5 Qualities to Look for in a Legal Translator in Chinese

In his book, A Textbook of Translation, English professor and translator wrote these insightful words, “A satisfactory translation is not always possible, but a good translator is never satisfied with it. It can usually be improved.”

This is relatively applicable to literary translations where translators in this field must have literary knowledge (both in English and their mother tongue), stylistic skills in language, and extensive experience of cultural and audience. They must be good writers as well, creative and imaginative.

However, when we talk about legal translations in Chinese (similar to technical and corporate translations), a good translator should consider beyond what “can usually be improved.”

The texts cannot be just improved, but rather, they have to be as accurate in the technical sense, or the client will lose face or money because of an ignored discrepancy of word, phrase, or terminologies translated into written Chinese language.

Legal translations must be taken seriously to avoid lawsuits and penalties between parties.

If you’re looking for a Chinese legal translator, here are the things you should consider

#1 Well-versed native speaker of Chinese

A native speaker who knows the written forms of Chinese should be non-negotiable if you will pass on legal documents for translation. There are two forms of written Chinese—the Simplified and Traditional—and depending on the region you would use those documents, you should also take note where you will use them. Simplified is commonly used in Mainland China and Singapore while Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysia use the Traditional form.

#2 Knowledgeable with both source country’s (e.g., United States) and Chinese legal systems

The legal translator should be bilingual as well as he or she needs to know the source language like English. However, the English language also can either be the British, American, or Australian. The translator should have a background of the legal systems of the country to ensure he or she understands the policies, verbiage, and context.

#3 Detailed oriented and skilled in grammar, syntax, and language rules

The legal translator in Chinese should be fully knowledgeable of the purpose and intended use of the document. It will influence both the process of translation and the approach to ensure the material will not be compromised. The terminology, tone, syntax, grammar, and other linguistics rules apply for accurate or error-free final document.

#4 Background in law is required

The translator must be knowledgeable about the legal background and terminologies, which are specific to that field of law. Documents are also different, which legal translations may cover court documents, trade contracts, international treaties, social status papers, articles of incorporation or shareholders book of articles and among others.

#5 Teachable and a team player

Lastly, aside from being a skilled or talented legal translator, look for the attitude and character as well. In any translation project, people are always involved. The translator should be teachable especially in accepting feedback and corrections. In the translation process, project manager, translators, proofreaders work together, and attitude is as equally important with skills, too.

At the end of the day…

The law shapes the society’s structure, and the legal translator must have a more profound understanding of the legal concepts, phrases, terminologies, and other linguistics rules to ensure the final document serves its purposes.

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