Anglicismos in Spanish Legislation?

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The Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Empresa recently asked for public comment (consulta pública) before preparing the text of a legislative bill (anteproyecto de ley) to be presented to the Spanish parliament entitled Ley de Fomento del Ecosistema de Startups. Yes, that’s right “startups” are the subject of this new legislation, with no attempt to render or even define this corporate form in Spanish. In fact, in its call for comments the government is still seeking a delimitación conceptual de las “startups” para centrar el objeto de aplicacion de las particularidades y excepciones normativas que se creen para estas.

When I first read this news, I asked myself whether it’s true that there really is no appropriate Spanish translation of “startup,” and whether Spanish entrepreneurs have simply adopted the English startup-related terminology or, to the contrary, have developed Spanish “equivalents” when discussing this subject.

In my research I found many definitions of “startup” (such as empresa de nueva creación que implementa nuevos modelos de negocio, a menudo apoyada en tecnología digital) and translations such as empresa incipiente; empresa emergente; microempresa de nueva creación or empresa innovadora de nueva creación. And I have to admit that none of these renderings seems to capture the essence of “startup” as reflected in the definition shown above.

It turns out that many startup business concepts do indeed have Spanish translations (see the list below), but will there never be a Spanish rendering of the term “startup” itself? Will “startup” be the first anglicismo (that I am aware of) to actually be used in a piece of Spanish legislation?

As Spanish-English translators, do you (as readers of this blog or my Tweets) have an appropriate Spanish rendering for “startup” to suggest to the Spanish government? The deadline for submitting comments is January 25, 2019 and can be sent to this address: leystartups@mineco.es.

For background, here is the call for public comment (consulta pública): https://avancedigital.gob.es/es-es/Participacion/Paginas/anteproyecto-ley-ecosistema-Startups.aspx

And this is the texto de la consulta pública outlining the areas on which the Spanish government is seeking input: https://avancedigital.gob.es/es-es/Participacion/Documents/anteproyecto-ley-startups.pdf

o-o-o-o-o

Here are some of the startup-related terms and concepts that I found in my readings do indeed have possible Spanish renderings (or at least definitional translations):

  • behavior economics—economía conductual
  • bootstrapping—autofinanciación; financiación propia/con los recursos del emprendedor
  • break-even point—punto de equilibrio (entre ingresos y gastos)
  • bridge loan—préstamo puente
  • burning—consumo de caja
  • business ecosystem—ecosistema empresarial
  • business incubator—incubadora/vivero de empresas
  • cap table (capitalization table)—lista de aportaciones de los inversores
  • churn rate—tasa/ratio de abandono
  • coworking—trabajo cooperativo
  • crowdfunding—financiación colectiva/participativa; micromecenazgo
  • due diligence—auditoría preinversión
  • elevator pitch—presentación rápida/sucinta/resumida del proyecto empresarial
  • fundraising—captación de recursos/inversiones/aportaciones/capital
  • How might we (HMW)? method—método de instrospección
  • key performance indicator (KPI)—indicador clave de rendimiento/desempeño
  • mockup—prototipo
  • non-disclosure agreement—acuerdo de confidencialidad
  • phantom shares—acciones fantasma; bonos multianuales
  • pitch—presentación del proyecto empresarial
  • postmoney valuation—valoración posinversión
  • premoney valuation—valoración preinversión
  • roll-out of business plan—ejecución/implementación del plan empresarial
  • seed capital—capital semilla; capital inicial; aportación económica inicial
  • seed investor—inversor inicial
  • sharing economy—economía colaborativa
  • startup aid—ayuda a la creación de empresas
  • stock option—opción sobre acciones
  • term-sheet—hoja de condiciones (de la inversión)
  • venture capital—capital riesgo
  • venture capitalist—inversor de capital riesgo
  • waterfall development—desarrollo en cascadas
  • wireframe—esquema/prototipo de página web

What is Derecho de la persona?

Derecho de la persona

Derecho de la persona has sometimes been misunderstood and mistranslated variously as “personal law,” “rights of the person” and even “civil rights.” But Derecho de la persona (also called Derecho de las personas and Derecho de personas) is actually a major branch of civil law in civil code countries, governing a broad range of personal attributes. This “Law of Persons” has been defined as consisting of “all norms concerning the status of individuals and legal entities which are the subjects of the law.”* As an example, here are some of the main areas regulated in the Spanish Civil Code’s Libro Primero “De las Personas”:

  • Nacimiento—birth, including commencement of legal personality (comienzo de la personalidad) and acquisition of legal capacity (acquisición de la capacidad jurídica), defined as aptitud para ser titular de derechos y obligaciones.
  • Estado civil—civil status(es); often translated as “marital status,” but the expression is actually much broader and the appropriate translation may vary greatly, depending on context (more on on estado civil here).
  • Capacidad—legal capacity as defined above under nacimiento; plus capacidad de obrar, i.e., the ability to exercise legal capacity, that is, to exercise rights and assume obligations.
  • Incapacitación— including grounds for an adjudication of incompetence (causas de incapacitación) and incompetency proceedings (procedimiento de incapacitación).
  • Edad—age, including aspects of minority (minoría); means of emancipation (emancipación) and the legal implications of reaching the age of majority (alcanzar la mayoría de edad).
  • Nacionalidad—nationality and the means for acquiring citizenship (adquisición de la nacionalidad)
  • Domicilio—domicile or main residence (domicilio habitual efectiva)
  • Vecindad civil—regional domicile that determines whether a person is subject to general civil legislation (the Código Civil) or to specific local law (Derecho foral o especial) existing in certain Spanish regions.
  • Ausencia—long-term absence of missing persons (desaparecidos), who may be judicially declared ausentes so that in the interim a representative of their interests (representante del ausente) may be appointed by the court.
  • Declaración de muerte—declaration of the death of a missing person presumed dead

*Glendon, Mary Ann, et. al., Comparative Legal Traditions. St. Paul: West Group, 2015, p. 113.

False Friends: When doctrina isn’t “doctrine”

 

Español Jurídico

Doctrina and “doctrine” may certainly be considered cognates when they denote general tenets or principles such as, for example, la doctrina del fruto del árbol envenenado (the fruit-of-the-poisonous tree doctrine) or the doctrina del levantamiento del velo societario (the veil doctrine [or] the piercing of the corporate veil doctrine).

But when referring to the authoritative writing of jurists, legal scholars and law professors, “doctrine” is not an appropriate translation for doctrina. As used in Spanish legal contexts, doctrina most often denotes the writings of law professors and legal commentators, and may be appropriately translated as “legal scholarship,” “academic opinion,” “legal (or) academic writing,” or “the opinion of legal scholars,” etc. Thus, in this context an expression such as autorizada doctrina is “authoritative academic opinion,” and a principle that is aceptado en doctrina is “accepted by legal scholars.”

In other respects, in the context of court decisions doctrina is often an ellipsis for the expression doctrina jurisprudencial and denotes “caselaw.” Thus, as used in the opinions of the Spanish Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) or Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo), expressions such as nuestra reiterada doctrina or nuestra doctrina pacífica refer to the courts’ “established (or) settled caselaw,” while recurso de casación para la unificación de doctrina denotes a “Supreme Court appeal to unify conflicting caselaw.” And, in more general contexts, the expression legislación, jurisprudencia y doctrina refers to “laws, caselaw and legal scholarship (or) academic opinion.”

 

Multiple Meanings of paro in Labor Law Contexts

Legal Terms with Multiple Meanings

Paro has several legal meanings, many of them in the context of labor law. In one sense, paro is an informal synonym of desempleo (“unemployment”), as in estar en (el) paro (“to be unemployed,” “to be out of work”—also, estar desempleado), or cobrar el paro (“to receive/to draw unemployment benefits;” “to receive/to collect an unemployment check”). In this sense tasa de paro is tasa de desempleo (“unemployment rate”), and paro is used with this meaning in a number of expressions such as paro estacional (“seasonal unemployment”); paro estructural (“structural unemployment”); paro cíclico (“cyclical unemployment”); paro temporal (“temporary unemployment”); paro coyuntural (“contextual unemployment”) or paro de larga duración (“long-term unemployment”).

Paro is likewise used in two different expressions in the context of labor disputes. In that regard, paro may designate a concerted “work stoppage,” a labor action that may fall short of a formal strike: El comité de empresa convocó un paro de 24 horas (“The workers’ committee called a 24-hour work stoppage”). And, in other respects, paro patronal (more often termed cierre patronal) is the Spanish equivalent of what is known in English as a “lockout” (or less often a “shut out”), an action taken by management, preventing employees from working or even entering workplace premises as means of pressuring them to accept employer demands.

Kinship Terms in Spanish and English

Kinship Tems in Spanish and English

This is not a post on legal terminology per se, but there is so much potential for confusion with kinship terms that I thought it might be useful to reproduce two charts* below to perhaps clear up some of the most basic questions. (I also admit that after living in Spain for so many years “tío segundo” makes more sense to me than “first cousin, once removed.”)

Difference-Between-Family-and-Relatives-2

550px-Relatives_Chart_es.svg

*I would like to attribute authorship to these charts, but they appear on multiple websites, and I couldn’t find a copyright (©) on any of them.

 

 

False Friends in Procedural Terminology: abstención vs. abstention

Oh, no! False Friends

abstención; abstention

abstenerse; abstain

These pairings are often cognates as, for example, in the context of electoral law when used in expressions such as abstenerse de votar (“to abstain from voting”) or tasa de abstención (“abstention rate”).

But in other areas of law these expressions may be false friends. In procedural contexts, a judge’s duty to refrain from hearing a case due to a conflict of interest or for other legally-established grounds is known as el deber de abstención. In this case abstención cannot be translated literally as “abstention,” but rather denotes a judge’s “recusal of himself.” When there are grounds for recusing oneself (causas de abstención), judges as well as court personnel, prosecutors and expert witnesses (funcionarios de la administración de justicia, fiscales y peritos) are obliged to recuse themselves (abstenerse). Thus, el juez se abstuvo de conocer el asunto indicates that the “judge recused himself from the case,” (rather than the literal rendering “the judge abstained/refrained from hearing the case” as it is sometimes rendered.

In other respects, both the parties to a civil or criminal proceeding and the public prosecutor (las partes y el Ministerio Fiscal) may file a “motion to recuse” or “motion for recusal” (promover incidente de recusación) if a judge does not recuse himself when deemed warranted. Thus, as indicated above, abstenerse refers to a judge’s recusal of himself, while the cognate recusar is the term used when a third party recuses a judge or other official.

It may be of interest to note that in US practice a judge may be recused (recusado) or may recuse himself (abstenerse), while “abstention” is often used to refer to a federal court’s relinquishment of jurisdiction to avoid conflict with a state court or agency.

See here for more on abstención, recusación, inhibición, declinatoria and inhibitoria

 

Corporate Law Terminology in the US and UK

us-uk-friendship

Corporate Law is a legal practice area in which there is a good bit of divergence in terminology between the US and UK. None of these examples can be considered true “equivalents” (in legal translation there are rarely equivalents and we can only hope to discover a few “kindred concepts”), but my lawyer students of Legal English tell me they find this list useful.

US UK closest Spanish law concept
sole proprietor sole trader empresario individual
corporate/corporation law company law Derecho societario
limited liability company (LLC) private limited company (Ltd.) sociedad (de responsabilidad) limitada (S.L. or S.R.L.)
corporation (Inc.) public limited company (plc) sociedad anónima (S.A.)
articles of incorporation memorandum of association acta constitutiva; escritura de constitución
(corporate) bylaws articles (of association) estatutos sociales
corporate/business purpose (company’s) objects objeto social
shares; stock* shares acciones
ordinary shares; common stock ordinary shares acciones ordinarias
preference shares; preferred stock preference shares acciones privilegiadas
shareholder; stockholder shareholder accionista
share capital; capital stock share capital capital social
annual shareholders /stockholders meeting annual general meeting (AGM) junta general ordinaria
special shareholders / stockholders meeting extraordinary general meeting (EGM) junta general extraordinaria
piercing the corporate veil lifting the corporate veil levantamiento del velo corporativo

*Several Legal English textbooks categorically state that “shares” and “shareholder” are the British English terms for acciones and accionista, while the American English equivalents are “stock” and “stockholder.” But this is not actually the case. “Share” and “shareholder” are the terms used in the American Bar Association’s Model Business Corporation Act (MBCA) and its revised version (RMBCA) adopted in whole or in part in over half of the fifty US states. Corporate law is state law in the United States and which of the two terms are preferred perhaps depends on the terminology chosen in a given state’s corporation law or code. For example, in the Delaware General Corporation Law it’s “stock” and “stockholder,” while the California Corporations Code uses “share” and “shareholder.”

Legal Synonyms (?): Distinguishing “transfer,” “sale,” “gift,” “conveyance” and “assignment”

Legal Synonyms,Confusing Terms(what's the difference between..._)

transfer; sale; gift; conveyance; assignment

These apparent “legal synonyms” are usually not interchangeable. Here are a few of their meanings and how they are used:

In the context of property law and sales transactions in general, “transfer” is a generic term denoting different modes of disposing of property or rights in property such as a transfer by sale, gift, conveyance or assignment. “Transfer” is likewise often used specifically in the context of transferring shares (transmisión de acciones) from a “transferor” (transmitente) to a “transferee” (adquirente), and it is common to speak of the “transferability of shares” (transmisibilidad de las acciones).

“Sale” (compraventa) is likewise used to refer to many types of commercial transactions such as the sale of goods (compraventa de mercancías) or the sale of real property (compraventa de bienes inmuebles), among many others. The parties to a sales contract are the “seller” (vendedor) and “buyer” or “purchaser” (comprador).

“Gift” (donación) denotes the voluntary transfer of property without compensation from a “donor” or “grantor” (donante) to a “donee” or “grantee” (donatario).

In this context “conveyance” also refers generally to the transfer of property or property rights, but along with the variant “conveyancing,” the term is used, particularly in the UK, to denote the transfer of title to real property (bienes inmuebles). In this context “conveyancing” may be rendered as compraventa de bienes inmuebles, while “conveyancer” refers to a person who provides conveyancing services (servicios de compraventa de bienes inmuebles).The parties to a conveyance are the “buyer” and “seller” and, less often, the “vendor” and “vendee.” In insolvency proceedings or in other contexts, there may an attempt to conceal assets by transferring them to a third party, often referred to as a “fraudulent conveyance” (enajenación fraudulenta) or “conveyance in fraud of creditors” (enajenación en fraude de acreedores).

“Assignment” (cesión) likewise refers to the transfer of rights in property but is most often used in the context of intellectual property rights, as in the “assignment of a patent or trademark” (cesión de una patente o marca) from an “assignor” (cedente) to an “assignee” (cesionario). “Assignment of contract” may likewise denote the transfer of one party’s rights in a contract to a third party (often rendered as cesión de contrato or cesión de la posición contractual).

Translating Spanish-English Court Terminology

Legal Synonyms,Confusing Terms(what's the difference between..._)(1)

sala; sección; sede; cámara

division; panel; chamber; courtroom; courthouse

Sala, sección, and sede are used variously to describe the physical and organizational divisions of Spanish courts. When referring to the overall jurisdictional organization of courts, sala is perhaps best translated as “division.” For example, the Spanish Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo) is divided into five salas (or jurisdicciones): Sala Primera, de lo Civil (“Civil Division”); Sala Segunda, de lo Penal (“Criminal Division”); Sala Tercera, de lo Contencioso-Administrativo (“Administrative Division”); Sala Cuarta, de lo Social (“Labor Division”) and Sala Quinta, de lo Militar (“Military Division”). In this context the expression la sala en pleno refers to a sitting of all of the judges in a given court division. And, thus, el pleno del tribunal or el tribunal en pleno denotes a “full court,” “en banc court” or “court en banc”, i.e., a session attended by all of the judges on a given court.

Sala can also refer to a “panel” of (usually three) judges who adjudicate cases. In this sense sala is a synonym of tribunal. Sección is likewise often used in this context to describe judges sitting in panels. In that regard and as an example, the Spanish Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) may meet en pleno (the full court of 12 judges), in two salas (half-court panels of six judges), or in four secciones (three-judge panels).

In other respects, the expression sala de gobierno refers to the panel or committee of judges (magistrados) who decide administrative and organizational matters in their respective courts (such as the Tribunal Supremo, the Tribunales Superiores de Justicia in each Autonomous Community and the Audiencia Nacional). The duties of the salas de gobierno include, among others, approving case assignment rules (normas de reparto), nominating and appointing judges pro tempore (magistrados suplentes and jueces de provision temporal), and exercising the disciplinary powers (facultades disciplinarias) vested in them in the Ley Orgánica del Poder Judicial.

Sala in the sense of sala de vistas denotes a “courtroom.” Thus, the expression Sala de Vistas de la Sala Segunda del Tribunal Supremo refers to a specific courtroom within the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court.

Although “chamber” is not often used to describe the jurisdictional or organizational divisions of US and English courts, many bilingual sources translate sala literally as “chamber,” perhaps due to the fact that it is used in several European courts in which French is an official language. For example, at the European Court of Human Rights a 7-judge panel is known as a “chamber,” while a 17-judge panel is a “Grand Chamber” (Grande Chambre in French). Likewise panels of three to five judges on the Court of Justice of the European Union are known as “chambers,” and its 13-judge panels are “Grand Chambers.”

In contrast, in Anglo-Amerian jurisdictions “chambers” (always plural) often denotes a judge’s private offices at a courthouse. Thus, an “in-chambers conference” refers to a meeting with a judge in his offices, rather than in the courtroom. By extension the Latin expression “in camera” (“in chambers”) means “in private,” and an “in camera hearing”* refers to a hearing from which the public has been excluded (audiencia a puerta cerrada) as opposed to a “hearing in open court” or “public hearing” (audiencia pública). In British English “chambers” may also denote the offices of a barrister or a group of barristers.

In other respects, in the context of parliamentary practice cámara is not “chamber,” but rather is more often rendered as “house:” cámara alta (“upper house”); cámara baja (“lower house”); Cámara de los Lores (“House of Lords”); Cámara de los Comunes (“House of Commons”), etc.

And finally, sede often denotes the physical location of a court, the “courthouse” itself and, depending on the context, the often seen expression en sede judicial may be translated as “at the court,” “in court,” “before the judge,” or simply with the adjective “judicial:” Declaró en sede judicial (he testified in court/before the judge); comparecer en sede judicial (to appear in court); determinación de responsibilidad civil en sede judicial (judicial determination of civil liability), etc. By extension, if en sede judicial means en el tribunal, then en sede policial must likewise mean en comisaría, while en sede parliamentaria denotes en el Parlamento. Although widely used in the press, this peculiar use of “en sede” has been described as a “cursilería” (Antonio Burgos, ABC, 5 July 2004) and as “abusivo y repetitivo” (Fundéu).

*With the terminology reform initiated in the Civil Procedure Act 1997, in England and Wales an in camera hearing is now known as a “hearing in private.”

Mistranslation? (“Next of kin”)

Who is my next of kin_

Yesterday I encountered a misleading translation in an online glossary on inheritance law terminology that I believe is worth noting. There the expression “next of kin” was rendered in Spanish as pariente consanguíneo más cercano. My first thought was, “What? My husband of 46 years isn’t my ‘next of kin’?” And of course, the Spanish definition is incomplete because “next of kin” denotes “the person or persons most closely related to a decedent by blood or affinity” (Black’s Law Dictionary), affinity (afinidad* in Spanish) being “kinship by marriage.”

Knowing someone’s next of kin is important in case of an emergency, and is used to distribute the estate of a decedent who has died intestate. Several sources that I’ve checked indicate that in many jurisdictions there is no legal definition of “next of kin.” But for what it’s worth, here are explanations of the term chosen at random from a US, UK and Australian perspective:

  • From Petrov Law Firm (California): Generally, the list of next-of-kin is as follows: spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents. Without a will to follow, a probate court will go down the list until it reaches a living person and assign that person your entire estate.
  • From Howells Solicitors in the UK: “Next of kin usually means your nearest blood relative. In the case of a married couple or a civil partnership it usually means their husband or wife. Next of kin is a title that can be given, by you, to anyone from your partner to blood relatives and even friends. It is also possible to name more than one person as your next of kin. This is a title that is primarily used in order for emergency services to know who to keep informed about an individual’s condition and treatment.
  • From Legalvision in Australia: The NSW Coroners Act 2009 assists in determining who will be a person’s next of kin. Where the Coroner is involved and a decision must be made by a deceased’s next of kin, the Coroner will decide who that person is based on an order of priority. First, the deceased’s spouse, then adult children, parents, adult siblings, then lastly any person named as executor under the person’s will, or who was their legal personal representative immediately before death. A spouse also includes a de facto partner.

*afinidad—parentesco que mediante el matrimonio se establece entre cada cónyuge y los parientes del otro (Diccionario Jurídico Thompson-Aranzadi)