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Tradulinguas International Legal Translation Conference, Lisbon

Earlier this month I went to a conference on legal translation in Lisbon, held at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. I hadn’t been to a Tradulinguas conference before, and knew nothing about the company, so admit to being a little apprehensive about taking a leap into the relative unknown. What swayed me was that it offered a great opportunity to spend a few days brushing up on my Portuguese in Lisbon, as well as a chance to meet up with other translators specialising in law, including several I knew already.

The conference’s focus was very much international, with sessions delivered in English, Portuguese or French. The speakers were not afraid to be controversial and stimulate debate about legal translation at the coalface, including the background, skills, depth of knowledge, research methodology and/or qualifications a translator specialising in this area ‘should’ have. A key theme was the role of comparative law, since countries’ legal systems are rarely directly comparable, even if they follow the same legal tradition and use the same language.

I was both surprised and impressed at the strength of opinion expressed in the sessions. It was great to see so many attendees speak up, giving the sessions a lovely interactive feel. But I do wish that the sessions had kept more to a traditional ‘answers at the end’ format, as some speakers weren’t able to finish their presentations due to the sheer number of questions from the audience while they were in full flow.

Highlights of the conference for me were:

Ingemar Strandvick’s and Professor Klaus-Dieter Borchardt’s opening sessions on multilingual law-making and legal translation in the European Union and Community Law. Professor Borchardt’s publication ‘The ABC of European Union law’ is available from the Publications Office of the European Union.

Dr Pommer’s session on comparative law and its quest for a legal ‘meta language’ to facilitate international cooperation and harmonisation: is law a global discourse?  Comparability vs. translatability: does translation always have to mean equivalence?

Ana Soares’s presentation (in Portuguese) on the Portuguese legal system compared with the legal system of England and Wales.

Juliette Scott’s session on DIY corpora in legal translation – her ‘NIFTY’ approach.

Véronique Sauron’s session on online resources for legal translators, and mostly importantly how to use them quickly and effectively, identifying reliable sources.

Filipe Carrera’s interactive session on networking and what it really means. Filipe is clearly a highly experienced speaker and his session got the message across without being cheesy.

    Oh, and the weather was fabulous! More information on the conference, including speaker bios and abstracts can be found here:

    Image courtesy of World Travel Guide 2010ikoniхудожник на икониИкони на светциХудожникОткъде да купя иконаидея за подаръксондажи

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    User Responses

    7 Responses and Counting...

    1. Beatriz Figueiredo

      October 24, 2011

      Hi Philippa,

      Great post, thanks for sharing your impressions.
      Did the conference focus only on European Portuguese? I’m an official public translator in Brazil and I was curious to know whether there were any discussions including Brazilian Portuguese as well.


    2. Emma

      October 24, 2011

      Would you agree with the author of this article when she says that a translator have to be fluent in each country’s different cultural language, but they need to be intimately familiar with each country’s legal system? Would you say it is absolutely necessary?

    3. EP

      October 24, 2011

      Oh man, Lisbon is so beautiful. I haven’t been there in ages though (there has also that big fire that destroyed so much of what I had seen in the meantime), but I’m sure you must have had a great time, business or not. The food was great, too. Man, nice jobe (or conference) if you can get it!

    4. philippa

      October 24, 2011

      @Emma I don’t disagree with the main argument of this article in principle. A translator specialising in law who is working on a legal text will need to be at least familiar (as an absolute minimum) with both countries’ legal systems – the real question is, how does a translator acquire this knowledge? Not necessarily by going back to university to get a degree in law.

    5. philippa

      October 24, 2011

      @Beatriz I’m afraid it did focus on European Portuguese. Although I think there may have been a few attendees from Brazil there, none of the sessions discussed Brazil’s legal system or Brazilian Portuguese (to my knowledge).

    6. Svetlin Simeonov

      October 24, 2011

      Hi Philippa,

      Great post, thanks for sharing your impressions.

    7. Translation Services

      October 24, 2011

      Great post! Thanks for sharing your experience.

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