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.
There are many legal expressions in which transacción and “transaction” are obvious cognates, as in transacciones financieras (financial transactions); transacciones inmobiliarias (real estate transactions); transacciones comerciales (commercial transactions) or transacciones con tarjetas de crédito (credit card transactions). But in the context of civil procedure transacción has a different meaning, denoting a “settlement” reached by the parties to a dispute. In that regard, the parties may reach an out-of-court settlement (transacción extrajudicial) or may settle in court during the course of proceedings (transacción judicial). In that case, the judge will ratify (homologar) the settlement (described as homologación judicial de la transacción). This type of ruling ratifying a settlement (auto homologando la transacción) may be expressed in English as an “agreed judgment,” “consent judgment,” “stipulated judgment” or “judgment by consent.”
It should perhaps be noted that in this context transacción is the noun form of the verb transigir, defined in the Diccionario de la Lengua Española as ajustar algún punto dudoso o litigioso, conviniendo las partes voluntariamente en algún medio que componga y parta la diferencia de la disputa. Thus, transigir might be appropriately rendered in English as “to settle,” “to reach a settlement” or perhaps more generally as “to compromise.”