Constitution Explorer Project

Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and Program on Liberation Technology are creating a database of constitutions searchable by subject. They are working on building a taxonomy and tagging individual articles and sections from foreign constitutions. When the database is finished, it should nicely complement  Hein’s Constitutions of the World Illustrated and Richmond’s Constitution Finder.

If you are in the bay area this weekend and wish to support this project, CDDRL is organizing an International Constitution Day volunteer session on Saturday, November 12th at Stanford.

See the following link for additional information:
http://cddrl.stanford.edu/events/6902

Cautionary tale about legal translation

The latest issue of the Hong Kong Law Journal includes some interesting comments from Justice Susan Kwan of the High Court of Hong Kong on legal translation and the development of the common law in the Chinese language in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Justice Kwan writes:

It can be said that the Chinese version of the Laws of Hong Kong is quite unreadable. … Each time I look up the Chinese version of a legislation, I would invariably read its English version as well to help me understand the meaning of the Chinese version and to reduce the chance of making mistakes. One can imagine the difficulty faced by those who can only read the Chinese version of the Laws of Hong Kong.

Statute law is just part of the laws in Hong Kong. The majority of the cases that constitute the common law are only written in English. In this important domain, those who have no legal knowledge or are not conversant in English would find their hands tied.

The Dilemma of Conducting Civil Litigation in Chinese – Conversant Either in Chinese or the Law But Not in Both.
Susan Kwan
41 Hong Kong Law Journal 325-326 (2011)

New Book – Researching Language and the Law: Textual Features and Translation Issues

Davide Simone Giannoni and Celina Frade’s new book “Researching Language and the Law: contains the following chapters that will be of interest to people studying legal translation and interpretation.

Researching Language and the Law: Textual Features and Translation Issues

Davide Simone Giannoni and Celina Frade

Bern: Perter Lang, 2010

Selected Book Chapters:

English Legal Discourse and the French Continuum

Susan Kermas

“What I argue in this chapter is that the unique language contact situation within the EU has triggered another phase of French influence. My examination of English and French legal documents in the Eur-Lex archive … will demonstate not only that many words have been influenced by French, but, more importantly, that efforts to harmonise legal language within the EU may also be creating a further rift between British and American legal discourse and subsequently, ordinary language.”

Axiological Analysis of Entries in a Spanish Law Dictionary and their English Equivalents

Angel M.  Felices Lago

 

Legal Translation and Interpreting in the UK Today

Francisco Vigier

The UK has two main translator and interpeter organizations, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting  and the Charted Institute of Linguists, which are recognised by the government and committed to promote quality in translation and interpreting services. Nonetheless, a translator or interpreter willing to practise in Britain is not bound to belong to any of them. . .”

 

New blog: Translation and Interpretation in America

Translation and Interpretation in America

Professor Gladys Matthews

http://translationandinterpretationinamerica.blogspot.com/

Prof. Matthews has been studying legal translation and interpretation for many years. Her blog will be a welcome addition for those looking for insights into language and law.

From the blog description:

I started this blog today, although it is something I have been thinking about and planning for a long time.  I will be making frequent posts about many different topics in translation and interpretation, so I hope you will check back often. My first posts will be on my current research interests related to the teaching of legal translation and interpretation.

 

Online Translation: Passing Switzerland, Spain is now in the hands of the video and suture

Somewhat pessimistic take on the future of machine translation from an editor at Forbes.

Computers Will They Ever Learn?

Lee Gomes

Forbes, Vol.186 #2, p.44 (August 9, 2010)

http://www.forbes.com/global/2010/0809/columnists-lee-gomes-digital-tools-computers-will-they-learn.html

Ask most computer programmers what would happen if, suddenly, their computers got a thousand times faster. Most would rhapsodize about being able to immediately put that extra power to good use.

Ask Franz Josef Och the same question, though, and he says that even with a machine a thousand times more powerful than today’s his program wouldn’t run significantly better than it does right now, as far as most people could tell. Which is quite an admission, because Och is responsible for one of the most amazing computer programs in the world: He is head of the division at Google that runs Google Translate.

 

 

Arabic-Arabic Courtroom Translation in Lebanon

Translation issues usually involve at least two foreign languages. Here is an article that addresses translation in courts from colloquial to Standard/Classical Arabic. In addition to the linguistic arguments, the author also discusses  pre-trial criminal proceedings in Lebanese courts. (see p.191)

Arabic-Arabic Courtroom Translation in Lebanon                                           Victor A. Khachan                                                                                                                    19 Social and Legal  Studies 183 (2010)

Abstract:

In the Arab world, the comprehension gap between Colloquial and Standard Arabic has been recognized as a major force behind illiteracy and its endless negative repercussions. One adverse impact of this comprehension gap manifests itself in the courtroom. Courtroom translation in the Arab world (i.e. consecutive interpreting/reporting from Colloquial into Standard Arabic) occurs systematically and is the only means of documenting courtroom proceedings. Despite its functional importance in the light of language manoeuvrability and translation accuracy, the legal implications of the Colloquial—Standard Arabic proximity in the context of linguistic rights have not been theoretically nor empirically researched. Accordingly, this paper introduces the dynamics of language use in a hierarchical judicial system in one Arab country, Lebanon. This paper is a theoretical first brick in the wall of linguistic rights in the Lebanese courtroom, where — in the absence of a jury system — linguistic discretion in the legal decision-making process rests upon the bench judge. In addition, this paper highlights the vulnerability of illiterate people vis-à-vis the use of Standard Arabic in legal settings at the expense of their preferred first or only language, Lebanese Colloquial.

Legal Interpreting and Translating: A Research Guide

Legal Interpreting and Translating: A Research Guide

Don Ford

FCIL Librarian, University of Iowa

Although the guide is specific to the Iowa Library System, the guide offers a nice bibliography of legal translation titles and a list of glossaries and dictionaries in 20 languages from Europe, Asia ,and Africa. Particularly useful are the links to online legal glosssaries from state courts covering the following languages: Arabic, Armenian, Cantonese, Chinese, German, Hindi, Hmong, Korean, Laotian, Punjabi,Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Urdu and Vietnamese.

http://www.law.uiowa.edu/documents/pathfinders/court_interpreter.pdf

Text-to-Speech Translation

Google Translate and Bable Fish provide free machine translation of text from various languages. The Text-to-Speech Web site now allows you to hear how the text should be pronounced. Over two dozen languages are available. The Spanish options include Chilean, Mexican, Castilian and Argentine accents.   English options are American, Indian, Irish, Australian, Scottish, and South African. These are machine translations so the voices are a bit robotic.

Text-to-Speech Translation

VOA pronunciation guides for foreign names

Voice of America provides a pronunciation guide for names of foreign leaders and dignitaries. Type  in a name or choose from an alphabetical list.

Example of Sergio Viera de Mello from the VOA site. In addition to the written phonetic spelling, the site also provides an audio file of name being spoken in translation.

DE MELLO, SERGIO VIERA Brazil SEH-zhee-o vee-A-rah day MEH-lo  

VOA Pronunciation Guide

http://names.voa.gov/index.cfm

Hat tip to Prof. Peggy McGuinness

Article on evaluating English-Spanish legal dictionaries

Speaking of bilingual information…  In the latest issue of Law Library Journal, Dennis Kim Prieto of Rutgers Law Library offers a timely and useful article on bilingual English-Spanish dictionaries. He reviews the latest lexicographic research to undercover criteria by which to assess bilingual legal dictionaries. The annotated bibliography at the end of the article will prove useful to acquisitions librarians as they make decisions about which dictionaries to buy. Dennis’ article is a welcome addition to the understudied area of legal lexicography, especially in foreign languages.

Dennis Kim Prieto, En la tierra del ciego, el tuerco es rey: Problems With Current English-Spanish Legal Dictionaries, and Notes Toward a Critical Comparative Legal Lexicography, 100 L. Libr. J. 251 (2008).  

 

 

http://www.aallnet.org/products/pub_llj_v100n02/2008-14.pdf