Category: News

Translating for Legal Evidence

The Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS) and Seattle court interpreters will be hosting a day of workshops and panels on October 4th (first Sunday after International Translation Day) and have been kind enough to ask me to speak on translating for legal evidence.

Evidentiary translation is an area in which translation (written) and interpretation (spoken) converge. As differs from localization, where the goal is often to start with a source text and make something new that fits the target culture, and literary translation, where creativity is almost as important as understanding, both court interpreting and translations for legal evidence require an exact and accurate reproduction of all the content, without embellishment or modification. A court interpreter cannot speak for the witness or offer their own interpretation of the facts. The Washington State courts say:

“A language interpreter shall interpret or translate the material thoroughly and precisely, adding or omitting nothing, and stating as nearly as possible what has been stated in the language of the speaker, giving consideration to variations in grammar and syntax for both languages involved. A language interpreter shall use the level of communication that best conveys the meaning of the source, and shall not interject the interpreters personal moods or attitudes.”

General Rule 11.2 Code of Conduct for Court Interpreters

Because attorneys with less experience in this field tend to assume that every translation they work with will satisfy the rules of evidence and non-specialized translators tend to assume that they should polish, clarify, and edit the text of every translation they work on, it is not uncommon for both to be unpleasantly surprised.

My talk will present best practices for working on evidentiary translations and cover a set of guidelines (recently outlined by Françoise Herrmann in the Translation Journal) and a method known as “conservation of lexemes,” which can be used to produce and evaluate translations for evidence.

The exact time of the workshop as well as the details of other presentations will be posted soon at:


Best Practices in Translations for Legal Evidence: How to Protect Yourself and Your Clients

Two years ago we started on a new edition of the ATA Patent Translator’s Handbook. While that project is still cooking, in the process of writing one of the chapters, I realized that much of the advice we were planning to give to patent translators could be used by anyone working on evidentiary translations. The ATA Chronicle was recently kind enough to publish it, and you can find a copy here.

I wrote the article for translators but legal professionals who work with translations should also know what is in play in this special type of translation, including guidelines for certification, communication policies and the role of existing translations.

If you are interested in a more technical description of the requirements and processes for patent translation, please see the book chapter that I wrote on the subject.


It’s official. I will have the pleasure of presenting at this year’s International Japanese English Translation (IJET) Conference in our home town of Seattle.

I am particularly looking forward to this, as this will be the first time that I will do a presentation with someone else, as a team effort. My partner is Masa Kajiki, who runs MK Translation Firm in Osaka, and is an exceptionally talented translator in his own right.

The presentation is called: Beyond Translation for Information: How to Become Indispensable in J to E Patent Translation for Filing and Litigation, and the blurb reads as follows.

“This seminar will explain what US and Japanese attorneys are looking for in both translations for filing and translations for litigation support. We will present a methodology for meeting the requirements of literal translation, as well as strategies for dealing with particularly difficult constructions in translations for filing, which are rarely seen outside of the patent field.

The session will include a short workshop, in which attendees will be asked to try their hands at some classic J>E patent translation stumpers and evaluate the possible solutions. People are also invited to email us in advance ( with difficult phrases and patent-specific terms that they would like to see discussed.

This session is best suited for translators who already have some experience in the field of patents or who have attended seminars covering the basics of patent translation in the past.”

Self Referential or What?

OK, it may not be Gödel, Escher, Bach but here is a link to a piece in the American Translator’s Association Chronicle, which faithful readers will instantly recognize as having first appeared on this very blog. In case you are asking yourself why you should click on a link that will take you to something that you have already read, let me assure you that the piece is infinitely more convincing and authoritative when you read it in all its laid out glory in Jeff Sanfacon’s fine column than when it was merely a blog post. And, before you ask, I am not even going to start with the whole, “If blog posts aren’t convincing then why should I …” line of argument.