Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Language and the Law: Resources

Interpreters and translators must possess two types of knowledge -- what Kussmaul calls factual knowledge and procedural knowledge. Factual knowledge refers to language competency, knowledge of the subject matter, and understanding the resources of all types available to the translator and interpreter, such as dictionaries and glossaries.  Procedural knowledge refers to understanding the craft of translation and interpretation -- the techniques inherent to translating and interpreting activities.

In the U.S. today, certified court interpreters are oftentimes requested to translate court-related texts, but the vast majority of court interpreting training programs devote little or no time to this important skill. Being an effective legal translator requires understanding of the intricate relationship between language, culture, and the law. Of course, taking courses on this subject would be ideal, but in their absence reading about it is very helpful.

One of the best places to learn about these issues is in the works of scholars like Lawrence M. Solan and Peter Tiersma, whose work has greatly contributed to the understanding of the language, culture, and law equation. Solan's seminal work, The Language of Judges, is particularly useful.

Tiersma, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles is a founding member of the International Language and Law Association which is also an excellent source of materials on language and the law, including a bibliography of books on the subject.

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