Volume 59, Issue 4
  • ISSN 0521-9744
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9668
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This article provides evidence for the applicability of free translation to legal texts, based on an examination of actual cases of Japanese-to-English translation of agreements and contracts in which problems arise from literal translation. The data analysis shows that pitfalls associated with literal translation are attributable to not only the difficulty of finding terminological equivalents that inevitably arises from the differences in the Japanese and American legal and cultural systems, but also to the importance of preserving the spirit of mutual trust and cooperation that is found in Japanese business transactions. It is also postulated that general linguistic and interpretive problems inherent in Japanese-to-English translation of nontechnical texts, including redundancy, ambiguity, propensity for nonspecific statements, and the lack of linguistic clues (e.g., indicators of number), have fundamental, but not well understood, implications for legal translation. The conclusions indicate the need for an integrated approach to legal translation practice that uses both literal and free translations, taking into full account the linguistic, cultural, and legal factors at work in the translation process.


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