Legal translations play a significant role in breaking down language barriers between nations. Examples of legal documents include judgements, powers of attorney and public deeds. Since legal systems and processes differ between countries, high-quality legal translation services are vital in this process as there is no room for errors or misunderstanding.

By having your legal documents translated by professional and experienced translators, you are ensuring an accurate and error-free translation. A legal translator is well versed in the terminology and familiar with the legal system in both the source and target country. Along with this they fully understand the legal jargon and are aware of the nuances used in the target country.

However, should you choose to run important legal documents through machine translation tools such as Google Translate, you risk leaving yourself vulnerable to severe errors that could have a huge impact on the validity of the document.

While professional translators are experienced in the legal sector, machines cannot understand nuance and often end up regurgitating the information without showing an understanding beyond the literal meaning. This is perfectly suited to everyday use such as asking for directions, but is best left when tackling the complexities of a legal document.

True story

Last year, in an American court, a case was heard in which Google Translate was used to obtain a person’s consent to search their vehicle. The translation tool failed to accurately translate the simple question of “can I search the car?”, instead, translating it literally to “¿Puedo buscar el auto?” in Spanish, which directly translates to “can I find the car?”. The court stated that Google Translate provided non-sensical interpretations on the numerous occasions it was used by the law enforcement officer, and therefore it ruled that Google Translate could not be used to obtain a person’s consent.


So, with this in mind, it is clear that Google Translate does not have the functionality to interpret meaning. It goes without saying then that when it comes to translating legal documents, many of which are meant for courts and other kinds of authorities, the tool cannot be reliably used.

As many legal texts consist of a web of legal jargon, long sentences and vital information, machine translated texts fall short, often lacking sense and leading to further confusion.

This is not the case for texts translated by professional translators who have mountains of knowledge in the field. A legal translator will be sure to use the correct terminology depending on the target language. They are able to piece together and arrange long sentences into a coherent structure. Most importantly, legal translators understand the importance of these kinds of documents and are careful to provide a translation that is faithful to the original.


Header image: Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash