The High Cost Of Legal Translation Mistakes

Some companies try to save money by hiring unproven and unknown translation companies instead of those with references and a history of success.  Sometimes this can result in humorous translations that may result in poor public relations.  One famous example occurred a few months ago when a Chinese retailer of knock-off Abercrombie & Fitch clothing mistakenly marketed “Abercrombie & Fitch N****r Brown Pants” on its website.  In other instances, poor translations of key contract terms in legal documents can lead to devastating financial losses.

In China, it is estimated that 5-percent of all contract disputes between Chinese companies and foreign companies stem from translation mistakes.  When key terms are mistranslated, it will undoubtedly create disagreements between the Chinese and foreign parties about rights and obligations.  These problems are common and persist because the quality of the vast number of translation companies that operate in China are unknown quality and frequently have no industry expertise.    To compound the problem, it’s often common for Chinese translation services agencies to accept all business regardless of whether they have the necessary expertise in a given industry.

The field of contract law is no exception.  For instance, even if a student graduates at the top of his class in a foreign language university it is no guarantee that he will provide an accurate legal translation.  A translator must have appropriate legal training and often specific industry experience.  Furthermore, full-time translators at translation agencies are not that skillful in working on contract translation work, otherwise they would work in the legal departments of foreign corporations and law firms, which offer higher salaries.

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