Target-Group-Tailored Legal English Courses

By Slávka Janigová (Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice, Slovakia)

Abstract & Keywords

The paper sums up the differences and common features of legal English courses conducted at the Law Faculty of P.J.Šafárik University Košice, Slovakia, in contrast to teaching legal English translation students at the Faculty of Arts of the same university. Both curricula incorporate linguistics, law/economics and translation theory, and their methodology is focused on  problem-solving, distinguishing between target-language- and source-language-oriented translation techniques, parallel text analysis and context-defined approach to terminology. However, the proportion in which the respective elements and methodology should be incorporated in the curriculum is to reflect different target skills of the attendees. Linguistic, translation and legal skills, if reasonably allocated and trained, may be mutually beneficial for both target groups. Translation students, however, have better chances to become legal translators than law graduates due to a more complex production-focused training they have received.

Keywords: legal translation, legal English, mediation-focused translation course, production-focused translation course

©inTRAlinea & Slávka Janigová (2014).
"Target-Group-Tailored Legal English Courses"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Challenges in Translation Pedagogy
Edited by: Maria Piotrowska & Sergiy Tyupa
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2103

1. Description of courses

In focus of this paper are undergraduate Legal English courses conducted for two different target groups, namely law students of the Law Faculty of Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice, Slovakia, and students of translation and interpretation studying a programme of English/French/German language for European Institutions and Economics at the Faculty of Arts of the same University. I intend to summarise the most important common and distinct features of these courses based on my experience in both. Finally, based on the needs and skills analysis of the two target groups I will attempt to respond to the issue of ´who would make a better translator – a lawyer with some translation and linguistic skills or a translator with some legal skills´, as my reviewer has rightly prompted me to do. 

Legal English courses taught at the Law Faculty are conducted in the first year, winter and summer semesters, in the form of one 90-minute seminar per week. At the end of each semester students take written examinations. Legal English courses run by the Department of English and American Studies are intended for BA and MA students of translation and interpretation, currently for English, German and French languages, and parallel to the linguistic and translatology element, this programme also involves the fundamentals of law and economics mediated through lectures and seminars conducted in the Slovak language by qualified law/economics specialists. Mandatory subjects in which undergraduates have to take examinations at the end of each semester, beside linguistic and translation disciplines, include law and economics. Moreover, in terminological seminars students receive some basics of the English law in multiple sub-branches, such as introductory jurisprudential issues, company law, public finances, financial law, tax law and international financial law with an elective option of tort law, contract law, civil procedure, intellectual property law, and so on.  Students are also invited and encouraged to write their bachelor´s and master´s theses on translation and terminological topics involving a combination of both legal and economic translation problems and corpus comparative issues.

Admission examinations for the translation/interpretation study programme test reception, production and mediation at B2, B1+ and B1+ CEFR level, respectively. Admission examinations for law students do not test the applicant´s English skills, but, in general, they are expected to have successfully taken the B1 or B2 A-levels in English to be able to follow legal English courses at the Law Faculty.

2. Focus-tailoring of courses

As has been stated, the curriculum of both legal English courses for lawyers and translators incorporates three specialisations – linguistics, law/economics and translation studies, the share of these elements in the curriculum is, however, different in these target groups, since different aims are pursued therein. A needs analysis has revealed that the courses for law students should be mediation-focused, i.e. they should concentrate on a target competence expected of law graduates, which is primarily an ability to be a ´mediator´ between their client and the body of law in focus, including the competence to make up for institutional discrepancies between the Continental and Common Law Systems and employ techniques that would allow settling these distinctions. Hence the focus of law students is law, legal terminology and legal skills. On the other hand, courses of translation are production-focused, since students are more concerned with the linguistic and translation point of terminological issues and translation techniques that are available to make up for terminological discrepancies resulting from the lack of correspondence of legal institutes of respective legal systems. None of the groups, however, can dispense with, at least, some amount of all of the three competences: lawyers need the basics of linguistics and translatology, whereas translators also need legal skills.

This obviously different focus of attention of two of the groups may be observed during the instruction itself. It may be illustrated by a different reception of the same study material used during the law seminars and translation seminars. For example, legal briefs analysed at seminars to demonstrate legal English concepts/terms receive a different response from law and translation students. In the course of analysis the attention of the former is likely to concentrate on the legal point at issue, arguments of litigants, evidence and the outcome of proceedings, whereas discussion with translation students over the same text will result in a detailed linguistic and terminological analysis, with questions being raised as to what would be the most felicitous terminological, syntactic and stylistic outcome in the target language.

3. Authenticity as the source of good legal English style and guarantee of successful communication

The issue of authenticity is one of the major aspects of legal English teaching methodology. It is the alpha and omega for what counts as a good legal style. The point is what kind of texts are to be selected for the students´ first contact with legal English: authentic legal texts drawn by trained common-law lawyers, whose content will inevitably be common-law-oriented, or texts dealing with continental legal concepts (Slovak in our case), which will inevitably be less authentic since they would be, most probably, drawn by Slovak legal experts in English, or translated into English.

At the beginning of the course, law students tend to enquire why they are made to study the English law institutes. They would prefer learning about the Slovak law institutes in English. One of my arguments in this respect is the lack of authenticity of texts written by continental lawyers in English and an inevitable occurrence of structural transfers and translation shifts due to a clash of legal cultures. Apart from providing context-clarification of terminology, authentic texts are the most valuable reference source of collocations, higher syntactic structures (phrases, clauses), preferred word order, punctuation, cohesive navigators, that is they serve as a reference source of the legal English style. But not only may that, without a detailed linguistic analysis and knowledge of specific syntactic and stylistic tools, the communication fail in both its reception, as well as production aspects. My observation is that syntactic and stylistic competence seems to be a much more complicated issue than terminology, both as an individual competence as well as a teacher´s challenge.

The following tasks have been selected to illustrate the point:

  1. Task: Identify the appropriate antecedents of the text navigators bolded out.
    Insolvency is such a relative condition of a person´s or entity´s assets and liabilities that the former, if all made immediately available, would not be sufficient to discharge the latter. (Chromá, 2003: 124)
    Solution: antecedent of the former is asset; antecedent of the latter is liabilities
  1. Task: Identify the referent of hereunder and antecedents of thereunder.
    The Board of Directors of the Seller has taken, or will take before the Closing Date, all actions required by law, its Certificate of Incorporation, its By-Laws or otherwise to authorise (i) the execution and delivery of this Agreement and the other Acquisition Documents, and (ii) the performance of its obligations hereunder and thereunder. (private legal instrument)
    Solution: the referent of hereunder is this Agreement as a legal act (deixis)
    the referent of thereunder is the other Acquisition Documents (text navigation)

The two of the above sentences show specific legal English text navigators and deicticals, that is, cohesive devices. Neither the reception of the reader, not the production of translation will be successful without a proper interpretation of their referents and antecedents.

  1. Task: Do the syntactic analysis of the structure: the last to survive of…
    The duration of copyright in a film is 70 years after the death of the last to survive of the principal director, the authors of the screenplay and dialogue, and the composer of any music specially created for the film.  http://www.patent.gov.uk/
    Solution: until the death of the last surviving from among the principal director, the authors of the screenplay and the composer, that is split infinitive postmodification separating the relational of-phrase from its head, that is nominalised adjective.
  1. Task: Focus on the text navigator thereto – what noun in the preceding structure is its antecedent – the bearer/a Share Warrant/the rights/terms and conditions
    The bearer of a Share Warrant shall have the rights and be subject to the terms and conditions in relation thereto conferred or imposed by the Directors from time to time and whether made before or after the issue of the Share Warrant. (Articles of Association – private legal instrument)
    Solution: the antecedent tends not to be animate and not plural – a Share Warrant

Actually, since during the seminars (mainly due to the lack of time) law students are exposed mostly to academic texts (extracts from legal textbooks, simplified legal briefs, monolingual dictionaries, and so on), without an appropriate syntactic/stylistic training most of them would be quite lost upon encountering  the language of  ´real´ legal instruments (text of legislation, private contracts, memoranda of association, by-laws, power of attorneys, wills, and so on), favouring extremely complicated syntactic and stylistic structures (Tomášek 1998). This should also be taken into consideration by the teacher when selecting texts for the instruction.

4. Source- versus target-language orientation of translation

Exposing students of both types of courses to authentic legal English texts is an instruction tool that may also be exploited in training them to perceive their translation efforts as cognitive interactions aimed at dynamic equivalence to be obtained between the message of the source and target texts (Nida, 1969). Students are exposed to the idea that during the translation process they actually become navigators exerting orientational influence over the target recipient, they are supposed to navigate the recipient in constructing the meaning of the target text intended and expected by the writer of the source text (Janigová, 2012). The text analysis focusing on the sameness of the communicative effect on the source and target text recipients will also involve identification of speech-act functions and structural means used to effect one and the same function in the source and target texts.

This may be done in the light of the Austin´s speech-act theory distinguishing between constatives and performatives (Austin, 2000). The key tests to be employed to distinguish  between constatives and performatives are the ´true-or-false´ test versus ´felicity´ test. A  simple indicator of the difference between two of the tests is an im/possibility of inserting a deictical hereby in a clause. The positive hereby test would indicate a performative effect of a text unit, whereas the opposite would be the result for constatives.

  1. I (hereby) pronounce you husband and wife. (performative employment of simple present)

 versus

  1.  I (hereby) write him every day.* (habitual present)

Students may further be instructed to identify several sub-categories within the class of performatives (verdictives, directives, declaratives, and so on) and the formal means employed to affect them. The following examples are taken from private legal instruments:

  1. I, XY, of the City of Edmonton, in the Province of Alberta, MAKE OATH AND SAY THAT I am one of the defendants named herein, and as such I have personal knowledge of the facts deposed to herein, and I verily believe the same to be true. (declarative)
  2. IT IS ORDERED AND DECREED THAT  XY shall pay …(directive)
  3. The defendant IS FOUND guilty and is sentenced to imprisonment. (verdictive)

The effect-focused analysis of parallel texts will reveal that the source and target languages do not use the same formal means to indicate a particular communicative function.

  1. The defendant IS FOUND guilty and is sentenced to imprisonment. (passive impersonal structure)
  2. Súd uznáva obžalovaného vinným a odsudzuje ho na trest odňatia slobody. (active personal structure)

Upon being encouraged to examine and compare the means employed in parallel texts, students will start to realise that their translation products may either be source-language or target language-oriented (Newmark 1988). Translation students will be further provided with some in-depth theoretical insight into the issue of source-language oriented and target-language oriented strategies and techniques that will allow them to refine their product and make it more rationally-controlled. On the other hand, even though law students would not appreciate being overloaded with the theoretical aspect of translation science, they are able to perceive a difference between the two approaches. Hence, regardless of the amount of theoretical input, both target groups would be willing to admit that two of the strategies available can produce quite a different quality of their final products. The following example taken from a Slovak contract (private legal instrument) is supposed to illustrate the point:

  1. Obidve zmluvné strany vyhlasujú, že sa oboznámili s obsahom tejto zmluvy, že nebola dohodnutá v tiesni ani za inakšie nevýhodných podmienok a že ju uzavreli z vlastnej vôle, určite, vážne a zrozumiteľne.

Source-oriented variant of translation (basically word-for-word variant):

12.a  Both the contract parties declare that they have got acquainted with the content of this contract, that is was not agreed in duress, nor otherwise unfavourable conditions and that they concluded it of their own will, certainly, seriously and clearly.

Target-oriented translation variant (employing basically the techniques of transposition and modulation, extension):

12.b Both the Contractors warrant and represent that they have read the wording of this Contract which has not been executed under duress or other inconvenience and that they enter into this Contract as free act and deed, with a serious legal intent and under sufficiently certain and clear terms and conditions.

Posing a question which of the above versions sounds more ´natural´, the reply would definitely be in favour of the second option by both the target groups. Source-oriented translation is less demanding since it mainly consists in word-for-word translation based on general dictionaries, or, in a better case, some bilingual law dictionaries. To arrive at the second version, however, general or even bilingual law dictionaries would not suffice, since it does not rely on a dictionary translation of separate words and phrases, but rather on the student´s own cognitive interaction with authentic parallel texts.

5. A problem-solving approach to terminology

As has been pointed out above, the parallel texts analysis is treated as a source as well as guaranty of the good style, function-focused employment of structural language forms, but also context-defined identification of terms. Legal terminology is not to be introduced to students as a finite product contained in law dictionaries they are supposed to consult. It is rather presented as a context-dependent goal they are expected to attain by more or less successful activation of equivalent response in reader to their translation product. The training process is problem-solving, rather than being concerned with introducing and testing decontextualized legal nomenclature. During the instruction process students are encouraged to activate all their knowledge of general language, legal systems of both the source and target languages, consult monolingual and bilingual law dictionaries and legal experts. They are prompted to refine their prima-facie word-for-word translation via appropriate target-language oriented translation techniques of transposition, modulation, extension, and so on, although the instruction to law students will be more deductive (there is actually not much space at the seminars for discussion over theoretical translation concepts).

  1. After the Second World War most of these statutory companies were nationalised and their functions taken over by public companies*1. Recently some public services have been ‘privatised’ i.e. returned to public companies*2 status. (Chromá 2003: 94)

The term public companies in the above sentences activates two opposite readings: first it indicates nationalised state-owned enterprises, whereas the second instance is supposed to activate the meaning of privately owned company having shares tradable on the public stock exchange. Proper identification of the respective meanings of these terms is not a matter of bilingual dictionary, but is rather exclusively context-dependent. This is also a reply to terminologists defending no-polysemy approach to terminology. Right the opposite seems to be true. Terms are built on the extension of a polysemantic range of lexemes through contextual specification.

As to the semantic analysis of terminology, students are encouraged to draw on their respective legal and linguistic skills, to combine them and benefit from both as much as possible. Law students will employ the skill of comparative analysis aimed to identify the major defining elements of legal institutes, whereas translation students are prompted to employ the linguistic method of componential analysis, i.e. they will analyse the major semantic traits of institutes.

 

 

Civil law consequences

Breach of individually
defined rights and duties

Intentional interference

Interference with person

Interference with land

Interference with goods

Civil wrong

+

+/-

+/-           

+/-

+/-

+/-

Offence

-

-

+/-           

+/-

+/-

+/-

Breach of contract

+

+

+/-

0

0

0

Tort

+

-

+

+

+

+

Negligence

+          

-

-

+

+

+

Trespass

+/-

-

+

+

+

+

Trespass to person

+/-

-

+

+

+

+

Trespass to land

+

-

+

-

+

-

Trespass to goods

+

-

+

-

-

+

Private nuisance

+

-

+

-

+

-

Public nuisance

+/-

-

+

+

-

-

Table 1: An exemplification of componential/comparative analysis
of terms in the terminological field of wrong

Actually, the major defining elements of legal concepts are identical with the major semantic traits of terms. They constitute the tertium comparationis of the analysis of legal institutes. Hence, law students can benefit from the linguistic clarity of the method of componential analysis, whereas translation students´ legal skills aid them in selecting the defining semantic features of institutes. The skills of legal comparative analysis and componential analysis seem to be complementary and may therefore be viewed as mutually beneficial for both types of students (Janigová, 2013).

6. Conclusions

The paper aimed to identify the common features and differences between the curriculum of legal English seminars taught to law and translation students. Both curricula incorporate linguistics, law/economics and translation theory. Methodologically, both of them are focused on problem-solving, distinguishing between target-language- and source-language oriented translation techniques, parallel text analysis and context-defined approach to terminology.

However, taking into consideration the varying market-oriented needs of students of the respective courses, i.e. mediation-focused with the former and production-focused with the latter, the above elements of instruction should be exploited in varying proportions. Translation students´ curriculum is to focus on translatology and linguistics with legal specialisation being a supplementary skill facilitating students´ orientation in contextual delimitation of referents of legal terms both in the source and target languages. Law students’ future qualification requires that the courses should be focused on the legal element, where the contextual delimitation of referents is of primary concern since it extends students´ passive knowledge, serves as grounds for training legal skills of case analysis, identifying the ratio decidendi and the main elements of instant cases and precedents, and prompts them to activate their active performance in legal language.

The relationship between the skills that students of both target groups are aimed to obtain is that of mutually favourable inter-dependence. By advancing their linguistic skills and obtaining the basics of translation, law students not only improve their final legal English competence and performance, but also obtain useful tools of linguistic analysis (componential analysis, lexical fields analysis, syntactic analysis) that may be further used in advancing their foreign legal communication in general. On the other hand, for linguistically-oriented translation students their legal competence seems to be indispensable for their coping with the context-based analysis of referents of legal terms, in both the Slovak as well as English legal systems.

If the above conclusions are to be taken as justification grounds in a dilemma which of the target groups discussed here have better chances to become successful legal translators, it seems quite obvious that the production-focused tailoring of translation courses for translation undergraduates compared to the mediation-focused design of courses for law students equips the former group with a complex of skills allowing them, along with the mediation of the core message of the source text, to finalise their target product so that it would comply with the lexical/syntactic/stylistic criteria of the target language by employing appropriate translation techniques and linguistic skills, basically exploiting their elementary legal skills ´only´ to clarify the relevant terminology. The target product of law graduates of legal English courses is much less likely (to honour the exceptions) to attain the final level that would satisfy all of the above criteria, which is due to the fact that in their courses the training of linguistic and translation skills is only ancillary. Based on my experience with both groups, I definitely favour translation students as having better chances to become successful and apt legal translators.

References

Austin, John L. (2000) Jak udělat něco slovy (How to do things with words), Praha, Filosofia.

Chromá, Marta (2003) New Introduction to Legal English, Praha, Carolinum.

Janigová, Slávka (2012) “Translation of Legal Texts as Cognitive Interactions” in Cognitive Dynamics in Linguistic Interactions, Alexander Kravchenko (ed.), Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing: 261–80.

Janigová, Slávka (2013) “The Target Product of Legal English Translation Courses – A Multi-Skilled Translator”, Teória a prax prípravy budúcich translatológov a učiteľov anglického jazyka. Zborník z Medzinárodnej elektronickej konferencie v dňoch 26. – 26. júna 2013, Banská Bystrica, Vydavateľstvo Univerzity Mateja Bela v Banskej Bystrici – Belianum, Fakulta humanitných vied: 1–15.

Newmark, Peter (1988) A Textbook of Translation, Hertfordshire, Prentice Hall.

Nida, Eugene, and Charles R. Taber (1969) The Theory and Practice of Translation, Leiden, E. J. Brill for the United Bible Societies.

Tomášek, Michal (1998) Překlad v právní praxi, Praha, Linde Praha a.s.

About the author(s)

Slávka Janigová, PhD., born in 1967 in Slovakia, currently works as an assistant lecturer at the Department of English and American Studies, Faculty of Arts, Pavol Jozef
Šafárik University in Košice (Slovakia). She specializes in English syntax and legal English translation. She was awarded the 2009 Košice Faculty of Arts Dean´s Prize
for her monograph Syntax of -ing forms in legal English (Peter Lang: Frankfurt am Main, 2008, 153 s., ISBN 978-3-631-57470-

Email: [please login or register to view author's email address]

©inTRAlinea & Slávka Janigová (2014).
"Target-Group-Tailored Legal English Courses"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Challenges in Translation Pedagogy
Edited by: Maria Piotrowska & Sergiy Tyupa
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2103

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