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Style in Spanish Legal Translation

January 21, 2015

In legal English, once you use a term you must repeat that term throughout the document you are drafting. If you use a synonym instead, it may be taken to mean something other than the original term you used. In legal Spanish, the rule seems to be just the opposite. Writers of legal Spanish seem to use every synonym they can think of to avoid using the same noun twice. Thus, for example, the Constitution may first be referred to as la Constitución. Two lines later, it may be referred to as la Magna Carta (which is especially confusing for English readers, since the Magna Carta in English specifically refers to a document signed by King John at Runnymede in 1215). In the course of the document about the Constitution, the writer may refer to the Constitution as la ley de leyes, la carta política, la ley fundamental, la carta fundamental and la norma fundamental. Every one of these expressions should be translated into English as "the Constitution."

 

Another example is the Code of Civil Procedure, which may first be mentioned by its name: el Código Procesal Civil (often abbreviated CPC). To avoid repetition, this name might not be used again. Instead, the author will refer to it as la ley rituaria, el código adjetivo, el ordenamiento adjetivo, la ley adjetiva or simply el rito. Again, all of these terms should be translated as "the Code of Civil Procedure."

 

A court may be called by its name and then referred to as el órgano judicial. Later the document may refer to that court as el organismo jurisdiccional, and the judge (el juez or el magistrado) may be referred to as el operador de justicia or el juzgador. These are all examples of "elegant variation," which is not allowed in legal English. Therefore, all of the synonyms for "court" should be translated as "court," and all the synonyms for "judge" should be translated as "judge."

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