Post-graduate degree in Legal Translation

Last week, I wrote about the two post-graduate degrees I have recently started attending, but I focused on the one in Medical and Pharmacological Translation. Today, instead, I am going to talk about the one in Legal Translation.

First of all, the course is held jointly by a lawyer and a translator who have been working together for some time in the translation industry. This way, attendees can profit both from theoretical knowledge in the law field and from a more practical and linguistic approach to texts that need to be translated. The course focuses on English to Italian translation, but what one learns can be applied – mutatis mutandis – to other language pairs, as well.

When translating a text dealing with legal matters, it is of paramount importance to be aware of the great difference existing between distinct legal systems: the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia follow common law (as well as some former English colonies and countries influenced by the Anglo-Saxon tradition), whereas continental Europe follows civil law. These two legal traditions mainly differ because of the source of law they favour (case law and legislative decisions respectively). In addition, some mixed legal systems developed across the world. Different legal systems imply different legal institutions, which lack an equivalent in other countries and, consequently, in other languages.

Legal translators need to possess at least basic knowledge of comparative law, which is why I decided to attend this Post-graduate Degree in Legal Translation: this course is also going to provide basic principles of many branches of law (civil law, criminal law, corporate law…).

As you probably know if you have visited my website, I attained a Master’s Degree in Conference Interpreting: I graduated with a glossary thesis about the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). While examining different documents to build my glossary, I soon realised the frequent lack of an exact Italian equivalent for English terms referring to particular institutions and procedures. In addition, law is an abstract subject: across the whole world, the human body is the same and a heart is always a heart, even though different languages use different words to indicate it. On the contrary, legal terminology is based on institutions, offices, laws and statutes which are not the same in every country and which cannot be “physically seen”: criminal conducts, for instance, are identified through several elements which make them unlawful, but these elements and law principles are created by men and are, therefore, abstract.

All this must be added to the common issues faced by translators and interpreters. They are part of the reason why I chose this post-graduate course. Another reason is that I am deeply interested in the subject of law and I like translating documents pertaining to it. Last but not least, having basic knowledge of legal matters can only make one’s life easier!

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