False Friends (26): adjudicar; adjudicate

Oh, no! False Friends

adjudicar ; adjudicate / adjudicación ; adjudication

These pairs are clearly false cognates. In Spanish adjudicar generally has the meaning of “to award,” “to allocate” or “to allot.” Thus, for example, adjudicar un contrato is “to award a contract,” (not “adjudicate a contract”), while in the context of auctions (subastas) adjudicado al mejor postor may often be rendered simply as “sold to the highest bidder.”

In contrast, in English “to adjudicate” means “to rule upon or settle judicially; to adjudge,” while “adjudication” is “the legal process of resolving a dispute; the process of judicially deciding a case.”* Thus, “to adjudicate” is juzgar, fallar or resolver judicialmente, referring to the final ruling of a court or quasi-judicial body, a sense that adjudicar does not have in Spanish. In that regard, when referring to a judicial decision “adjudication” cannot be translated as adjudicación. “He was adjudicated guilty” means le declararon culpable (or) fue declarado culpable (being synonymous with “convicted” or “found guilty”). “Adjudication on the merits” refers to a court’s resolución sobre el fondo and “to adjudicate disputes” is resolver conflictos (en sede judicial). Likewise, in the context of court proceedings or hearings before quasi-judicial boards or tribunals, “adjudication of claims” might be translated as resolución de pretensiones, resolución de reclamaciones or, perhaps, resolución de demandas, depending on the context. As additional examples, “adjudication of incompetence” refers to a declaración judicial de incapacidad, and a person “adjudicated incompetent” has been judicialmente incapacitada. In summary, “adjudicate (or) adjudication” could not be appropriately rendered as adjudicar (or) adjudicación in any of these expressions.

The same may be said of the verb “to adjudge,” which likewise means “to award, grant or impose judicially.” Thus the expression “Ordered and adjudged” often appearing at the end of a court ruling does not mean Ordenado y adjudicado, as the expression has sometimes been rendered literally, but rather precedes a court’s disposal of a matter in dispute, denoting its “adjudication” (fallo). So, “It is therefore ordered and adjudged…” might actually be rendered as “Se ordena y falla…”.

*Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed.

False Friends (25): redactar ; redact

Oh, no! False Friends

redacción-redaction; redactar-redact

 In legal contexts in Spanish redacción is most often used in the sense of “drafting” or “drawing up” a document, such as a contract (redacción del contrato; redactar un contrato). But their English language look-alikes “redaction” and “to redact” often have very different meanings. Indeed, although “redaction” has the general meaning of “careful editing”, in many jurisdictions the term refers to editing out, removing or concealing certain sensitive information from documents filed in court and from judicial opinions, such as personal identification (social security or bank account numbers) or the names of victims, minors, etc. before they are made public. Thus in legal contexts it’s probably advisable to reserve “redaction” for this specific meaning, while translating redacción (de documentos, contratos, etc.) as “drafting” or “drawing up.” (In Spanish courts, redacting personal information from judicial decisions is called anonimización.)*

Below is an example of a redacted court document. Most of the essential information has literally been blacked out, making it fairly incomprehensible. An Internet search reveals many articles claiming that extensive redaction is sometimes considered an abusive measure used by the courts or by governmental agencies to conceal information from the public. Also of interest are the many motions to unseal excessively redacted information from judicial records,**as well as rules of court governing the sealing and redacting of court documents.*** Links to an example of  both are provided here:





False Friends (24): evicción; eviction

Oh, no! False Friends

Evicción and “eviction” are truely false cognates. En English “eviction” denotes “the act or process of legally dispossessing a person of land or rental property” (Black’s Law Dictionary). The corresponding term in Spanish is desahucio, as in desahucio del inquilino por impago del alquiler (“eviction of the tenant for failure to pay the rent”) or desahucio del arrendatario por expiración del contrato de arrendamiento (“eviction of the tenant upon expiration of the lease”).

In contrast, in Spanish evicción refers to the loss of title to or possession of property due to a third party’s superior title. Thus, in the context of real estate sales, the often-mistranslated expression saneamiento por evicción denotes a type of “warranty of title,” “warranty of good title” or “warranty against loss of title,” i.e., the seller’s guarantee to the buyer he will enjoy undisturbed legal possession of the purchased property (posesión legal y pacífica de lo vendido). If, after the sale, a court rules that another person holds superior title (mejor derecho) to the property, the seller must compensate the buyer as established by law.* Likewise, in the context of lease agreements saneamiento por evicción constitutes a “warranty of quiet enjoyment,” that is, the lessor’s guarantee that the lessee will enjoy undisturbed possession (que no será perturbado en su posesión) of the premises for the duration of the lease.

*In that regard, buyers’ rights in Spain are explained in detail in this article on Saneamiento por evicción en la compraventa..


False Friends (23): sentencia; sentence

Oh, no! False Friends

This pair of legal false cognates definitely belongs in the False Friends 101 category, terms that translators and legal professionals just can’t afford to confuse. Sentencia denotes a court’s final disposition of a matter: decisión formulada por el juez o tribunal que resuelve definitivamente todas las cuestiones planteadas en el proceso.* In English, this is a court’s “judgment,” its “final determination of the rights and obligations of the parties in a case.”**

In previous blog posts I examined in detail the terminology of Spanish sentencias,*** but what about the legal meanings of “sentence”? The term generally denotes the punishment (condena or pena) imposed on a criminal defendant found guilty, and it is used as both a noun and a verb: He served a 10-year sentence (Cumplió una condena/pena de 10 años); He was sentenced to 10 years in prison (Fue condenado a 10 años de prisión).

To look at some of the related terminology, under Spanish criminal law sentences are divided into penas privativas de libertad (custodial sentences), i.e., some form of incarceration, and penas no privativas de libertad (noncustodial sentences). Several types of alternative sentence (pena sustitutiva de la pena privativa de libertad) exist. Penas privativas de derechos entail the forfeiture of certain rights including, for example, several types of inhabilitación (disqualification from holding certain offices, exercising certain professions, etc.) or privación del derecho a conducir vehículos a motor (loss of the right to drive; suspension of driver’s license).

Mandatory community service (trabajos en beneficio de la comunidad) and fines (multas) are also often imposed. The most common fines are day fines (penas de días-multa) that take into account the offender’s financial situation based on his assets, income and family obligations, and other circumstances (situación económica del reo deducida de su patrimonio, obligaciones y cargas familiares y demás circunstancias). Less common are proportional fines (penas de multa proporcional) expressed as an amount proportional to the damage caused or injury inflicted, the value of the object of the offense or the proceeds obtained from the crime (cuantía del daño causado, el valor del objeto del delito o el beneficio reportado por el delito) (arts. 50-51 CP).

Judges likewise sometimes place offenders on a type of probation, referred to in the Spanish Criminal Code as suspensión de la execución de la pena privativa de libertad (literally, “suspension of the execution of custodial sentences”) (art. 80 CP). Also sometimes called “condena condicional” or “remisión condicional,” this type of probation or suspended sentence may be granted to first time offenders (delincuentes primarios) sentenced to less than two year’s incarceration (condena no superior a dos años de privación de libertad).

*F. Gómez de Liaño. Diccionario jurídico. Salamanca, 1979.

**Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed., 2004.

***  Additional terminology on sentencias with possible English translations can be found here , here , and here .

False Friends (22): panfleto isn’t a “pamphlet”

Oh, no! False Friends

Panfleto appears in several bilingual dictionaries translated literally as “pamphlet.” But “pamphlet” is more appropriately folleto while, at least in Spain, panfleto is something quite different. Indeed, as defined in the DLE, panfleto denotes libelo difamatorio or an opúsculo de carácter agresivo. Fundéu likewise distinguishes between the two, indicating that “folleto” es una obra impresa, no periódica, de reducido número de hojas, while “panfleto” siempre tiene sentido difamatorio. Indeed, the term panfleto is often associated with political propaganda (un panfleto político) and is defined as such (papel o folleto de propaganda política) in Clave.* Thus the informal expression nos echó un panfleto implies “(he/she) subjected us to a (political) diatribe.” And the adjectives panfletario/a (estilo propio de los panfletos) and the noun panfletista (autor de un panfleto) also have this meaning. Thus “pamphlet” should be rendered as folleto rather than panfleto, unless the reference is to some sort of biased, partisan or propagandistic writing.

*Clave: Diccionario de uso del español actual. Ediciones SM, 2006.

False friends (21): When an audiencia isn’t an “audience”

Oh, no! False Friends

Audiencia has at least three meanings in legal contexts in which the term cannot be translated as “audience.” First, when audiencia is a synonym for tribunal it may be translated simply as “court.” (In Spain two types of courts are referred to as “audiencias,” the Audiencias Provinciales located in each province that hear civil and criminal cases, and the Audiencia Nacional, which has nationwide jurisdiction over certain types of criminal, administrative and labor proceedings and is located in Madrid). Audiencia may also mean “hearing,” being generally synonymous in that sense with vista. Thus, audiencia pública is a “hearing in open court,” while audiencia a puerta cerrada refers to a “closed hearing” or an “in camera hearing” (now referred to as a “hearing in private” in England and Wales). In other respects, for example, when a judge issues a ruling previa audiencia de las partes, this indicates that he has considered their opinions before taking his decision. As such the expression may be translated as “having previously heard (or considered the opinions of) the parties… .”

In Spanish civil procedure audiencia previa denotes a “pretrial hearing,” a specific stage in ordinary civil proceedings (juicio ordinario) that plays a role in case management, similar to the “pretrial conference” in US practice. And, in other respects, audiencia al demandado rebelde refers to a special procedure allowing a defendant to appeal a default judgment (sentencia dictada en rebeldía) rendered in his absence when his nonappearance proved to be involuntary.

And, finally, in the context of juvenile justice, audiencia designates the trial of a minor on criminal charges that is held in a juvenile court (Juzgado de Menores). In this sense, audiencia is the juvenile justice equivalent of the trial of an adult criminal defendant (juicio oral) under the Criminal Procedure Act (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Criminal). (For additional peculiarities of Spanish juvenile justice terminology, see https://rebeccajowers.com/2016/05/19/espanol-juridico-3/ )

False Friends (20): When social isn’t “social”

Oh, no! False Friends

Social and “social” are only partially false cognates, since social may be translated as “social” in many legal contexts, as in seguridad social (“social security”); servicios sociales (“social services”) or asistente social (“social worker”).

But there are several legal contexts in which social cannot be rendered literally as “social.” In business law contexts social often has the meaning of “corporate”, “company”, “business”, etc. Some of the most common expressions in that regard include objeto social (“corporate purpose;” “business purpose”); denominación social (“corporate name”); domicilio social (“corporate address;” “registered offices”); órganos sociales (referring to the “governing bodies” of a company); gestión social (“corporate management”) or documentos sociales (“corporate records;” “business records”).

In this context, the translation of social may depend on the type of business entity it denotes, i.e., whether the term refers to “corporation” or “limited liability company” (sociedad anónima—S.A. or sociedad de responsabilidad limitada—S.L.), or whether the reference is to a “partnership,” which may be a “general partnership” (sociedad colectiva—S.C.), a “limited partnership (sociedad en comandita—S. en C., also called sociedad comanditaria—S.Com.) or a “partnership limited by shares” (sociedad comanditaria por acciones—S. Com. p. A.). For example, the patrimonio social of an S.A. or S.L. may be called “corporate assets,” while the patrimonio social of an S.C. or S.Com. is more appropriately termed “partnership assets.” Likewise, the estatutos sociales of an S.A. or and S.L. may be rendered as “bylaws” (US) or “articles of association” (UK), but the estatutos sociales of an S.C. or S.Com. must be translated as “partnership agreement” or “articles of partnership.”

Similarly, the adjective societario may often be appropriately rendered as “corporate:” Derecho societario (“corporate law,” called “company law” in the UK); delito societario (“corporate crime”); administrador societario (“corporate director”) or velo societario (“corporate veil”), etc. It should be noted, however, that when Derecho societario refers not only to the law governing corporate entities, but other business vehicles as well (cooperatives, associations, foundations, etc.), the expression is generally rendered as “law of business organizations.”

An additional sense in which social cannot be translated as “social” is in the context of labor law in which social means “labor.” Common expressions in which this holds true include legislación social (“labor laws”); jurisdicción social (“labor jurisdiction;” “the labor courts”); juzgado de lo social and juez de lo social (“labor court” and “labor court judge”) and Sala de lo Social del Tribunal Supremo (“Labor Division of the Supreme Court”).

Perhaps reference should also be made here to the often-mistranslated expression graduado social, which I have seen rendered variously as “social science graduate,” “personnel administration graduate,” etc. In Spain graduados sociales are specialists in labor and social security law who have completed a university degree in labor relations and who provide consulting services to companies (and sometimes to labor unions) on employment and social security matters. Thus graduado social may be described as a “labor relations specialist, “labor and social security law consultant,” or with a similar expression that accurately conveys the role they play in Spain. Graduados sociales colegiados (i.e., those who are members of their local professional association) may likewise represent clients in matters brought before the labor courts (tribunales sociales).

For related terminology, see the previous entry on socio: https://rebeccajowers.com/2016/08/12/mistranslations-10/