Importance of Contract Translation

Last Updated On: March 27, 2023

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Challenges & Importance of Contract Translation

What is contract translation? 

Contracts are written agreements made between two or more parties that are considered legally binding. They are becoming increasingly necessary in a more globalised world where businesses and governments are involved in a multitude of different negotiations and agreements. It is absolutely essential that the wording used in a contract conveys the meaning of the agreement explicitly. Where the parties that are involved in signing a contract speak and understand different languages, it is vital that the text is translated expertly by a professional translator who has experience in the subject matter and type of contract to be translated.

Why is contract translation important?

Whenever the parties involved in some type of transaction or agreement do not understand each other’s languages sufficiently, a contract that is signed without contract translation may be signed in ignorance of the conditions of the contract. This could lead to frustration, misunderstanding and potentially end up in legal action over a breach of contract. 

Any use of professional translators always means that the overall cost of coming to an agreement and formulating the contract becomes more expensive, but the alternative could be messy and potentially much more expensive if confusion and misunderstanding take place. Basically, the cost of contract translation should be factored in to the overall cost of signing the contract being considered.


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    Types of contracts that may need to be translated 

    There are many types of contracts that need to be translated. Contracts may be made between individuals and other individuals, between individuals and businesses, businesses and other businesses, governments and individuals and businesses and between different governments as well. Some examples of contracts that may need to be translated include:

    • employment contracts made for migrant workers on temporary contracts;
    • real estate contracts made whenever property is bought or sold in different countries or by people whose native language is different from the country where the property is being transacted;
    • copyright agreements where a product is being marketed in a country in which the language is different should be translated into that country’s official language to avoid breach of copyright because the language used is not clear enough;
    • loan contracts in which loans are given to individuals whose command of the language of the loan provider is not sufficient to understand the details in the loan contract.

    Challenges of contract translation

    Because of the potential pitfalls in inaccurate contract translation, there are several things that should be kept in mind, such as the following.

    • The contract translator used should be familiar with the language and terminology used in the specific context of the contractual arrangement. All contracts are legal documents, so it stands to reason that the best contract translators should have a legal background with a good working knowledge of legal terminology.
    • The use of computer generated translation software is not a suitable method for contract translation. This sort of software is getting better as time goes by, but at present even the best translation software, albeit much cheaper than human aided translation, cannot cope with the sort of legal terminology used so commonly in contracts. 
    • It is best to work with the contract translator when the project is underway. Where there are specific unique legal terms or terms involved, these should be emphasized by those formulating the contract so that the most authentic and accurate translation eventuates.


    When formulating a contract between parties whose language is different, it is essential that the right sort of contract translator is sought. A failure to use professional contract translators can lead to unfortunate and often expensive consequences.

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