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Towards writing perfect legal translations into English

We translators face the challenge of conveying the message of the source text in another language, to word it in accordance with its grammar rules, or put more simply, by using its underlying sentence patterns.

Let us take a German, a French, a Spanish, an Italian and a Hungarian translator, each facing to translate a sentence from their mother tongue into legal English:

GER - Die Forderung ist nach Ablauf von 5 Jahren verjährt. •FRA - La demande a périmé au boût de 5 ans. •ESP - Al pasar 5 años, la reclamación prescribió. •ITA- Essendo trascorsi cinque anni la richiesta è caduta in prescrizione. •HUN - A követelés öt év elteltével elévült.


Let us work out the solution together.

So what are we to do? Let us first check bilingual dictionaries: The Hungarian bilingual legal dictionary provides the English terms "lapse", "lapse of claim", "statute of limitations" for the Hungarian "elévül". Well, that is not much of a help. And not very native pro.


Why not use legal English sentence patterns then, as native professionals do?


The book entitled 'A Practical Guide to English for Law' provides the following linguistic options under the Subchapter 'Unenforceability due to lapse of time':


claim + is barred + by time

claim + is barred + by time limits

claim + is barred + by statute

claim + is barred + by statute of limitations

claim + is prevented + by statute of limitations

claim + is subject + to prescription

claim + is subject + to statute of limitations

claim + is subject + to limitations

claim + is time-barred


Now it is quite easy to translate the source sentence into English:


"The claim is barred by statute of limitations after lapse of five years."


See? The book provides linguistic options to express an idea. At native pro level.


The concept of 'unenforceability due to lapse of time' is described in the book entitled 'A Practical Guide to English for Law' in a total of 21 pages. It is also described in PDF ebook entitled 'Terminology of Civil Procedure in Use'.

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