Translation memory (TM) is great for many types of documents, including legal/court documents, which may have many repetitions. TM also creates term bases – or rather, human translators create these term bases in the memory – for other translators to use as the work goes on.

TM is not the same thing as Machine Translation, however. Machine translation will oftenmistranslate legal terms which the translator then has to fix. With TM, on the other hand, this will be done entirely by human translators with experience in the legal field. Specialized translators will also avoid a lot of the pitfalls that could lead to a completely different interpretation of the text.

Not all the parts of a court document are repetitive though, and this is where the finesse of a human translator becomes even more important. Testimonies and depositions are often in common language, rather than “court” language, and a human translator will get a sense of the person’s tone and the idioms or slang they may use.

In contrast, the judge will use very formal language and particular phrasing that must be reflected in the translation. This is the part of the translation where TM is the most useful. Many phrases will always appear in court documents: “the defendant is remanded to custody,” “Counsel may approach,” “we find the defendant guilty,” etc. These must be precisely translated and will appear in the TM or term base, greatly improving the overall accuracy and consistency of the job, even if there is more than one translator. This means less editing steps as well, which saves the client money in the long run.

Having a term base also helps avoid seemingly small grammar or word-usage mistakes. If the wrong preposition is used, the entire meaning can turn out wrong. Here is an example in Slavic that might also happen in Spanish or Portuguese: “… willfully discharge a firearm at inhabited house, occupied building…is guilty of a felony…” “At” can mean either in or at a location, or “toward;” as in “He shot at John.” The experienced translator will take in the entire context, and since this may be a key phrase in a criminal case, the word “at” will be correctly translated in the whole document.

Working hand-in-hand, the human translator and the TM will avoid all these mistakes and offer the client a consistent and accurate translation that is sure to be accepted by anyone in the target language country.

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