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The World of Spanish Legal Translation

legal translation spanish translation

Last updated on February 15th, 2021 at 01:56 pm

Certified Legal Translation

The necessity of translation of legal documents cannot be underestimated. Without knowing what you are reading or signing, you could be signing away your business, your children, your rights. Translation of legal documents is absolutely essential when dealing with anything from a traffic ticket, to wills, to court documents, to business documents. In business, finance, and personal matters, a small translation error can result in a multi-million-dollar mess; a mistake in a will can mean when the time comes your wishes are not met and you are in no position to address that. Let’s discuss the necessity and benefit for legal translation, for Spanish in particular.

First, Some Basics

Legal translation is more than the process of converting legal material from one language to another.  Legal translation is influenced by multiple factors around the work needed, and every legal translation project is different.  Factors are language pairs, legal systems involved, content type (is it a divorce or a technical patent, length, and complexity of the documents, file types – audio file, emails, PDF’s, a mix of file types, urgency for the translation, etc). But in all the cases, a common factor is that a professional legal translator or a team of legal professional translators are needed for the delicate task.

Not only can we do the translations, but our translation company also offers certified legal translation, which is the certification of the translation executed. That certification is a requirement for some legal translation projects.  The law firm or company requesting the certification needs to indicate the type of certification needed, likewise if the certification needs notarization or even an Apostille for international use outside the USA.

A certification states that the translation is a true, accurate, and faithful representation of the original document and that the translator is fluent in both languages. Certified legal translation is necessary because legal documents without certification may not be accepted by authorities and can derail important proceedings and cause expensive delays. 

Spanish Business Translation

Spanish translation is needed to conduct business, or make deals with the Latin community, or to help the Latin community thrive in the USA. Trying to appeal to the wallet of the Latin population makes sense and is an important new sector in marketing efforts.

“The spirit of entrepreneurship continues to thrive among the Latino populations, and until the COVID-19 pandemic set everyone back, Latino-owned businesses blossomed during the past year.  As the economy emerges from the pandemic, we expect to see them in the forefront of the economic rebound,” says Manuel Chinea, COO, Popular Bank.

Let’s take a look at some facts surrounding the importance of Spanish language services for businesses. 

The vast majority (about 80%) of Latinx people living in the US are citizens, whether born or naturalized, and are expected to make up about 30% of the US population by 2050.  As of a 2019 report by Stanford University, Latin-owned businesses added about $500 billion to the economy from 2018 and 2019.  Latin-owned businesses also employ over 3 million people and create new jobs every day, even during the strain of a pandemic. 

The power of Spanish for business is already impressive and is expected to rise again to new heights during the post-COVID economy.  With the success of the Hispanic community, more young people are growing up multilingual, which is an advantage when finding employment or starting one’s own business.

Due to the Spanish speaking population and their activities, more and more Spanish legal translation is required in the US. For legal reasons due to business opportunities, more documents are exchanged with other Spanish-speaking countries.

The business relationship between the US and Mexico is one where many companies have operations in Mexico and require Spanish translation for legal purposes and business usage. Some of these documents are training manuals, employee handbooks, and processes and procedures so the affiliates in Mexico and other countries of Latin America can operate with the same rules throughout the company.   

How Spanish Legal Translation Works

Translation in general is a demanding profession that requires more than just being able to speak more than one language.  Language is how we express our ideas, and in a legal setting, that requires extra care.  Legal document translation is a specialized form of translation service.  At JR Language we have the skills that legal translators must have to offer professional Spanish legal translation services.

Language Proficiency

Language proficiency goes beyond having studied a language and being able to speak and write it.  We use native, local speakers of the languages we translate into.  One of the reasons for this is that a professional legal translation must use the correct dialect for the region where it is going to be used.  A Spanish document translation won’t be of the right quality if the translation needed is in Cuban Spanish, but the translator specializes in Mexican Spanish.  Selecting the appropriate legal translator for the Spanish legal translation project is a must.

Industry Fluency

In any area, language group, or jurisdiction, law has a language of its own.  The language of law does not accommodate any error.  Phrasing is extremely specific, and a case can be won or lost with a typo or missed bit of nuance.  Mistakes are costly, time-consuming, and can affect a person or business’s relationship with industry and government officials if they don’t get certain legal documents to them in the correct form, on time, and certified.  Some Spanish legal content might be of financial nature or of technical matter, consequently the vocabulary of finance or technology needs be appropriate as well. Therefore, having the industry fluency and knowledge is a must for each Spanish legal translation project.

Legal System Knowledge

A legal translator doesn’t only translate legal language between language groups and dialects, but between multiple legal systems and cultures.  Professional legal translators have to understand the case and what the document is going to be used for to approach the translation properly.  A legal system is inextricably rooted in that system’s culture and history and may differ significantly from another legal system.  Some legal phrasing may be consistent across jurisdictions, while some legal concepts may be treated differently or completely absent.  For example, the term notarization has different connotations in different countries. The name of the government organizations in Argentina differ for the governmental organization in Mexico so the lexicon and usage of words is extremely important.

Discretion and Accuracy

Discretion is a quality every professional legal translator must-have.  They must not alter the language or concepts at all, in any circumstance, for any reason.  This may require extra research into the legal systems, industries, and cultures involved.  Whether the document is for an individual’s legal needs or for the merger of two multibillion-dollar companies, a certified legal document has to be 100% true to the original and 100% accurate. This is true for Spanish and for any other language involved in the translation project.

The Different Types of Legal Translations

Some of the types of legal documents we translate into and from Spanish are:

  • Personal legal documents.  These include academic records, birth certificates, immigration documents, personal identification, travel papers, career references, and more.
  • Court sentences.  Legal sentences may be used in future cases as part of the discovery process and are retained to be submitted to other jurisdictions. 
  • Trade contracts for buying, selling, or transferring rights. 
  • Articles of incorporation to prove the legitimacy of a business.
  • Patents.  Patent translation is an extremely specialized form of legal translation that we use to support businesses as they promote their inventions. 
  • Employee agreements that outline the employee and the employer’s rights and expectations.
  • Contracts, agreements, and other supporting operational documents for companies that operate across borders.
  • Human resources documents of a legal nature.

Spanish Translation Services Near You

As the number of Hispanic-owned businesses rises and Spanish speakers increase their buying power in the US, companies, and organizations have a golden opportunity to engage with Spanish-speaking students, job seekers, and professionals.  Spanish legal translation protects people’s interests, makes multilingual commerce possible, and satisfies legal requirements across languages and jurisdictions.  Contact us today to talk about your Spanish translation needs and get a quote.

Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie was born in Venezuela. Jackie has a BS in computer engineering; As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments. She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs. Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.