It’s impossible to enter into a business relationship or conduct transactions without legal matters coming into play. There are contracts and agreements to be read and signed. Moreover- if you are in the process of making an investment or applying for immigration, there are official documentations involved that have critical implications. Accurate legal translation of official documents is necessary to ensure acceptance. An error can put an individual or business at risk for unnecessary legal battles.
Legal translation is a significant investment, but the costs of not having it done properly can be more significant! Errors can invalidate documents, cause delays and even damage relationships. Here are three cautionary tales that show the impacts that both minor and larger significant errors can have.
In 2011, a Free Trade Agreement between South Korea and the European Union had to be put on hold twice due to translation errors. There were 207 Korean translation errors within the document which required revision. Errors included highly erroneous ones including the mistranslation of the word “transplant” as “transfusion”, and “epidemiological” translated as “skin care services”. Other types of errors included grammatical mistakes and outright omissions. South Korea Minister for Trade, Kim Jong-hoon recognized the impact of the translation errors and was forced to apologize for “the public’s anxiety (caused by the errors).” Kim cited several reasons for the errors including lack of substantial review and overwhelmed translators.
Avoidable contract translation mistakes bring about significant losses. In 2011, The Shanghai Maritime Court heard over 1,900 cases about maritime and commercial affairs, during which it was found that the quality of translation in those fields was quite concerning. In one case, the term “drydocking” was incorrectly translated as “tank washing”, and the phrase “except fuel used for domestic service” was misinterpreted as “except fuel used for domestic flights” when translated from English to Chinese. These legal translation errors caused tension between Chinese and foreign parties over their obligations, rights and share of costs.
According to a judge in the Shanghai Maritime Court, there was a shortage in professional translators that had expertise in specific subject matters. A few managers of translation agencies even revealed that some of their translators accepted projects and and assigned them to college students working part time instead of using lawyers – all in order to save costs.
During legal proceedings, each piece of information can be critical. Information that might appear to be insignificant may well be critical to the findings of a case, and omitting such information could result in misrepresentation of facts. In a case between Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co. (SEL) and Samsung Electronic, the Federal Circuit held that SEL had “willfully misrepresented” a significant reference by providing only a partial translation of a Japanese language reference.
SEL had filed an Information Disclosure Statement during a prosecution to cite the Japanese reference, and submitted the full Japanese reference but only a single page, partial translation of the reference. Samsung asserted that the translated portions were not material in comparison to the untranslated portions which were much more substantial to the claims in the case. The Federal Ciruit agreed, and saw SEL’s submittal of the partial translation as an effort to misdirect the examiner of the content.
When dealing with translation of legal documents, there are many elements that must be addressed to ensure the effectiveness of the legal translation. One of the first steps is to make sure you look for the most qualified legal translator who is experienced in the subject matter of your content. The legal translator working on the legal translation should have exceptional skills in the languages required and ability to handle the complexity of legal content. Make sure that all critical content is accurately translated to protect yourself and your company from damaging consequences that may arise due to an error.