One of the major difficulties of learning legal language is that so many terms have one meaning in everyday usage, but may mean something radically different in legal contexts. And sometimes the same word may have several different legal meanings, depending on the practice area in which it is used. Linguists may describe such terms as “polysemous,” and they are certainly present in abundance in both legal Spanish and legal English. Under “Multiple Meanings” I offer a sampling of expressions that I believe are likely to give rise to miscues in legal translation. Logically, the focus is on usage in legal contexts, and their nonlegal meanings have generally been excluded.
días hábiles; días inhábiles
The appropriate translation of días hábiles or días inhábiles always depends on the context in which the expression is used. If días hábiles actually refers to días naturales (that is, if all days of the week are días hábiles for a particular activity), the expression must be translated as “calendar days.” If días hábiles refers to días laborables, they are “work days” or “working days” (días hábiles laborales). Días hábiles comerciales are, of course, “business days,” while días hábiles bancarios are “banking days.” When referring to the activities of securities markets, días hábiles bursatiles are “trading days.” And the days in which courts are in session (días hábiles judiciales) are “court days,” (or, perhaps less commonly, “judicial days” or “juridical days”).
The opposite (días inhábiles) for the above would be (in order): “non-working days” or “holidays;” “non-business days;” “non-banking days” (or “bank holidays,” particularly in the UK); “non-trading days” and “court holidays,” “court recess” or “non-court days.”