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Chinese Legal Translation Services: An Overview

Just take a look around; what’s not linked to law and regulations one way or another? From visiting a regular website or downloading a new game online to buying a new product or service, you’ll have to accept legal-related forms (terms & conditions,) for instance.

Globalization and internationalization have magnified the role of legal translation nowadays. Business-wise, when entering an enormous market like China, you’ll have to deal with legalities on a daily basis without even realizing it. So, there is no denying the necessity of Chinese legal translation services to cater to the Chinese cultural and legal system, especially in the flourishing Chinese business market.But is translating to Chinese an easy task? Can you trust Machine Translation for your Chinese legal documents?In this post, AsiaLocalize provides you with an overview of Chinese legal translation services, including the definition of legal translation, the challenges your language provider faces to construct a reliable Chinese legal translation, and the qualities you have to seek in your translation/localization agency. 


Table of Contents

What Is Legal Translation?

Legal translation is a translation field that concentrates efforts on legal documents and material, from contracts and policies to licenses and legal disclaimers and more. Naturally, this type of translation requires legal expertise to be handled optimally since the legal language and systems’ uniqueness and nature mandate the presence of professional legal translators who have years in legal practices. It’s a sensitive translation sector that can easily lead to catastrophic results, including legal and financial consequences, in case it’s handled recklessly.

Challenges on the Way to a Reliable Chinese Legal Translation

Legal translation can be demanding in the sense that it can be more than just about achieving clear, accurate, and effective communication. It’s also essentially about the art of converting a legal language to another without sounding strange in terms of the usage of legal expressions and terminology to avoid any misinterpretation in a risky field like legal practice. This adjusting of a legal system to suit a different audience and fit in with a totally different jurisdiction requires a radical change, since every country has its own rules and legal language nature, which mirrors its society’s culture and traditions. So, What Are the Challenges in Chinese Legal translation?

A. Linguistic Challenges

The Chinese language tops the chart with the world’s most complicated language, specifically Mandarin, the most popular Chinese dialect, with about 1.31 billion speakers worldwide. So, you can grasp the idea behind the need for professional Mandarin translation services and typically any Chinese translation services. Here are some of the linguistic challenges that any professional Chinese linguist needs to overcome while translating to/from Chinese: 

  • The Extensive Collection of Chinese Dialects and Writing Systems: Even though Mandarin is prevalent in the Chinese world, there are more than 302 other Chinese dialects, according to Ethnologue‘s data. Also, there are two different writing systems: Traditional and Simplified Chinese. Therefore, a competent Chinese translator is the only one who can tell and know the best-fitted dialect or writing system for the translation project in question, depending on the targeted locale and audience.

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  • Chinese Grammar System: Chinese grammar has unique rules that differ from other languages. Consequently, this individuality requires an in-depth understanding of its subtleties in order to meet the intended translation’s quality. For example, Chinese verbs don’t point out the tenses, so the translator has to concentrate on the context to figure it out. Also, there are no plural and singular forms in the Chinese language, unlike the English language, which will also demand special attention to the context. 
  • Chinese Sentences’ Structure: There are two types of Chinese language’s sentence structures: simple and complex. You may associate it with English sentence structures, but it’s totally different.

B. Legal Languages & Systems Differences

Let’s face facts: there are about 5 legal systems around the world, and even regionally (inside the same country), you may find two different legal systems. Despite that, there is no global legal language. Each country has its own legal language and expressions depending on its cultural and historical factors. And no one book teaches these differences.

When comparing the Chinese to U.S. legal systems, for instance, you will find many obvious differences between their complex legal systems, which can be a major roadblock for your Chinese legal translation projects. The good news is: this difference gap is narrowed. With the increasing interest and investment in this economic power, China has been reforming its legal system to promote further development and facilitate Western countries’ business expansions in China.

C. Chinese Legal Terms Translation

Not only will you go across some terms that can’t be translated or have no equivalents in Chinese, but translators working on any language combination will probably face the same problem in legal translations. As previously mentioned, every country has its unique legal concepts built on the society’s culture, history, and maybe religion, which makes untranslatable concepts common when dealing with legal translations. In that case, a legal translator should have impeccable problem-solving and decision-making skills to navigate the technical challenge of translating legal terminology and jargon.

For example, the legal concept “habeas corpus” which protects against unlawful imprisonment, is recognized in the countries of the Anglo-American legal system but not in civil law countries, which makes it quite challenging to find an equivalent for the concept in these legal systems.

D. Urgency

Even though translation to Chinese requires validation in every step, and Chinese legal translation is usually an intricate process that involves multiple rigorous QA steps, we can’t overlook the “urgency” aspect. In our fast-paced world, the need for fast Chinese legal translation services is the norm.

Accordingly, employing a well-thought-of translation company that has particular experience and an impressive, consistent track record in Chinese legal translation can be of indispensable benefit for your business. In this case, a wide range of expert Chinese legal translators will have your back, equipped with advanced translation management tools, terminology databases, and glossaries to serve your legal translation needs promptly. 

Refer to whitepaper part

A checklist of legal translation language provider must-haves!

A list of traits has to be in your Chinese legal
translation language provider!

Chinese Human Translation vs. Machine Translation in Legal Translations

Today, it’s more common than you think to wonder if machine translation (MT) is on the table. To be honest, there’s more than one compelling reason to rely on machine translation for your Chinese legal translation projects. MT is designed to instantly process and translate an infinite number of legal documents and words. And when it comes to budget, MT tips the scales.

Yet, MT has its own limitations and can be synonymous with literal translation. It can’t capture linguistic nuances or cultural and contextual subtleties. MT output can also deliver inaccurate use of legal jargon and terminology as well as unclear, imprecise interpretation of the legal language. And not only can it compromise the quality and integrity of your legal documents, but it can also compromise the confidentiality of your business.Most of the time, you’ll be advised to turn a blind eye to MT. We do know it’s tempting, though. People have been torn between Machine Translation and Human Translation, up until Machine Translation Post-Editing entered the picture. Bringing out the best of both worlds, MTPE is this fundamental step that leverages the power of MT and the expert touch of human translators to deliver high-quality Chinese legal translation, on time and on budget. So, if you have to use MT, MTPE is imperative. Group 17146

Who Should Help You with Your Chinese Legal Translation?

Now, it’s safe to say that Chinese legal translation is a sensitive field that requires a set of specific skills that its practitioners should possess. And whether MT is an option or not, you’ll need a reputable professional translation company by your side. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! With the help of professional translation agencies, you’ll be equipped with the latest translation technology tools, the most competent Chinese linguists, and a supportive project management team responsible for efficient communications and quality control. When seeking expert Chinese language providers, there are a couple of things that you should consider. Mainly, the expertise and qualifications of their Chinese legal translators. Check our white paper for more.Competent Chinese TranslatorsBesides being well soaked with all Chinese language particulars, Chinese legal translators should essentially have a full grasp of the following: 

  • The legal systems of both: the source and target language (in this case, we’re talking about Chinese)
  • The Chinese legal writing style

And have the necessary skills to:

  • Capture the intended purpose of the translation.
  • Convey the meaning and nuances of your documents accurately and faithfully.
  • Handle legal terminology and jargon with extraordinary precision and consistency.


Final Thoughts

Legalities interfere in every life and business aspect, and especially with business, it’ll always boil down to the necessity to go for expert legal translation services. So, whether you’re planning to expand your business in China’s market or translate a personal document into Chinese, professional Chinese legal translation services are the way to go. And because one mistake can lead to many acute problems, from sabotaging prospective business relationships to leading to inevitable money losses or legal consequences, you have to think twice before handing the job to an amateur Chinese legal translator.

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