Pitfalls of Spanish-English Legal Translation (II) (Non-linguistic and Cultural Aspects)

As noted in previous blog entries, in March I was invited by the European Commission’s Spanish translators at the Directorate General for Translation (DGT) to give a conference on Spanish-English legal translation in Brussels and in Luxembourg. The conference has been published in three issues of puntoycoma, Boletín de los traductores españoles de las instituciones de la Unión Europea, and in the event it may prove of interest, the third installment in the latest issue of puntoycoma entitled “‘Trampas’ en la traducción del español jurídico (II) (Aspectos extralingüísticos y culturales)” is available here:

http://ec.europa.eu/translation/spanish/magazine/documents/pyc_154_es.pdf

In this issue I look at some of the non-linguistic pitfalls of legal translation, including the ellipses, cryptic expressions and general legalese used by Spanish legal professionals that rarely appear in bilingual dictionaries, as well as changes in legal terminology derived from legislative reform. In addition, I examine how a translator’s own legal culture may prompt translation mistakes, with examples from Spanish criminal law and criminal procedure that could easily be misinterpreted from a common law perspective.

A previous (second) installment of this article entitled “‘Trampas’ en la traducción del español jurídico (II) (Aspectos lingüísticos) reviewed some of the most common language-based pitfalls that Spanish-English translators encounter when rendering legal concepts, including different levels of “false friends,” polysemy in legal language, the problem of legal synonyms that appear to be the “same thing with a different name,” whether to translate expressions in Latin, and differences between legal language in the US and the UK:

http://ec.europa.eu/translation/spanish/magazine/documents/pyc_153_es.pdf

And the first installment of this article “Aciertos y desafíos en la traducción jurídica español-inglés” focused on four specific aspects of Spanish-English legal translation: “Traducciones que sí ‘encajan’” (concepts of Spanish law that fortunately have a close “functional equivalent” in Anglo-American law); “Traducciones (dudosas) generalmente aceptadas” (a controversial topic concerning generally-accepted renderings that are actually mistranslations in certain contexts); “Traducciones inventadas” (a look at a couple of invented translations that, nevertheless, appear in Internet publications and elsewhere; and “Traducciones imposibles” (which addresses the problem of translating legal terms that have no corresponding concept in Common Law):

http://ec.europa.eu/translation/spanish/magazine/documents/pyc_152_es.pdf

“Pitfalls in Spanish-English Legal Translation (I) (Linguistic Aspects)”

In March I was invited by the European Commission’s Spanish translators at the Directorate General for Translation (DGT) to give a conference on Spanish-English legal translation in Brussels and in Luxembourg. The conference is being published in three issues of puntoycoma, Boletín de los traductores españoles de las instituciones de la Unión Europea, and in the event it may prove of interest, the second installment published yesterday and entitled “‘Trampas’ en la traducción del español jurídico (I) (Aspectos lingüísticos)” is available here:

http://ec.europa.eu/translation/spanish/magazine/documents/pyc_153_es.pdf

In this installment I review some of the most common pitfalls that Spanish-English legal translators encounter when rendering legal concepts, including different levels of “false friends,” polysemy in legal language, the problem of legal synonyms that appear to be the “same thing with a different name,” whether to translate expressions in Latin, and differences between the legal language of the US and the UK.

The first installment of this article, published in the May/June 2017 issue of puntoycoma is entitled “Aciertos y desafíos en la traducción jurídica español-inglés” and focuses on four aspects of Spanish-English legal translation: “Traducciones que sí ‘encajan’” (concepts of Spanish law that fortunately have a close “functional equivalent” in Anglo-American law); “Traducciones (dudosas) generalmente aceptadas” (a controversial topic concerning generally-accepted renderings that are actually mistranslations in certain contexts); “Traducciones inventadas” (a look at a couple of invented translations that, nevertheless, appear in Internet publications and elsewhere; and “Traducciones imposibles” (which addresses the problem of translating legal terms that have no corresponding concept in Common Law):

http://ec.europa.eu/translation/spanish/magazine/documents/pyc_152_es.pdf

“Stepping Stones and Stumbling Blocks to Spanish-English Legal Translation”

In March I was invited by the European Commission’s Spanish translators at the Directorate General for Translation (DGT) to give a conference on Spanish-English legal translation in Brussels and in Luxembourg. The conference is being published in three issues of puntoycoma, Boletín de los traductores españoles de las instituciones de la Unión Europea, and in the event it may prove of interest, the first installment entitled “Aciertos y desafíos en la traducción jurídica español-inglés” is available here:

http://ec.europa.eu/translation/spanish/magazine/documents/pyc_152_es.pdf

In this article I examine four aspects of Spanish-English legal translation: “Traducciones que sí ‘encajan'” (concepts of Spanish law that fortunately have a close “functional equivalent” in Anglo-American law); “Traducciones (dudosas) generalmente aceptadas” (a controversial topic concerning generally accepted renderings that are actually mistranslations in certain contexts); “Traducciones inventadas” (a look at a couple of invented translations that, nevertheless, appear in Internet publications and elsewhere; and “Traducciones imposibles” (which addresses  the problem of translating legal terms that have no corresponding concept in Common Law).

Translating carga de la prueba

carga de la prueba

burden of proof; burden of persuasion; burden of production

Carga de la prueba is easily recognizable as an appropriate rendering for “burden of proof.” But carga de la prueba is also sometimes offered as a translation for “burden of persuasion,” perhaps because there isn’t really a similar Spanish law concept. Indeed, in Anglo-American law the concept of burden of proof entails two different aspects: “burden of persuasion” and “burden of production” (also called “burden of going forward with the evidence”).

This is evident in the definitions provided in Black’s Law Dictionary (8th ed.):

 Burden of proof–A party’s duty to prove a disputed assertion or charge. The burden of proof includes both the burden of persuasion and the burden of production.

 Burden of persuasion–A party’s duty to convince the fact-finder to view the facts in a way that favors that party. In civil cases, the plaintiff’s burden is usually “by a preponderance of the evidence,” while in criminal cases the prosecution’s burden is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

 Burden of production–A party’s duty to introduce enough evidence on a issue to have the issue decided by the fact-finder, rather than decided against the party in a peremptory ruling such as a summary judgment or directed verdict.

 The fact that Spanish may not have terminological equivalents for both “burden of persuasion” and “burden of production” was underscored by Professor Fernando Gómez Pomar (professor at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra Law School in Barcelona) in an article published in the InDret law journal in 2001:*

 Las reglas sobre carga de la prueba comprenden, pues, de un lado, la determinación del umbral de certidumbre que requiere el juzgador para satisfacer la pretensión y, de otro, la determinación de cuál de las partes ha de suministrar las pruebas para alcanzar dicho umbral, so pena de recibir una decisión adversa sobre el fondo del asunto si no lo hace.

En el ámbito jurídico norteamericano, ambos aspectos son analizados independientemente dentro de la genérica “burden of proof”: se habla así de “burden of persuasion”, “level of confidence” o “standard of proof” … para referirse al primero, frente a “burden of production” o “burden of proof” en sentido estricto.

En España y, en general, en Europa, no se realiza con nitidez –o no se realiza en absoluto- la distinción entre las dos vertientes de la carga de la prueba. Tal vez ello se deba a que implícitamente se considera que sólo hay un nivel de confianza o convicción jurídicamente admisible en el juzgador acerca del acaecimiento de un cierto suceso.

Thus, the single expression carga de la prueba may have to suffice when rendering either “burden of proof” or “burden of persuasion” in English, unless the context requires clearly distinguishing the two by providing definitional translations. In contrast, I believe that “burden of production” (or “burden of going forward with the evidence”) does have an equivalent concept in Spanish and may be appropriately rendered as carga de aportación de la prueba.

*Fernando Gómez Pomar. Carga de la prueba y responsabilidad objetiva. InDret 1/2001, pp. 1-17. http://www.indret.com/pdf/040_es.pdf