AALL 2015 Recap: Chinese Legal Information: Availability, Accessibility and Quality Control

By Alex Zhang and Anne Mostad-Jensen

NewAALLClogoSmallHave you ever been tasked with finding an English translation of a recently enacted ordinance in Hong Kong when all of your colleagues in the Hong Kong office on the other side of the world are asleep in their beds? Have you been asked to help a member of the law journal reverse engineer and decipher an esoteric citation to a Chinese regulation that has been translated into English? Have you ever been asked by your favorite law professor to figure out whether the State Council of the People’s Republic of China has translated its open government information regulation into English?

The Asian American Law Librarians Caucus (AALLC) program on Chinese legal information, held on Monday, July 20 from 4:30pm to 5:30pm, was designed to help you to handle these problems and others like them that you may have already encountered or will likely encounter in the future. Alex Zhang, from the University of Michigan Law Library, and Anne Mostad-Jensen, from the University of North Dakota Law Library, explored some of the most practical yet important issues related to English translations of Chinese primary legal materials, such as availability, accessibility and quality control.

Before using any English translation of primary legal materials of any jurisdiction, it is important to understand and fully appreciate the characteristics of the legal system and infrastructure. The Chinese legal system is a mixed legal system composed of the socialist civil law system of Mainland China, the common law system of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and the civil law system of Macao Special Administrative Region (Macao SAR). Each section has its own official language that directly impacts the authority and availability of English translations of primary legal materials. For example, in Mainland China, the official language is Mandarin Chinese nationwide. As a result, English translations, regardless of its issuing organ, are only for informational purposes. On the other hand, English and Chinese are both official languages of HKSAR and therefore, English and Chinese versions of primary legal materials issued by the official governmental entity are considered equally authoritative. Macao SAR is unique in the sense that Chinese and Portuguese are both considered as official languages. Consequently, English translations are of informational purposes only.

The different legal systems and framework also impact the availability and accessibility of English translations of primary legal materials in all three jurisdictions. With English as one of the official languages, English versions of primary legal materials of Hong Kong SAR are the most accessible among the three jurisdictions. Legislation in both English and Chinese is available through HKSAR Department of Justice Bilingual Laws Information System. The website also provides glossaries of legal terms prepared by the Law Drafting Division of the Department of Justice. Similarly, Hong Kong Judiciary’s Legal Reference System provides the full text of court decisions in English.[1]

The PRC government is making progress toward making its laws available in English. Both the National People’s Congress and the State Council have been publishing English translations of selective laws and regulations since the late 1970s. Furthermore, both branches have made laws and regulations in English available online. For example, the National People’s Congress launched the online database Laws and Regulations in English in 2006. Its Chinese Law database also provides English translations of certain laws and regulations when available. Commercial vendors, such as Chinalawinfo, Westlaw China and Lexis China all provide extensive English translations of primary legal materials from Mainland China.

Users may have the least luck when it comes to finding English translations of Macao laws and regulations. Both Chinese and Portuguese versions of the laws and regulations of Macao are readily available at the Macao SAR Legislative Assembly website, but English versions are not included on the website. The Government Printing Bureau of Macao does make English translations of certain major codes available at its official website, including both the Commercial Code and the Industrial Property Code.

On the other hand, making translations available does not necessarily indicate the quality of the translations. Translation is hard. Legal translation is even harder. Deborah Cao claims “the sources of legal translation difficulty include the systematic differences in law, linguistic differences and cultural differences.”[2] Olga Burukina argues that legal translators are constantly challenged with “time and quality issues as well as a number of contradictions” related to time, systems, terminology, meaning, etc.[3]

Relying on a misleading translation is worse than not relying on a translation at all. Therefore, both presenters spent time discussing issues and concerns with the quality of the currently available English translations of all three jurisdictions. The presenters provided concrete examples of some of the major concerns, such as inconsistency, lack of officially issued bilingual legal terminologies for Mainland China and Macao SAR, and omissions and additions of words from the version in the source language. At the end of the presentation, presenters also shared tips and strategies for using English translations of Chinese primary legal materials with the audience. If you would like to receive a copy of the presentation materials by email, please feel free to contact Alex Zhang (zxm@umich.edu) or Anne Mostad-Jensen (anne.mostadjensen@law.und.edu).

[1] HKSAR judicial decisions are issued either in Chinese or in English, with a majority of cases still issued in English. Judicial decisions of jurisprudential value originally issued in Chinese are translated and made available in English as well. See http://legalref.judiciary.gov.hk/lrs/common/ju/tjpv.jsp.

[2] Deborah Cao, Translating Law 23 (Multilingual Matters, 2007).

[3] Olga Burukina, The Legal Translator’s Competence, 5 Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 809, 810–812 (2013).

AALL 2015 Recap: “International Attorneys and LL.M. Students: Filling Research Gaps”

By Alexis Fetzer

scalesThe late Sunday afternoon session entitled “International Attorneys and LL.M. Students: Filling Research Gaps” targeted librarians working with international students in an instructional setting. Each speaker presented on his or her experience working with foreign LL.M. students.

The first of the three speakers was Jinwei Zhang, Reference and Instructional Technologies Librarian at the University of Tennessee School of Law. Ms. Zhang had a unique experience in that she had been a foreign LL.M. student herself. She began by discussing some of the unique challenges instructors face in teaching these students, such as language barriers, cultural differences, and introducing a new legal system. One cultural difference that Zhang emphasized was a reluctance to ask questions in class. Many of these students are coming from learning environments in which they are not encouraged to interrupt a lecturer with comments or questions. It is important to be patient and encouraging of these students in order to get them to open up in class. One suggestion offered was instituting more one on one meetings with students in order to get them comfortable talking to instructors and to answer any questions that they are too uncomfortable to pose before an entire class.

Nina Scholtz, Head of Reference Services & Instruction Coordinator at Cornell University Law School, was the second of three speakers. Ms. Scholtz spoke on her experience as an academic law librarian instructing LL.M. students in legal research in their Principles of American Legal Writing course. In this course she instructs students in four class sessions and then works with students individually on their research for writing projects.

One challenge she highlighted was the difficulty in overcoming language barriers for legal citation abbreviations. It is important for instructors to keep in mind that what appears to make sense in the English speaker’s mind as an abbreviation for a court or publication may not always translate clearly to the foreign student. An instructor should look for ways to make this easier for students to understand and should be able to point to resources that can assist students in abbreviating or deciphering abbreviations of citations.

Scholtz shared one of the exercises she performed with her students, entitled “Thinking like a Common Law Lawyer.” This exercise focuses on the factual analysis that needs to take place before students can begin tackling legal research. Students are tasked with finding the basis of the case, generating search terms, and looking to other synonyms and antonyms of those terms. After the class performs this exercise together as a whole, students are broken up into smaller groups and given the same type of assignment with a different fact pattern.

The final speaker was Furman Scott DeMaris, Research Services Librarian at Reed Smith LLP, who spoke of his experience as a firm librarian when Reed Smith took on several Chinese LL.M. students as apart of work-study program with Temple University School of Law. One thing the firm did was to offer research refreshers and training for these students. Mr. Demaris found that it was important to let these students know that the librarians were there to assist them, because otherwise they might not have identified the librarians as a resource. Research guides were also offered to students on topics such as how to avoid research pitfalls and how to perform cost effective research. One challenge in hosting these LL.M. students was that, because they were guests rather than employees, they could not be given access to all of the firm’s resources. At the end of their time with Reed Smith, the students were asked to give a presentation on Chinese Law. This was a great way take advantage of the special knowledge of these foreign educated attorneys and to educate the firm’s attorneys on a foreign legal system.

After the final speaker, attendees were asked to discuss amongst members seated at their table the challenges in training foreign attorneys in an LL.M. instructional program or similar setting. The microphone was then opened for attendees to share and for the speakers to answer any questions.

Schedule of FCIL Events in Philadelphia

Blog Postcards 2015Hello FCIL-SIS!  Are you ready for Philly?  We at the publicity committee certainly are!  We have swag for the exhibit hall ready to go, and we’re looking forward to seeing all of our SIS friends again next week!

As we approach the 2015 AALL Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, we encourage you to keep an eye on the blog and to follow us on Twitter for coverage of FCIL-SIS programming both during and after the conferenceIf you are interested in covering any of the events listed below, please contact blog administrators Susan Gualtier (susan.gualtier@law.lsu.edu) or Loren Turner (lturner@law.ufl.edu).  Finally, remember to send us your original photos from the Philadelphia conference so that we can share them with our readers who were unable to attend!

FCIL-SIS EVENTS

2015 AALL ANNUAL MEETING, PHILADELPHIA

Saturday, July 18

9:30am – 4:45 pm

Researching the European Union (University of Pennsylvania Law School)

5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Exhibit Hall Ribbon-Cutting/Opening Reception. Stop by the FCIL-SIS table!

Sunday, July 19

11:30 am – 12:45 pm

AALL/LexisNexis Call for Papers: Researching International Agreements other than Article II

Treaties (PCC-Room 104A)

FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting (Marriott-Grand Ballroom Salon C)

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Cross-Border Disputes: Dissecting the International Investment Arbitration (PCC-Room

201BC)

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Designers’ Workshop: Subject Guides that Create the Effect You Want (PCC-Room 103BC)

5:15 pm – 6:00 pm

FCIL-SIS Foreign Selectors Interest Group (Marriott-Room 306)

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

FCIL-SIS Internships and International Exchanges Committee (Marriott-Room 310)

FCIL-SIS Publicity Committee (Marriott-Room 308)

Monday, July 20

7:15 am – 8:30 am

FCIL-SIS Business Meeting and Breakfast (PCC-Room 110AB)

3:15 pm – 4:25 pm

FCIL-SIS Teaching Foreign and International Legal Research Interest Group (PCC-Room

112A)

4:00 pm – 4:30 pm

FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant for Foreign Law Librarians Fundraising Committee (Marriott-

Conference Suite 2)

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm

FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant for Foreign Law Librarians Recipient Presentation (Marriott-Grand

Ballroom Salon D)

5:45 pm – 6:45 pm

International Attendees Joint Reception (AALL/FCIL/IALL) (Marriott-Grand Ballroom Salon

IJ)

Tuesday, July 21

8:30 am – 9:30 am

Mighty MT: Enhancing the Value of Machine Translation Tools for FCIL Reference and

Collection Services (PCC-Room 103BC)

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

LHRB/FCIL-SIS Roman Law Interest Group: Researching the Corpus Juris Civilis (PCC-Room

105A)

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

FCIL-SIS Education Committee (Marriott-Grand Ballroom Salon B)

FCIL-SIS Electronic Research Interest Group (PCC-Room 104B)

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LSU Law Professor Publishes First English Translation of Cornu’s Dictionary of the Civil Code

By Susan Gualtier

Professor Alain Levasseur of the Louisiana State University Law Center, along with Marie-Eugénie Laporte-Legeais and under the scientific coordination of Juriscope, has published the first English translation of Gérard Cornu’s seminal Vocabulaire juridique. The new book is the result of over two years’ worth of work by a multinational translation team and is published by LexisNexis:

The Dictionary of the Civil Code, an English translation of more than 1600 entries selected from the Vocabulaire Juridique of Gérard Cornu under the auspices of the Association Henri Capitant des amis de la culture juridique française, introduces to readers, jurists or not, the essential concepts of the French Civil Code. Key to an understanding of the civil law through its terminology as translated and explained in English, the definitions are enriched with references made to the Civil Code of Louisiana.

This work of reference on the French legal and civil law culture is an essential tool for comparatists, civilians, jurilinguists and translators.

The dictionary translates over 1600 entries selected from the French language Vocabulaire.  Each entry provides the French term, with a definition in English. Levasseur and his translation team have supplemented the original definitions with references to the Louisiana Civil Code. These added references are intended to illustrate the possibility of expressing civil law concepts in English without resorting to the terminology of the common law, as well as to be a useful resource for researchers of Louisiana civil law.  Aiming to capture the unique language and nuance of the civil law, Levasseur includes both recommended English equivalents for each term, as well as English terms to avoid.  The book also contains an index that allows the researcher use a known English language term to locate the appropriate French equivalent in the definitions section of the book.

Professor Levasseur spoke about the project in April at a symposium entitled The Louisiana Civil Code Translation Project: Enhancing Visibility and Promoting the Civil Law in English, held on the LSU Law Center campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Highlights from the symposium can be found in an earlier DipLawMatic Dialogues post.

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Must-Read LITA Blog Post: Cataloging a World of Languages, by Leanne Olson

By Susan Gualtier

online catalogIf there is one thing I have learned during my first few years as an FCIL librarian, it is that our catalogers are rarely as excited as I am when the foreign language selections come in.  This is why I was so pleased to find Leanne Olson‘s LITA blog post, Cataloging a World of Languages, while sorting through all of the #IALL2014 and #LVI2014 tweets this morning.

Olson identifies just a few of the challenges facing the cataloger of foreign language titles and shares a number of free tools that catalogers and others may find useful in working in an unfamiliar language.  She covers language identifiers, translation tools, bibliographic dictionaries, and subject-specific glossaries.  She also has suggestions for how to deal with non-Roman alphabets and transliteration and with those pesky diacritics that may not quite work with your system’s encoding scheme.

As a reference librarian and foreign law selector, I can see these tools being useful in my work, as well. Either way, I enjoy finding sources that allow me to offer even a little assistance to our technical services librarians when it comes to foreign language titles – or, at the very least, to better understand the difficulties they face.  If you have any tips or tricks for cataloging foreign language titles, please share them in the comments section below!  In the meantime, I will definitely be bookmarking Olson’s post for safekeeping.

Legal Translation and Interpretation Tools Recap

By Alex Zhang

One of the positive impacts of globalization is to greatly reduce the cost of cross-border communications and transactions.  The traditional physical boundary is blurred due to modern communication technologies.  Google Books allow readers to have instant access to works published by authors from hundreds of thousands of miles away.  Instant messaging and email allow acquisition librarians to negotiate licenses with vendors from the other side of the world all the time.  E-commerce and the Internet allow librarians to select and purchase materials without having to physically cross the borders.  However, none of the above tasks can be truly accomplished without breaking a barrier that still exists– the language barrier.

With over 190 countries and over 3000 languages being used in the world, reliable translation or interpretation tools become indispensable for all information professionals.  The complexity of legal systems and legal terminology pose an extra layer of difficulty of legal translation and thus stimulate higher demand for useful translation and interpretation tools.  Although the importance and value of accurate legal translation and interpretation attracts more scholarly attention (e.g. here and here) over the years in the law librarianship field, there have been very few discussions on the tools of legal translation and interpretation.

The excellent presentation made by librarians Saskia Mehlhorn, Jim Hart and Don Ford at the 2014 Annual Conference of the American Association of Law Libraries helped bridge the gap.  The presentation was informative, critical and thought provoking.  Presenters demonstrated use of a variety of online tools to facilitate three different kinds of translation projects: translating a catalog entry, cite-checking a source in foreign language, and translating legal documents, followed by a thoughtful discussion of pros and cons of many top-rated translation software, such as Google Translate, Babylon, Systran, etc. Mr. Ford also surveyed useful bilingual and multilingual legal dictionaries both in print and online.  The audience shared insightful comments and experience with using online translation discussion forum, such as the language forums maintained by wordreference.com.  The presenters also make PowerPoint slides and an in-depth research guide available on the University of Iowa Law Library website.

All three presenters cautioned on caveats and limitations when using translation tools, in print or online.  For example, Ms. Mehlhorn pointed out that despite being low-cost and prompt, machine translation software “could not read context” and “has no consideration of cultural differences.”  She also shared concerns of privacy and confidentiality protections when using online discussion forums to translate legal documents.

Although the presentation only lasted about an hour, it raised many questions in the area of legal translation and interpretation worthy of further discussion.  For example, how to better utilize translation tools (without complete reliance) to provide accurate legal translation?  Determining sources of difficulty in legal translation will behoove us to find the answer to the question.  Professor Deborah Cao, in her book Translating Law, identified the following sources of difficulty: different legal systems and laws, linguistic differences, and cultural differences.[1]  As a result, I propose the following methods that would help us to use legal translation tools more effectively to provide accurate legal translations: to achieve a better understanding and a solid knowledge of a country’s legal system in advance (e.g. here and here), to consult a legal expert of native tongue if possible (e.g. here and here), to identify an authoritative bilingual or multilingual legal dictionary or an official legal glossary from the country of the vernacular (e.g. here and here), and/or to hire a professional legal translator if appropriate (e.g. here and here).  These methods and tools can help legal information professionals to better resolve issues relating to the diversity and complexity of legal systems and terminology, to appraise the linguistic sources of machine translation software and to appreciate the cultural differences.

[1] Deborah Cao, Translating Law, 23-35 (Multilingual Matters Ltd., 2007)

The Louisiana Civil Code Translation Project: Enhancing Visibility and Promoting the Civil Law In English

by Susan Gualtier

In my role as FCIL librarian at the Louisiana State University Law Center, one of the most interesting aspects of my job has been the work that I’ve done with the Center of Civil Law Studies based at LSU:

The Center of Civil Law Studies (CCLS) was established in 1965 to promote and encourage the scientific study of the civil law system, its history, structure, principles, and actualities. Its purpose or mission is to facilitate a better understanding and further development of the private law of the State of Louisiana and other civil law jurisdictions, particularly those of continental Europe and Latin America, through theoretical and practical activities, such as publications, translations, sponsorship of faculty and student exchanges, visiting scholars, seminars, and lectures. The Center of Civil Law Studies promotes legal education by sponsoring foreign students who wish to avail themselves of the opportunity of studying a mixed legal system and American students who wish to expose themselves to other legal systems. Such programs take advantage of Louisiana’s natural position as an education center for international and comparative legal studies.

On April 10 and 11, I had the privilege of attending a conference organized by the CCLS entitled The Louisiana Civil Code Translation Project: Enhancing Visibility and Promoting the Civil Law in English. The conference, which brought together civil law scholars, translators, and jurilinguists from around the world, shed light on some recent translation projects and forthcoming publications that are sure to be of interest to law librarians, and explored the many issues surrounding the translation of law generally and with specific reference to the translation of civil law into English.

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Professor Olivier Moréteau, Director of the CCLS and holder of the Russell B. Long Eminent Scholars Academic Chair, kicked off the conference with a discussion of the Louisiana Civil Code Translation Project and the history of the Louisiana Civil Code’s various French and English iterations. Once published in both French and English out of deference to Louisiana’s bilingual culture, the Civil Code ceased being published in French after the end of the Civil War. Professor Moréteau explained that Louisiana has had a long history of creating its own unique “language” to express civil law concepts in English, and that the terminology can be quite close to that used in previous French language codes, both in Louisiana and in Europe. Over the past several years, the CCLS has worked on translating the code back into French, focusing on maintaining the unique tone of the Louisiana civil code and on demonstrating to French-speaking legal scholars that a civil code can indeed be written in English and made compatible with the common law while at the same time maintaining the distinct terminology and tone of the civil law tradition.

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Building upon these introductory themes, the conference speakers discussed a range of topics relating to legal translation, legal and linguistic equivalence, historical works of translation in the area of the civil law, and specific translation projects on which they have been working. The Hon. Nicholas Kasirer, of the Cour d’appel du Québec, delivered the annual Tucker Lecture, a keynote address entitled That Montreal Sound: The Influence of French Legal Ideas and the French Language on the Civil Law Expressed in English, during which he shared fascinating examples of the essential “Frenchness” of the English language Québec Civil Code. Agustin Parise, of Maastricht University, spoke on the first Spanish translation of the Louisiana Civil Code, and its influence on the civil codes of Latin America. Professors Alain Levasseur and John Randall Trahan of LSU, and Professor David Gruning of Loyola University in New Orleans, discussed their work on a new translation of the French Civil Code into English for Legifrance, while Michel Séjean of the University of Southern Brittany discussed his English translation of the French Code de commerce, and Serban Vacarelu, also of Maastricht University, mentioned his work in coordinating a forthcoming English translation of the Romanian Civil Code. In nearly all of the talks, emphasis was placed on preserving the tone and terminology of the civil law without falling back on similar-sounding common law terminology, and on the difficulties in reconciling the differences in the drafting traditions of the common law system, whose scholarship exists primarily in English, and of the civil law systems of Europe and Latin America.

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Perhaps the most fascinating portion of the conference, for me, was Professor Levasseur’s presentation of his experience in translating Gérard Cornu’s Vocabulaire juridique into English, with a specific focus on defining and translating those provisions most relevant to the Louisiana Civil Code. Having assisted Professor Levasseur with this project in my capacity as a librarian, I was excited to hear him discuss the final product and the approach that he had taken to the translation. Avoiding a word for word translation that might mislead readers accustomed to working exclusively in English or with common law concepts, Professor Levasseur decided to provide a descriptive explanation of the French term in English before providing suggested English terms (as well as terms to avoid.) In this way, the translation is constructed in a way that forces the reader to understand fully the nuance and meaning of the civil law term before choosing a word to express the concept English. The Vocabulaire juridique translation is now complete and will be available from LexisNexis in July 2014.

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Although a few of the lectures in this conference were admittedly a bit beyond my full understanding (both because they delved into the technical aspects of jurilinguistics, and because about half of them were delivered en Français), it was incredible to witness the group’s excitement and dedication to an area of study that is probably largely unfamiliar to most of us who have trained and are working in the United States legal profession. All of the presentations were recorded, and videos will be available on the CCLS website sometime during the next few weeks. In the meantime, those interested in the civil law tradition, and particularly in how it has developed in the Americas, should keep an eye on the CCLS website for further news about their very interesting work.  The Louisiana Civil Code translation is available on the LSU Law Center’s website, and individual segments are published in the Journal of Civil Law Studies on LSU’s Digital Commons as the translations are completed.  The Preliminary Title, as well as sections on the Law of Obligations and Suretyship and Mandate, are complete and available from both sources.