Confusing Terms in Spanish-English Legal Translation: “national” isn’t nacionalista

Confusing Terms2

When recently reviewing a judgment* of the European Court of Human Rights, I realized that the Ministry of Justice’s Spanish version of that document confuses “national” with nacionalista. In English, when identifying a person’s country of origin, “national” means “citizen of:” “Paco Pérez, a Spanish national” = Paco Pérez, de nacionalidad española (or) Paco Pérez, ciudadano español, etc. In the judgment in question, the applicants were identified as “Hungarian nationals,” but appeared in the Spanish translation as nacionalistas húngaros (“Hungarian nationalists”). Perhaps this was some sort of Freudian slip, given the presence of nationalist political parties in the Basque Country, Catalonia, and elsewhere in Spain (whether the term nacionalista actually appears in the party’s name or not).

In other respects and as noted above, in Spanish contracts the ever-present de nacionalidad española is indeed used to indicate that a party to the agreement is “a Spanish national.” But the meaning may be slightly different when the parties are corporate entities rather than individuals. Empresa X, de nacionalidad española is obviously not “Company X, a Spanish national,” but rather “Company X, a Spanish corporation” or perhaps, adopting the expression often found in Anglo-American contracts, “a company incorporated under the laws of Spain.”

*Karácsony and others v. Hungary

 

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