The Lawyer Translator YouTube Channel

capelle spears legal translations thelawyertranslator Jun 30, 2022

Hello!  I would like to introduce you to the Lawyer Translator YouTube channel.  If you have read my website, then you already know that the reason why I started this channel was to help translators like you, who either already specialize in legal translation or who are considering it as a career, to get the guidance, support, and information you need to have a successful career as a legal translator.  Now, obviously there are courses that teach translation and even some that focus on legal translation.  But what these courses lack, which is fundamental when translating any legal text, is that they don’t really teach the law.  Understanding the law, as opposed to knowing certain terminology, is key to fully understanding any legal source material.

Accordingly, for the most part, each video will be roughly 90 seconds to 3 minutes in length and will focus on one issue we, as legal translators, will face.  I’ve divided these issues into three different types:

  1. Legal Concepts/Doctrines – This is important because we are most likely translating between two separate legal systems – civil law and common law. These can be further divided into three subgroups:
    1. Exactly the same and can be freely or literally translated (examples include “law,” “judge,” or “due process,” which translate into “derecho,” “juez,” and debido proceso”)
    2. Some that are not at all compatible because they don’t exist in the other system (example “amparo” and “ejido” or “discovery” and “equity” in the US)
    3. Some that are similar but not quite similar enough to translate freely (
      “tort law” or “social security”).
  2.  Problem terms/polysemic terms
    1. If you have studied translation in any capacity or if you’ve been translating long enough, you are going to encounter cognates and false cognates. Now, there are two problems that arise here. 
      1. The number of cognates and false cognates increases exponentially in legal! And to make matters worse, many of these terms have a different meaning (and thus, translation) depending on the context.   Adding more to the confusion—sometimes the terms are cognates—sometimes they’re false cognates.  For example, the word “declaracion” in Spanish may translate into “declaration,” but it may also translate into “statement” or “representation”)
      2. This is probably obvious to most of you, but legal is a TECHNICAL language, and technical languages are based on everyday language, which basically means there is terminology that at some point adopted a new, more “technical” definition. These are easily (for the most part) identifiable in areas, such as medicine, because most medical terms are either well known by the public (“heart attack”) or their technicality is obvious (“myocardial infarction”) because most laypeople will look at these words and say “huh?” What makes legal even more dangerous, however, is there are many times when the terminology used doesn’t LOOK technical—it looks like normal language with or without a perfect cognate, and this can lead the inexperienced translator to incorrectly identifying the proper term.  An example here is consideration, which in a contract MAY take on its normal, everyday meaning (“consideracion”) or it may refer to a bargained-for exchange (“contraprestacion”)
    2.  Dispel legal translation myths and identifying and correcting common translation errors
      1. Like any bad gossip or rumor, there are some terms that, for whatever reason, have been mistranslated over and over again, and their mistranslation has spread.  While the example I am going to use here warrants an entire video, I will nonetheless mention it hear: the term “escritura publica” in Spanish, which more times than not, I see translated as “deed.”  When I come across this, it tells me that the translator did not understand what he or she was translating.  A deed is an instrument used to transfer or convey real property ownership.  That’s it.  If the subject matter of the “escritura publica” is not the conveyance of real property, then it’s not a deed--it’s a “public instrument.”


So, if you’re interested in learning about the law and, in the process, becoming a better legal translator, please click on the subscribe button.  Also, go to my website at and sign up to receive even more content, including a free e-book.  The links are provided below.  And if there are any specific terms, issues, concepts, etc., you would like me to discuss, or if you have any questions or feedback, you can send me an email at [email protected].  I only ask that if your feedback is negative, to please be respectful.  Thank you!  And welcome to the lawyer translator YouTube channel!

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