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: European Union Information Workshop

By Alyson Drake

EU InfoI was lucky enough to attend AALL 2015’s preconference workshop on EU Information, along with the rest of a sold out crowd. Our speaker was Ian Thomson, who serves as both the Director of the European Documentation Centre at Cardiff University and the Executive Editor of European Sources Online. While not a complete EU novice, I learned about a host of new (to me) resources beyond EUR-Lex that will be a huge aid next time I teach our International and Foreign Legal Research course or have patrons come with EU questions.

Rather than give a summary of the topics discussed, I thought I would highlight ten resources I didn’t previously know about that will be helpful to those out there researching European Union-related issues.

1.  ECLAS (European Commission Libraries Catalogue)

ECLAS is a major bibliographic index to help researchers find EU publications, treatises, journal articles and more on topics of interest to the EU. ECLAS provides hyperlinks to full text if freely available.

ECLAS

2.  Registers of Documents

The Registers of Documents from European Union institutions are a fantastic research tool for finding unpublished EU information not available in other EU-focused search engines and databases. Each of the registers includes documents relating to its activities, as well as official documents sent to it by other institutions and EU member states. The three main bodies of the EU, the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council of the European Union each have their own register.

3.  European eJustice Portal

Use European eJustice Portal to find links to information aimed at many different audiences (citizens, businesses, legal practitioners, and judges). Among other resources, researchers can find EU member state legislation and case law, as well as information on the legal processes in each EU member country.

ejustice4.  European External Action Service

Use the EEAS to find summaries of and information on the European Union’s relations with every country.

5.  IATE: Interactive Terminology for Europe database

IATE is the official database for interpreters of the EU. Researchers can enter an important term for their research and find the translation in over 20 languages.

iate6.  European Parliamentary Research Service

The EPRS, the European Parliament’s internal research department, provides the European Parliament with analysis and research on policy issues important to the European Union, in the form of briefings on current topics.

7.  IPEX (InterParliamentary EU Information Exchange)

IPEX provides access to reports from national parliaments concerning EU legislative proposals and initiatives.

8.  Dec.Nat—National Decisions

Dec.Nat helps researchers find court decisions from the national courts of member states concerning issues related to EU law.

9.  Euro|topics

Euro|topics translates articles from EU member country sources from their original language into German, English, and French. It provides an interesting way to get into the mindsets of media in other countries. Their “Main Focus” section gives articles on one hot topic of the day and then provides a list other news items of note.

eurotopics10.  Europe on the Internet

For more help finding useful websites and databases for information on the European Union, see Thomson’s own Europe on the Internet. It’s incredibly comprehensive and covers a great deal of what attendees were shown at the workshop.

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)

Philadelphia_skyline_sunset

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)

Guide to Legal Interpretation and Translation Tools Is Now Available

gg56368772FCIL-SIS members Don Ford, Jim Hart, and Saskia Melhorn gave an excellent presentation on Translation and Interpretation Tools for Law Librarians last week at AALL 2014.  For those of us who were attending Interest Group meetings during their time slot, or who were otherwise unable to attend the presentation, Don, Jim, and Saskia have created an in-depth research guide available on the University of Iowa Law Library website.  The PowerPoint slides from the presentation are included, along with an overview of issues relating to legal interpretation and translation, and extensive lists of translation tools available both in print and online.

If anyone attended the program and would like to submit a more detailed recap, please contact the blog administrators.