False Friends Fridays: imposición and “imposition”

False Friends Fridays new

In legal contexts imposición (and imponer) can rarely be rendered literally as “imposition” (or “to impose”). In banking law imposición refers to a “deposit,” as in fecha de imposición (“deposit date”); imposición a plazo fijo (“time deposit”); imposición minima (“minimum deposit”) or “imposición en efectivo (“cash deposit”). In the context of tax law imposición denotes “taxation:” imposición directa (“direct taxation”); imposición indirecta (“indirect taxation”); doble imposición (“double taxation”) or convenio de doble imposición (“double tax treaty,” “treaty for the avoidance of double taxation”).

In procedural law imposición de costas is a court’s “award of costs.” Se imponen a la parte demandada las costas indicates that the “defendant is ordered to pay (the plaintiff’s/claimant’s) costs,” usually expressed in English from the perspective of the successful party, in this case as “plaintiff/claimant is awarded costs.” And in the context of criminal law, imposición de la pena refers in general to “sentencing,” as in imponer pena de prisión (“to sentence to prision,” “to impose a prison sentence”); imponer pena de multa (“to fine,” “to impose a fine”) or imponer la pena de privación del derecho de conducir (“to suspend/ revoke a driver’s license,” “to disqualify from driving”).

False Friends Fridays: adhesión; adhesion (and the verbs adherir; adhere)

False Friends Fridays new

Adhesión and “adhesion” may be cognates in an expression such as “adhesion contract” (contrato de adhesión). But in the sense of adhesión a un tratado, adhesión is more appropriately rendered as “accession,” as in acuerdo de adhesión (“accession agreement”) or la adhesión de España a la CEE (“Spain’s accession to the EEC”). In this case the appropriate verbs are adherir and “accede:” Estados miembros que se han adherido a la Unión Europea (“Member States that have acceded to the European Union”).

In other respects, in the language of court decisions adherirse is used to denote a judge’s “joining” another’s opinion: adherirse al voto particular disidente/discrepante o concurrente (“to join a dissenting or concurring opinion”). Thus, for example, voto particular concurrente que formula el Magistrado don Luis López Guerra y al que se adhiere el Magistrado don Tomás S. Vives Antón refers to a “concurring opinion filed by Judge Luis López Guerra in which Judge Tomás S. Vives Antón joined.” Likewise, in English an expression such as “Justice White, with whom Justice Blackmun and Justice Stevens join, dissenting” denotes a voto particular disidente (or) discrepante formulado por el Magistrado White, al que se adhieren los Magistrados Blackmun y Stevens.

In an additional context, in Spain’s former Civil Procedure Act (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil de 1881) the successful party to a lawsuit could join the losing party’s appeal (called adherirse a la apelación) to challenge some aspect of the judgment being contested. In the present Civil Procedure Act (Ley 1/2000) adhesión a la apelación has been replaced by the concept of impugnación del recurso. In that regard, once the appellant (apelante) has filed his appeal, the appellee or respondent (apelado) may file a brief opposing the appeal (escrito de oposición al recurso) or, if warranted, a brief challenging specific aspects of the appeal that he deems prejudicial to his interests (escrito de impugnación de la resolución apelada en lo que le resulte desfavorable).

False Friends Fridays: a new pair each week! (tráfico; traffic)

False Friends Fridays new

Legal translators will probably agree that when learning legal terminology in a bilingual context, one of the first pitfalls we encounter are the so-called “false friends,” words or expressions that appear to be cognates but may actually be unrelated in meaning. Many years ago I set about identifying the “Top 40 False Friends in Spanish-English Legal Translation.” As the list grew I had to change the title to “101 False Friends.” In my collection I now have well over that number and to-date have included 33 of them in this blog. And starting today (y hasta agotar existencias), I’ll be sharing a new pair on this site each Friday.

To be fair, I should note that some of the word pairs highlighted are only partial false friends that may actually be cognates when used in one branch of law, while perhaps qualifying as false friends in another legal practice area. And in some instances the cognate may simply not be the most appropriate rendering in legal contexts.

So to start out, let’s look at

tráfico and traffic

Tráfico must logically be rendered as “traffic” in many contexts, as in tráfico aéreo (“air traffic”), tráfico rodado (“road traffic” or “vehicular traffic”), delitos contra la seguridad del tráfico (“traffic offenses”) or accidente de tráfico (“traffic accident”). The term must likewise be translated as “trafficking” in expressions such as tráfico de drogas (“drug trafficking,” also called narcotráfico), tráfico de armas (“arms trafficking”) or tráfico de personas (“human trafficking”).

But in certain contexts tráfico refers to different aspects of “commerce” or “trade” such as in usos de tráfico (“commercial practice”); tráfico mercantil (“commercial trade” or “commercial transactions”) and tráfico intercomunitario (“intra-EU trade”). Likewise, in accounting terminology acreedores y deudores por operaciones de tráfico are respectively “trade creditors and debtors” or “trade payables and receivables.” Tráfico may also be used as a synonym of tránsito: tráfico marítimo (“maritime shipping”). And the criminal law concept of tráfico de influencias is generally rendered as “influence peddling.”

False Friends: accidental and “accidental”

false friends purple

Accidental has several meanings in which the term cannot be appropriately rendered in English as “accidental.” This is the case when accidental is used in the sense of “provisional” or “temporary.” Thus, for example, the expression secretario accidental denotes an “acting (or) interim secretary.” Likewise, el decano accidental del Colegio de Abogados refers to an “acting (or) interim president of the Bar Association.”

Accidental may also mean sin formalidad jurídica (DLE). In that regard, in Spanish business law sociedad accidental is another expression for contrato de cuentas en participación, an informal business vehicle in which a party may privately contribute capital to a business venture with a view to sharing in the profits (arts. 239-243 of the Spanish Código de Comercio). As used in this context, sociedad accidental has often been translated as “partnership” or “joint venture,” although in Spain it lacks the usual legal formalities required to set up most businesses, being a simple pacto que no requiere escritura ni inscripción en el Registro Mercantil.

False Friends: When absolución isn’t “absolution”

Oh, no! False Friends

absolución; absolution / absolver; to absolve

In religious contexts, absolución and “absolution” are often cognates referring, for example, to the remission of sin imparted by a priest. In that regard, a priest may “absolve someone of his sins” (absolverle de sus pecados). But absolución and “absolution” are not cognates in legal contexts. In criminal procedure, absolución denotes “acquittal,” and refers to a finding that a criminal defendant (el acusado) is “not guilty.” Thus in criminal law contexts absolver is “to acquit” or “to find not guilty.”

In contrast, in civil procedure, absolución (del demandado) refers to a “finding (or) judgment for the defendant.” Thus se absuelve al demandado en primera instancia implies that the trial court “found for the defendant” or “rendered judgment for the defendant.”

In summary, in criminal proceedings absolución and sentencia absolutoria refer to an “acquittal” (a judgment of not guilty), while in civil proceedings absolución and sentencia absolutoria denote a “judgment for the defendant.” And in neither case would it be appropriate to translate absolución as “absolution.”

False Friends: When autor is not an “author”

Oh, no! False Friends

autor; author / autoría; authorship

Autor and “author” are obviously cognates when they describe the creator of a literary or artistic work: el autor de la novela (“the author of the novel”). Thus, for example, the expression derechos de autor refers to “copyright,” while derechos morales de autor are an author’s “moral rights.” In this context, autoría is indeed “authorship” (the fact of having authored or created a literary or artistic work), coautoría denotes “co-authorship,” and coautores are “co-authors.”

In contrast, in Spanish criminal law contexts el autor (de un delito) is the “principal” or “perpetrator” of a crimal offense. A distinction is often drawn between the autor material or ejecutor (the person who actually commits the offense) and autor intelectual (the “brains” or “mastermind” behind a crime). Likewise, an autor mediato uses an innocent third party (for example, a minor or mentally incompetent person) as an instrument to execute a crime. In this context, autoría refers to the fact of being directly responsible for the perpetration of a crime, while coautoría denotes the commission of a crime by two or more principals who are, thus, coautores (“co-principals” or “co-perpetrators”) of the offense.

False Friends 101: trimestre; trimester

False Friends 101

These two terms probably belong in the “False Friends 101” category, but are nevertheless sometimes confused in translation. Both trimestre and “trimester” refer to a period of three months. In English “trimester” is perhaps most often used to refer to stages of human gestation: “the first trimester of pregnancy” (el primer trimestre del embarazo). In addition, many US universities divide the academic year into three trimesters (fall, winter and spring), each having a duration of approximately 12 weeks.

However, in legal, business or accounting contexts a three-month period is called a “quarter” (i.e., la cuarta parte de un año). Thus, in these contexts trimestre must be rendered as “quarter” rather than as “trimester.” To cite a few simple examples, the accounting year (ejercicio contable) is divided into “quarters,” (trimestres); VAT (IVA) is paid “quarterly” (trimestralmente), and business profits are typically announced in a “quarterly earnings report” (informe trimestral de resultados).