal translation involves a precise transposition of the meaning and form of the original document into the target language.

What is a legal translation?

A legal contract is mutual consent between two or more people, intended to modify, create, transmit, or cease obligations or a pre-existing legal situation. Translation is valid, and often necessary, for many documents with legal value and in particular for contracts.

It is important to remember that each contract has its own specificities. By way of example, let’s look at three specific types of contracts.

A sales contract must contain the name of the contracting parties, the price of the services and/or products purchased and/or sold (as well as precise details pertaining to them) but also the general conditions of sale.

The merger-acquisition contract, on the other hand, is a legal transaction consisting of transferring the assets of one company to another. The merger-acquisition involves the dissolution of the company transmitting its assets, as well as an exchange of securities.

Finally, the partnership contract is a commercial contract; the conclusion of such a contract aims for two companies to pool their resources and strengths in order to achieve a common objective.

Translators employed to translate a legal contract must be a specialist in the language and the legal system of the country for which they are translating.

How to translate a legal contract?

A good translation of a contract is primordial. Indeed, in a translation, it is important to be able to see all the elements already present in the source contract; it is then imperative to respect all formal constraints.

In their translation, translators must ensure they replace all the elements of the source contract in the same order. To take the example of one of the three aforementioned contracts, the translation of a sales contract must reveal the name of the contracting parties, the price of the services, and the details pertaining to them.

Any missing element is sanctioned with, for good reason, the lack of a mandatory mention in the contract; the latter will then have no legal value and will not be able to be used.

The legal translation of a contract is not easy; this complexity can be explained by the many legal terms that must be translated as faithfully as possible in relation to the source document. In order to avoid any possible dispute, the main objective of a contract translation is to remain faithful to the source document.

To this end, translators will have to take into account all the specificities of the legal field as well as the various constraints that localisation of the contract may bring. As for any legal translation, translators must take care to use correct terms but also to find equivalents when the legal institution of the source country does not exist in the same form or if it is not present in the country of destination for the translated contract.

Taking into account the specificities of the legal field in which the contract has been translated is therefore essential. Translators employed to carry out this work must be a specialist in the language and the legal system of the country for which they are translating.

Indeed, the development of an international relationship requires the translation of a lot of legal information. As every country has its own legal system, translators must adapt their translation to the language and legal precedents of the target country. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the institutions and legal systems of the two countries correspond.

However, the successful translation of a contract is not based solely on the interpretation of the legal terms and expressions provided for in the contract; translators must perfectly adapt the syntax, grammar, and turns of phrase used in the source contract. It is a question of moving from the legal system of the source country to the legal system of the target country: a simple literal translation should not be used in any circumstances.

It is also essential for translators to be as faithful as possible to the source document; and in this sense, it is necessary for them to respect the layout of the contract they are translating. This will make it easier for parties to search and find information.

Translators must use the wording used in the contract: this must follow the rules predefined by the terminology and the legal syntax of the target language.

It is therefore a question of providing a translation that is as faithful as possible to the source contract; for this, translators will have to go through several stages:

  • Reading and understanding the source contract;
  • Making an accurate analysis of the terms of the contract;
  • Researching the legal system of the source country but also of the target country;
  • Implementing translation tools;
  • Adapting the legal institutions of the source country to the target country;
  • Translating the legal contract into the language of the target country;
  • Proofreading, correction, and delivery of the translation.

The importance of hiring a specialised translator for a translation of contracts

Translating a contract is an extremely demanding task. The contract is a complex legal tool, and its translation requires translators to have a good knowledge of these particularities. The translation of a contract requires them to juggle between legal, cultural, and linguistic knowledge.

The translation involves adapting the text to specific terminology as well as to the cultural and legal specificities of the target country.

It will also be up to the applicant to choose between a simple legal translation or a certified translation. These two types of translations have a different scope. As a result, it is necessary to call on the “right translator” depending on the intended use of the translation.

When possible, it is wiser to opt for a simple translation since it is faster and less expensive. However, it is sometimes essential to obtain an official certified translation. This is particularly the case for any document intended for internal use for certain companies: K-bis (company registration) extracts, agreements, merger-acquisition contracts, partnership contracts, etc.

Thus, it is important to call on a duly trained translator in order to translate your contract properly and legally. The choice of translator is therefore made according to the use of the contract: a simple or certified translation.

A complex and important exercise, it is imperative to take the translation of a contract seriously, otherwise it could lose all legal value.

Choosing the right translation of contracts: simple or certified?

It is important to remember that a sworn/certified translation is necessary for many documents, particularly those intended for foreign authorities. This is more expensive and longer in terms of its production because of the many formalities that surround it.

Thus, from the very start of the translation process, it is necessary to identify the entity for which the translation is intended. This will enable you to choose correctly and intelligently between a so-called simple legal translation and a sworn/certified translation.