False Friends in ES-EN Legal Translation: is elevar really “elevate”??

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In legal usage elevar has several different meanings, none of which is the literal “to elevate.” The most common translation of elevar in legal (and other) contexts is simply “to raise” (being synonymous with subir): El Ministerio del Interior está estudiando elevar la edad para conducir ciclomotores (“The Interior Ministry is studying the possibility of raising the age for driving motorbikes.”); El BCE confirma que volverá a elevar los tipos… (“The ECB confirms that it will once again raise interest rates…”).

Elevar has the additional meaning of “to submit a petition or proposal” (elevar una petición o propuesta). Thus, for example, elevación de las cuentas anuales para su aprobación por la Junta General de Accionistas refers to “submitting the annual accounts for approval at the annual shareholders meeting.”

In other respects, in Spanish felony proceedings (procedimiento penal ordinario) elevar a definitivas has a peculiar meaning, referring to the ratification of the prosecution’s initial accusation and the defense’s initial defense (collectively called calificaciones provisionales). At the end of a criminal trial and after evidence has been examined, the attorneys for the prosecution and defense may then amend their initial pleadings in written closing arguments called conclusiones based on the events that transpired at trial, or they may “ratify their initial accusatory and defensive pleadings” (elevar a definitivas las calificaciones de fiscal y defensa), which are then known as calificaciones definitivas.

 Special mention should perhaps also be made of the omnipresent expression elevar a público that is sometimes mistranslated simply as “to make public” (which would be more appropriately rendered as publicar or hacer público). Elevar a público is indeed much more than merely publicizing an act or event, being an ellipsis for elevar a público un documento privado (meaning “to notarize,” “to record in a notarial instrument” or “to formalize in a notarial document”). In that regard, elevación a público refers to the procedure of appearing before a (civil law) notary to execute a private document, contract, etc. so that it may be recorded in a notarial instrument (escritura pública) to be preserved in his or her notarial records (protocolo). Thus, for example, elevar a público el nombramiento del administrador does not denote “making the director’s appointment public” (as the expression has sometimes been rendered),but rather “recording the director’s appointment in a notarial instrument.”

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