About the Video

The Perils of Translating International Contracts

English is the lingua franca of contracts. Even if a transaction involves only parties from countries where English isn’t a major language, it’s routine for the contracts to be in English. But because of peculiarities of the prose used in the legal profession, and because contracts have traditionally been drafted by wholesale copying from other contracts, traditional contract legalese is among the most dysfunctional kinds of English prose. Contracts regulate conduct, and they’re essential to any company’s business, so the confusion created by traditional contract language has the potential to waste a lot of time and money and cause companies to expose themselves to unnecessary risk.

It follows that translating English-language contracts poses major challenges. The key question is, how does one translate text that had no clear meaning in the original? And if you translate a contract into English using traditional contract prose, you risk creating confusion that wasn’t present in the original.


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Ken Adams


1 hour 7 min.

Who should watch it?

Everyone, who is interested in legal translation to and from English.

What are the benefits to you?

This video will increase your knowledge about the issues involved in translating international contracts written in English.

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  1. Lucy Brooks

    We have collected some of the comments from the webinar viewers from the previous site. Here they are!

    A wealth of information, clearly presented. Highly recommended for anyone translating contracts into or out of English.

    This was one of the best webinars for me, as I have to translate or revise corporate contracts now and then at a speed that worries me. Ken Adams gave us a brief well-structured run-down of the decisions and pitfalls, illustrated with short, authentic, and sophisticated examples from his work, including solutions, one of which concerns a famous and expensive error in drafting. Ken also gave us two worthwhile articles about drafting practices along with the recommendation to buy his book *A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting.* (I will probably buy two and give one to the lawyer I work for).

    I wasn’t sure how relevant this webinar would be for me because I translate into rather than out of English, but I found it very useful. It covers a lot of the most common language issues translators encounter when working with contracts and Ken also uses lots of examples to demonstrate potential problems. As someone with no legal qualifications or training, I found his presentation style very clear and easy to follow. I would definitely take one of his webinars again.

    Nothing compares to having someone who understands the language of the discipline of law to hold such a seminar. This is invaluable. Ken Adams breaks down all the details to make his ideas throughout the entire session easy to follow. A lawyer himself, he explains clearly subtle legal details that can be obscure even in one’s native language. Anyone who translates contracts should really do this seminar because there is more than meets the eye when it comes to dealing with daunting legal contracts! Considerations of the purpose and timing of a contract are important considerations that help to make for a proper translation that is clear and helpful rather than just some cut-and-paste document of legal gibberish that pretends to be what it should be. One thing that was of utmost importance to me is that Ken points out what we as translators can do so as not to become ensnared by pretentious legal jargon, and thus end up producing a target text no less pretentious than the source text. The seminar also gives you a certain level of confidence that you will need for dealing with these types of documents. After all, as translators, we are not just translating words. A lot more goes into the production, and therefore, we need to understand as much as we can about the context in which the document is set. I am already looking forward to another seminar of his! Great seminar! Great presenter!

    The presentation was well organized and clear, and Adams discussed issues that I deal with in my daily work.

    Really great webinar with a top-notch speaker. I picked up lots of useful tips.