Problems and Strategies in Translating Legal Texts

Rudy Sofyan(1), Rusdi Noor Rosa(2),
(1) Universitas Sumatera Utara  Indonesia
(2) Universitas Negeri Padang  Indonesia

Corresponding Author
Copyright (c) 2021 Humanus


Full Text:    Language : en


Translating legal texts is considered as the most difficult translation task as it needs accurate and correct translation, and even minor errors can result in lawsuits and legal exposure. This paper aims at finding out the translation problems and formulating the strategies best applicable in translating legal texts from bahasa Indonesia into English. This is a descriptive study using a document analysis as the method. The data were 15 legal texts having been translated from bahasa Indonesia into English by semi-professional translators. In analysing the data, the document analysis was carried out by skimming, reading, and interpreting the translated legal texts. The results of data analysis reveal three general problems in translating legal texts done by the semi-professional translators, including finding the right equivalent, translator’s insufficient knowledge of English legal language and source text decoding. To overcome such problems, four strategies are proposed: (i) utilizing online resources, (ii) finding the proposition of the legal sentence, (iii) using a description technique, and (iv) employing functional approach to translation. It is concluded that translating legal texts requires translator’s good knowledge of applicable laws and language competence in both the source language and target language.


legal language; legal text translation; translation problems; translation strategies


Al-Refo, M. Y. D. & Faqir, R. S. A. (2016). From Legal Translation to Legal Globalization: Globalization of Criminal Laws to Counter Global Crimes. International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, 6(4), 275-281.

Austin, J. L. (1962). How to Do Things with Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bowen, G. A. (2009). Document Analysis as a Qualitative Research Method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), 27-40.

Camelia, C. (2014). Errors and Difficulties in Translating Legal Texts. Management Strategies Journal, 26(4), 487-492.

Cao, D. (2007). Translating Law. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Danet, B. (1980). Language in the Legal Process. Law and Society, 14(3), 447-563.

Garner, B. A. (1986). A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Haigh, R. (2004). Legal English. London: Cavendish Publishing Limited.

Hargitt, S. (2013). What Could be Gained in Translation: Legal Language and Lawyer-Linguists in a Globalized World. Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, 20(1), 426-447.

Harkrisnowo, H. (2008). Bahasa Indonesia sebagai Sarana Pengembangan Hukum Nasional. Retrieved from on December 14, 2020.

Karjo, C. H. (2015). Problems in Translating Legal English Text into Indonesian. Arab World English Journal, 8(1), 352-364.

Kobyakova, I. K., & Habenko, M. (2017). The Challenges of Legal Texts Translation in terms of European Integration. Philological Treatises, 9(4), 39-45.

Kocbek, A. (2012). An Integrated Model for Translating Legal Texts. Vertimo Studijos. 5, 64-75.

Kockaert, J., Leuven K. U., & Rahab, N. (2017). Introduction: Quality in Legal Translation. The Journal of Specialised Translation, 27, 2-9.

Maley, Y. (1994). The Language of the Law. In J. Gibbons (Ed.), Language and the Law (pp. 11-50). New York: Longman.

Mattila, H. E. S. (2016). Comparative Legal Linguistics: Language of Law, Latin and Modern Lingua Francas. London: Routledge.

Murici, M. (2016a). Legal Language and Legal Translation. Proceedings of International Conference on Linguistics, Literature and Culture, pp. 279-291.

Murici, M. (2016b). Issues in Translating Legal Texts. International Journal of English Language & Translation Studies, 4(3), 69-74.

Rosa, R. N., Sinar, T. S., Setia, E., & Ibrahim-Bell, Z. (2018). Pauses by Student and Professional Translators in Translation Process. International Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies, 6(1), 18-28.

Rosa, R. N., Sofyan, R., & Tarigan, B. (2018). Applying Metaphor in Writing English Scientific Texts. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research (ASSEHR), 148, 64-69.

Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Searle, J. R. (1976). A Taxonomy of Illocutionary Acts. Language in Society, 5, 1-25.

Smejkalova, T. (2009). Translating Contracts (Bachelor’s Diploma Thesis). Brno, Czechia: Masaryk University.

Smith, S. A. (1995). Culture Clash: Anglo-American Case Law and German Civil Law in Translation. Philadelphia/Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Stanojevic, M. (2011). Legal English Changing Perspective. Facta Universitatis: Linguistic and Literature, 9(1), 66-75.

Stepanova, V. V. (2017). Translation Strategies of Legal Texts: Experimental Approach. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 237, 1201-1207.

Stolze, R. (2013). The Legal Translator’s Approach to Texts. Humanities, 2, 56-71.

Sofyan, R. & Tarigan, B. (2017). Online Resources Management in Self-Corrections and Translation Quality. International Journal of Sciences: Basic and Applied Research (IJSBAR), 35(2), 212-224.

Tiersma, P. M. (1999). Legal Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Williams, C. (2004). Legal English and Plain Language: An Introduction. ESP Across Cultures, 1, 111-124.

Article Metrics

 Abstract Views : 164 times
 PDF Downloaded : 45 times


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Humanus

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.