Treaties and Conventions Need Professional Translators

150863845History has proven that in any global litigation scenario, it is essential to have the documents accurately translated by professionals. One bad translation could render the meaning of an email or contract completely different to its intent. This could result in wasted time and money and even more litigation. As more and more companies around the world do business with each other more frequently, legal documents in different languages are becoming the norm.

High quality translations, performed accurately and with little room for misinterpretation are also crucial with treaties and conventions because they are always agreements, under international law, entered into by sovereign states and international organizations. International treaties and conventions are usually drafted in a commonly agreed language and then translated into the other agreed language. As the legal value of all authentic texts will be the same, the quality of the translations must be unchallengeable.

Here are two examples from history of where inaccurate translation resulted in misinterpretation, with the legal ramifications continuing for many years.

The Treaty of Waitangi

In 1840, Maori chiefs and representatives of the British crown signed the Treaty of Waitangi. The two sides both had different ideas about what they were signing. There were two versions of the treaties: one in the Maori language and one in English. The Maori chiefs thought they were signing a treaty which allowed them governance of their own lands and affairs and the protection of the British crown. The British thought the Maoris were agreeing to the sovereignty of Queen Victoria and for their land to be sold only to the British crown.  To this day, there are still disputes over the treaty and its validity.

The Warsaw Convention

The Warsaw convention, originally signed in October 1929, is an international convention which regulates liability for international carriage of persons, luggage or goods performed by aircraft for reward. The original convention was only drafted in the French language. As it was used internationally, it needed to be translated into a country’s native language to be referenced in a court of law. The English Parliament commissioned the convention to be translated into English; however, its translation was not deemed to be faithful to the original French language version. The translator seemed to have “improved” the convention by making it clearer and offering certainties where they were none in the source text.

There have been several cases where the apparent inconsistency of meaning between the French and the English versions of the Convention has resulted in confusion, debate and case dismissals. In 2003, the Montreal Convention replaced the Warsaw Convention. The Montreal Convention has six official languages: English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese and Russian.

The best possible solution for peace is to begin with accurate and professional translation.

Peace and best wishes to you this holiday season.

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