When translating legal texts from Spanish to English or from English to Spanish, I first verify that I understand the text. Legal terminology often uses terms but gives them meanings that are very different from what they mean in everyday language. Therefore, any time a term confuses me I  look it up in a monolingual dictionary.

Some favorite online resources

Favorite print resources

In English

  • Nolo’s Plain English Law Dictionary. It is also available online.
  • Legal Language, by Peter M. Tiersma. It covers the history of legal language as well as the language for different legal situations.
  • The Civil Law Tradition, by John Henry Merryman and Rogerlio Pérez-Perdomo. This provides an overview of how the legal system works.
  • Bryan Garner has produced many incredibly useful resources. I recommend searching for his materials. He has been one of the early advocates of plain language in legal settings.

In Spanish

  • Alcaraz-Varó has produced many incredibly useful books in English and Spanish. Spanish legal interpreters and translators frequently use his materials.
  • Elementos de derecho, by Efraín Moto Salazar. This is an introduction to Mexican law that has been updated regularly since its first edition in 1949. Materials that have stood the test of time like this are rare.
  • El derecho para no juristas: Una guía para entender el sistema jurídico, by Alfred Font Barrot and José Luis Pérez Triviño. As its title says, this is a book on law for those who do not specialize in law. Interpreters and translators are often in this position.
  • Diccionario de derecho, by Rafael de Pina and Rafael de Pina Vara. This is a monolingual Spanish legal dictionary.
  • Derecho administrativo y legislación fiscal, by Apolinar E. García. This is published in Argentina, and it is an overview of administrative and financial law.
  • Principios generales del derecho: compilación de aforismos jurídicos, by Manuel Morales Hernández. This book has a list of legal set phrases in Spanish, with their explanations.
  • Formulario práctico en materia de contratos. This book has sample contracts, and would be useful when translating contracts. You should be able to find almost any equivalent to an English contract here.

Sample contracts in bilingual format

Among others, Liliana Bernardita Mariotto and Olegario Llamazares h ave both produced bilingual collections of contracts.

Why do I use these resources?

They allow me to follow my standard translation steps:

  1. Understand the message in the original text.
  2. Find examples of how that is said, including context, in the target language.
  3. Translate reflecting the standard usage of the language I am translating to.