Mistranslations (?) of vecindad

“Mistranslations?” includes examples of what may be considered inappropriate translations, plus others that may perhaps be considered all-too-literal renderings of expressions that may have sufficiently close counterparts in the other language. Still others are translations that may simply not be accurate in the context in which they originally appeared.

vecindad; vecindad civil

In legal translations I have seen vecindad translated simply as “neighborhood” and vecindad civil común as “common legal residence.” But both of these renderings fail to recognize the specific meaning that vecindad has in the context of Spanish civil law. Vecindad civil denotes one’s legal regional domicile, the geographic area in Spain in which a person habitually resides and which determines whether he is subject to the Civil Code (Derecho civil común, the “common law” of Spain) or to local law (Derecho civil foral o especial). Separate systems of local law exist principally in the Basque Country and Navarre, as well as in Catalonia, Aragon, the Balearic Islands and Galicia, affecting, among others, family and inheritance law (Derecho de familia y sucesiones) and marital property systems (régimen económico matrimonial). Thus, persons having vecindad civil común are subject to the provisions of the Civil Code (Código Civil), while those having vecindad civil foral are governed by local law. In that regard, when acquiring Spanish nationality, new citizens must state whether they choose to be governed by the Civil Code (acogerse a la vecindad civil común) or by local law. And perhaps it should perhaps be noted here that, although often used interchangeably, strictly speaking the term Derecho foral applies to the local law of the Basque Country and Navarre, while local law in Catalonia, Aragon, the Balearic Islands and Galicia is often referred to as Derecho especial.

 

False Friends: usurpación ; usurpation

When learning legal terminology in a bilingual context one of the first pitfalls encountered are so-called “false friends,” words or expressions that appear to be cognates, but are actually unrelated in meaning. Many years ago I set about identifying the “Top 40 False Friends in Spanish-English Legal Translation.” As the list grew I had to change the title to “101 False Friends.” In my collection I now have well over that number and will be sharing some of them in this blog. To be fair, many are only partial false friends that may actually be cognates when used in one branch of law, while perhaps qualifying as false friends in another legal practice area. And in some instances the cognate may simply not be the most appropriate rendering in legal contexts.

usurpación; usurpation

Usurpación is used in the definition of several types of criminal offense for which the literal translation “usurpation” may not be the most appropriate. In this context, usurpación generally denotes “unlawful appropriation.” The specific offense of usurpación de inmuebles may be rendered in many cases as “squatting.” Usurpación de estado civil broadly describes various modes of “identity theft,” while usurpación de atribuciones generally denotes “misappropriation of powers.” In that regard, usurpación de funciones públicas may refer to “improper assumption of office” or perhaps to “impersonating a public official,” while usurpación de funciones policiales is “impersonating a police officer.” In the terminology of intellectual property offenses, usurpación often has the meaning of “infringement,” as in usurpación de patentes y modelos o dibujos industriales (“infringement of patents and industrial models or designs”). In official EU documents the expression usurpación de marca is sometimes translated as “counterfeiting,” as in la lucha contra la usurpación de marca y la piratería (“the fight against counterfeiting and piracy”). And, finally, usurpación may also be used to describe several types of computer crime such as “cybersquatting” (usurpación de nombres de dominio), “email spoofing” (usurpación de direcciones de correo electrónico) or “web spoofing” (usurpación de contenidos de páginas web).

 

False Friends: científico/a ; scientific

When learning legal terminology in a bilingual context, one of the first pitfalls encountered are so-called “false friends,” words or expressions that appear to be cognates, but are actually unrelated in meaning. Many years ago I set about identifying the “Top 40 False Friends in Spanish-English Legal Translation.” As the list grew I had to change the title to “101 False Friends.” In my collection I now have well over that number and will be sharing some of them in this blog. To be fair, many are only partial false friends that may actually be cognates when used in one branch of law, while perhaps qualifying as false friends in another legal practice area. And in some instances the cognate may simply not be the most appropriate rendering in legal contexts.

científico/a ; scientific

literatura científica ; scientific literature

In legal contexts the adjective ciéntifico/a cannot always be appropriately translated as “scientific.” In that regard, in criminal law ciéntifico/a often denotes certain areas of forensics. Thus, in Spain Unidades de Polícia Ciéntifica are “Forensic Police Units” or “Crime Scene Investigation Units” and, in general, la policía científica may be described variously as “forensic police,” “crime scene investigators” or perhaps even “crime scene evidence technicians.” In this context análisis científico refers to “forensic analysis,” and an expression such as técnicas científico-policiales dirigidas a la investigación del delito refers to “forensic techniques for use in criminal investigation” or simply “forensic criminal investigation techniques.”

In other respects, in English the expression “scientific literature” is likely to be understood to refer to documents dealing with some area of the sciences (biology, physics, medicine, etc.). In contrast, in Spanish and in legal contexts literatura científica is often synonymous with doctrina académica, denoting the writings of law professors and legal scholars, and may be appropriately translated as “legal scholarship,” “scholarly writing,” “academic opinion” or “the writing of legal scholars.” Thus, for example, la literatura más autorizada sobre la transmisibilidad de acciones refers to “the most authoritative scholarly writing (or) academic opinion concerning the transferability of shares.” Likewise, in this context the expression revistas científicas does not necessarily refer to “scientific publications,” but rather to “academic journals,” and revistas científicas de Derecho are specifically “law journals” or “law reviews.”

 

 

Terminology Sources: Duhaime’s Law Dictionary

For many years I have visited the much acclaimed webpage of Canadian lawyer Lloyd Duhaime, not only to consult his online “Duhaime’s Law Dictionary,” but also to review its “Legal Resource Sections” on practically every major area of law. But beware! It is easy to become distracted (in the most positive sense of the word) in the “LAWFun” sections (among them, “Dumbest Things Said in Court;” “LAWmazing!,” “Crazy Laws Around the World” and “Outrageous Lawsuits”) that are as entertaining as they are informative. More than just a source of terminology, the site delivers legal information to an average of 10,000 visitors a day. Take a look at www.duhaime.org.

 

Capsule Vocabularies: Servidumbres

ES-EN legal translators (and lawyers and professors) often require a minimum basic vocabulary in a specific area of law, something that they will be hard pressed to find searching word-by-word in a dictionary. (In this case, the “problem” with dictionaries is that they are in alphabetical order.) Blog entries labeled “Capsule Vocabularies” will feature some of the basic terminology lists developed for use by my students of legal English that I hope may also be of interest to translator and interpreter colleagues and other legal professionals.

Servidumbres (Easements)

Translators dealing with property law texts are sometimes surprised by the number of servidumbres (easements) provided for in the Spanish Civil Code. Here are the major categories of servidumbre and other related vocabulary with their corresponding English translations:

  • predio/fundo/heredad dominante─dominant tenement/estate; benefited property
  • predio/fundo/heredad sirviente─servient tenement/estate; burdened property
  • servidumbre predial─easement that runs with the land
  • servidumbre personal─easement in gross
  • servidumbre positiva─affirmative easement; positive easement
  • servidumbre negativa─negative easement
  • servidumbre continua─continuous easement
  • servidumbre discontinua─discontinuous easement
  • servidumbre aparente─apparent easement
  • servidumbre no aparente─nonapparent easement
  • servidumbre legal─legal easement; easement created by operation of law
  • servidumbre en equidad─equitable easement
  • servidumbre voluntaria─easement by express grant; easement by agreement of the parties
  • servidumbre adquirida por usucapión─prescriptive easement; easement by prescription; adverse easement
  • servidumbre pública─public easement
  • servidumbre en materia de agua─water easement; water rights
  • servidumbre natural de las aguas─right to natural waterflows
  • servidumbre de las márgenes de cauces públicos─riparian water rights; right to use of riverbanks
  • servidumbre de camino de sirga─towpath easement
  • servidumbre de estribo de presa─dam easement
  • servidumbre de parada o partidor─irrigation system easement
  • servidumbre de saca de agua─right to draw water; easement to draw water
  • servidumbre de acueducto─water conveyance easement
  • servidumbre de desagüe─drainage easement
  • servidumbre de vertiente de tejados─roof water runoff/drainage easement
  • servidumbre de abrevadero─livestock watering easement
  • servidumbre de acceso al mar─beach access easement; easement providing access to the sea
  • servidumbre de paso─right of way; access easement; easement of passage
  • servidumbre de paso permanente─permanent right of way
  • servidumbre industrial─utility easement
  • servidumbre de paso en beneficio de fincas enclavadas─right of way to landlocked property; landlocked property easement
  • servidumbre temporal por obras─temporary construction easement
  • servidumbre de paso para ganado─livestock right of way; livestock easement
  • servidumbre de descansadero─easement for resting livestock
  • servidumbre de majada─easement for overnighting livestock
  • servidumbre de pastos─grazing easement
  • servidumbre de leña─timber easement; timber rights
  • servidumbre de medianería─party wall easement
  • servidumbre de luces y vistas─light and air easement

 Source: Rebecca Jowers. Léxico temático de terminología jurídica español-inglés. Valencia: Tirant lo Blanch, 2015, pp. 770-772.

Confusing Terms: Is artículo an “article” or “section”?

Many confusing terms in legal Spanish and legal English are simply legal synonyms that are not always clearly distinguishable, often making it necessary to learn how each one is used in a specific context or in set phrases (frases hechas). Some may be interchangeable; others are limited to use in specific contexts. Those highlighted in this blog are ones that I have seen confused in translation or that my students and lawyer clients have found most difficult to distinguish.

artículo—article; section

Among translators there is often much debate as to how to appropriately translate the divisions of legislative texts. Under the entry for “section” the Alcaraz/Hughes dictionary* observes that “Acts (of the UK Parliament) are divided into sections, sub-sections and paragraphs,” indicating that “al hablar de las divisiones del texto de una ley ‘section’ equivale a ‘artículo’ y ‘article’ a ‘sección’… (aunque) en el Derecho comunitario redactado en inglés ‘article’ equivale a ‘artículo.’” In other respects, the U.S. Code** is divided into Titles, Parts, Chapters and Sections (the latter being conveyed by the symbol “§” rather than by the word “section”). And major pieces of Spanish legislation (Código Civil; Código Penal, etc.) are divided into Libros, Títulos, Capítulos and Artículos.

In view of the above and despite this diversity in terminology, following Alcaraz/Hughes (and other similar sources) many translators insist that artículo should be translated as “section,” and “section” as artículo, except when the translation concerns EU law in which artículos are “articles.” But this seemingly simple rule has the potential for causing much confusion and, swimming against the tide, I admit that I generally ignore it, precisely for that reason. Thus I prefer to render the Libros, Títulos, Capítulos and Artículos of Spanish laws literally as “Books,” “Titles,” “Chapters” and “Articles.” That way those seeking to consult the legal texts cited in a translation may at least have half a chance of actually locating the article (or “section”) in question in the original Spanish law.

*Enrique Alcaraz Varó and Brian Hughes. Diccionario de términos jurídicos ingles-español, Spanish-English. Barcelona: Ariel, 2005.

**United States Code (also called US Code or USC) is a consolidation and codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States. http://uscode.house.gov/

Mistranslations (?) of fondo

“Mistranslations?” includes examples of what I believe may be considered mistranslations that I have encountered over a twenty-five year period while working as a legal translator and teacher of legal English in Spain. Some may be actual mistranslations, while others are perhaps all-too-literal renderings of expressions that may have sufficiently close counterparts (“functional equivalents”) in the other language. Still others are translations that may simply not be accurate in the context in which they originally appeared.

fondo

In expressions such as pronunciamiento sobre el fondo, entrar al fondo or sin entrar al fondo, etc., fondo has a very specific meaning in procedural terminology. I have seen fondo in procedural contexts translated as “meollo,” entrar al fondo as “touching upon the core of the matter,” and sin pronunciamiento sobre el fondo as “without getting down to the real issues.” These renderings all fail to recognize that when referring to judicial decisions (resoluciones judiciales) fondo is the Spanish expression for “merits (of the case).” Thus juicio sobre el fondo refers to a “trial on the merits,” while pronunciamiento sobre el fondo denotes a “ruling on the merits.” Likewise, entrar al fondo is “to rule on the merits” and sin entrar a fondo means “without a ruling on the merits.”