Legal English – Peter’s Pills – Lesson 63 – Machine translations

Legal English for Notaries - By Federnotizie

Machine translations



We live in exciting times where we can find excellent machine translators on the web that can translate huge (enorme) amounts of texts for us in a very short time and are doing quite a good job.

Although we are at a much better point than: “The Italian fan club was ready for the last match of the World Cup” to “La clava di ventilatore italiano era pronto per l’ultimo fiammifero della tazza di mondo”, it would be wise to have your machine translations checked by professionals if you want accuracy.

There are many documents that have been translated from Italian and are circulating on the web. Translating machines that source (attingono) from the web do tend to pick up (raccogliere) words from these documents. One such example is “co-optation”. Most of the documents that are circulating on the web which contain this expression were translated from Italian. Although “co-optation” may be found in some English dictionaries, the meaning is however generally negative. It gives the idea that a new member was elected in a shady (losco), suspicious, dishonest, dubious, or untrustworthy (non affidabile) way. A better translation would be “the remaining board members appointed Mary Smith in substitution of John Brown.”

Other common examples of bad machine translation include expressions which are based on incorrect collocation of words which do actually exist in English. We say:

  • to appoint a new director of a company – NOT nominate;
  • a director of a company – NOT administrator;
  • a general meeting of shareholders – NOT a plenary meeting;
  • the approval of the resolution was taken collectively – NOT in a collegial way.

Finally, when a company is in crisis, machine translations will translate “piano di concordato con creditori” as “composition with creditors”. Although this term is used in a very small number of English speaking jurisdictions, and is highly popular in documents on the web which were translated from Italian, not everyone will understand it. It might be better to use expressions like “debt restructuring”, “creditor negotiation”, “debt workout”, “debt settlement”, or “agreement with creditors”.

Thank you very much, and see you next time for more Peter’s Pills to improve your legal English.

See a collection of Google Translate epic fails here: “Italian to English: a collection of Google Translate epic fails“.

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