As a consequence of the still increasing transnational commercial and scholarly cooperation and exchange, more and more often legal information has to be translated. Sometimes the content of legal documents (contracts, statutory provisions, books and articles on legal topics and so on) has to be translated into another language. But even more frequently, information on rules from one legal system has to be provided in the legal language of another legal system. In both cases the translator or the lawyer involved is confronted with difficulties of legal translation. In both cases bilingual legal dictionaries could play an important role in the translating process by providing translation suggestions and information on the linguistic context of terms in the target language, such as specific noun-verb combinations, or typical collocations.
It is, therefore, not really surprising that publishing houses are offering numerous bilingual legal dictionaries to translators and lawyers. To translate between the different languages of the Member States of the European Union (EU) about one hundred seventy bilingual legal dictionaries are available. Regrettably, the quality of most of these dictionaries is poor to extremely bad. Only a few dictionaries are of good quality.
It seems to us that many authors or compilers of bilingual legal dictionaries do not understand how legal translations should be made. They simply make a list of legal terms in the source language and give for each term one or more words from the target language as "translation" without any further information on the legal context. Because of the system-specificity of legal terminology, this kind of dictionaries is practically useless.
In this article, the quality of the different bilingual legal dictionaries between the languages of the Member States of the European Union will be assessed. In order to do so, some general remarks will be made first about problems with translating legal terminology. Based on those remarks, criteria for reliable bilingual dictionaries will be formulated in the next section. Finally, these criteria will be applied on the available bilingual dictionaries containing the legal language used by one or more EU Member States. In addition, statistics are presented in order to give an impression between which legal languages of the Member States of the EU bilingual legal dictionaries are available.
De Groot, Gerard-René and Laer, Conrad J.P. van
"The Dubious Quality of Legal Dictionaries,"
International Journal of Legal Information: Vol. 34
, Article 6.
Available at: http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/ijli/vol34/iss1/6