Legal translation into a non-mother tongue: The role of L1 revision

Tomáš Duběda

Abstract

The article reflects on the problem of L2 legal translation, paying specific attention to the role of L1 revision and its impact on the overall quality of the final product. Twenty non-native translations (Czech–French) of a legal text were subjected to a two-stage assessment procedure: First, by two native revisers without legal training (revision stage), and second, by two native experts (metarevision stage). In the revision stage, the average quality of the translations was rated between B (good) and C (borderline). During the metarevision stage, the experts identified a higher number or errors, especially in the domain of legal meaning. No less than 84% of the revisions made by the non-expert revisers were confirmed by the expert revisers, while the remaining cases were mostly under-revisions (12%), and, less frequently, over-revisions (4%). In situations where L2 translation is inevitable, L1 revision, even when carried out by professional revisers with little or no legal background, seems to be a viable option. However, all stakeholders should be aware of the risks associated with this practice, bearing in mind the specific nature of legal translation.

Keywords
Publication history
Table of contents

L2 translation is far from being a frequent object of research, and this is especially true with respect to Legal Translation Studies. However, it is a fact that in many European countries legal translations are produced by non-native translators. Therefore, more insight is needed into the specificities of this activity, its benefits and risks, as well as the social context in which it is carried out.

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