English and Arabic languages belong to different family of languages. English belongs to the Indo European family of languages, whereas Arabic belongs to the Semitic family of languages. It is the wide variety of differences in these languages which requires professional care and experience while translating a source document from one language to a target document in another language.
To translate English to Arabic legal documents and vice versa one requires expertise in both legal terminology and understanding of language translation. Further it's not just the legal text but the language used by lay witnesses, slang of the police and technical terms used in reports and testimony of expert witnesses who might be professionals in a field of science, which legal translators have to translate from English to Arabic. Language used in such situations have a strong cultural attribute.
In this article we will point out few specific lexical or vocabulary related issues that we often face as English to Arabic translator. These issues are specifically related to archaic and Latin terms that are often used in the English legal language.
English law uses many old and middle English words such as hereby, thereby, aforesaid and hereof. These terms are often used by lawyers as well, and are rightly considered archaic. Such legal terminology fills up a large part of the English legal vocabulary and translators have to skillfully translate these terms into appropriate Arabic words, that very well reciprocate the underlying meaning of the archaic term. It is true that these archaic legal terms can be replaced by other terms in the English vocabulary, however it is still widely used in legal documents.
Some more legal terms that are often used in English law are Latin, but still used regularly. These include terms such as ad hoc, de facto, pro rata, inter alia, ab initio and mutatis mutandis. Most of such archaic and Latin terms that are regularly used in English law don't have an equivalent word with exact meaning in Arabic language. Such English legal terminology clearly shows the difference in basic elements of the two languages. Thus the English to Arabic translator will require far more efforts to translate such legal terms.
Rather than translating such terms literally, the translator might try to strengthen his role as a cultural mediator and understand the conceptual meaning of the Latin or archaic term. He might first expand the meaning of the archaic or Latin legal term in English and then translate the expanded version into Arabic. For example the term 'de facto company' doesn't have a precise substitute in Arabic language. It literally refers to a company that is existing or holding a specified position in fact but not necessarily by legal right. Translating this interpreted meaning can have a better Arabic version which can literally be translated in Arabic to, Actual Company (though did not meet the necessary legal procedures for that). Further clarify by mentioning (Authors translation) at end of the translated version.
Here we will discuss some more archaic and Latin terms in English legal terminology which are not translated literally to Arabic, but are translated using a parallel routine word of target language which has the same meaning as in source text. For example 'notwithstanding' can be translated to mean 'despite' or 'although' in Arabic. Similarly old English terms such as 'hereunder' and 'herinafter' can be translated to 'which follows' that also has an Arabic equivalent.
Some more archaic or Latin English terms that don't have an equivalent term in Arabic language are 'thereafter', 'set forth herein', 'set forth' and foregoing'. In the absence of a proper Arabic equivalent word the right Arabic translation of these terms are 'after that', 'mentioned in it', 'mentioned' and 'aforementioned' respectively.
Further these Arabic equivalents can vary when being used in a sentence. For example when translating the English sentence "I hereby declare...." the translator might omit the word 'hereby' and translate it to "I declare...." which has a proper equivalent legal translation in Arabic. The basic premise of any translation is to keep the underlying meaning of source text intact, and the translator should always keep this rule in mind while translating legal documents.
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