If there is anything I've learned about forensic linguistics, it is not to underestimate the power of language. This becomes evident in the Unabomber case in which Ted Kaczynski sent a series of mail bombs, maiming and killing several victims. After years of pursuing the Unabomber through various tactics, a former Philadelphia policeman come FBI agent named James Fitzgerald worked incessantly, analyzing every scrap of Kaczynski's writing. Having no formal training in linguist
It amazes me how people can overlook the seriousness of translating/interpreting. Many think it is something that any bilingual person can do. In this article, we learn that a homeless man's innocence hinges on the inadequacy of a makeshift interpreter. It just goes to show that just because you can hammer nails doesn't mean you should be a carpenter! Officer who interrogated homeless immigrant didn't distinguish between the gun discharging and Garcia Zarate pulling the trigg
The more you know about a product or service, the better equipped you are to make advantageous decisions. Here is a little quiz about Spanish translation: 1. How are translating and interpreting different? a) Translation is spoken; interpreting is written. b) Interpreting is spoken; translation is written. c) Translation is done with a computer; interpreting is done with a microphone. d) All of the above. 2. Does being bilingual mean that you are a translator? a) Yes, always.
Machine translation is especially pernicious to legal documents! R2D2 and The-Birth-of-Venus by Pilcrow What would a machine feel by looking at the birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli? Nothing! A specialised program could tell you what was drawn, the technique and material used, but it would fail to understand the emotions and the beauty which emanates from the art work. The same is true with language. Language does not only convey information, it also carries emotions. If Le
Both translators and attorneys are writers at heart. Here's a hearty tip for both of us! Last week, we addressed the legal writer’s bad habit of emphasizing words by using unsightly and outdated underlining. The better substitute for highlighting specific words or short phrases is italics. Yet there’s a syntactic practice that can be even more effective and forceful: ending your sentences emphatically. Skilled writers know that the most emphatic position in a sentence is not
As a follow-up to our legal-usage quiz from last week, here are 10 questions of common English usage that can trip up even the most careful writers. Try your hand first and then check the answers at the end. Before we meet with the client, can you talk briefly with Margaret and [(a) I, (b) me]? Each of the defendants [(a) were, (b) was] required to perform 500 hours of community service. He has [(a) drunk, (b) drank] six cups of coffee in the last two hours. The signed contra
Have you ever seen a document bearing the stamp shown above? Has anyone required you to affix an apostille on a public document? The word apostille originally comes from Latin: post illa then French, meaning a marginal note. It is an international certification issued to a public document signed for use in another country. Documents that may require an apostille are: birth certificates, marriage certificates, judgments, corporate records, patents and notarized acknowledgment
All of these tips, coming from Bryan Garner, a leading expert on plain English and plain Legal English, will help your writing immensely. If you are writing legal English, the only tip I wouldn't recommend is using contractions.
Some laws are obvious. Just about everywhere you go, there are laws against speeding or shoplifting, laws regulating the purchase and consumption of alcohol and zoning laws that dictate what kind of building you can construct where. But what about laws that don't make any sense? Some are outdated and others are cultural. Can you think of any? Here are seven for your enjoyment. 1. In Mexico, all males must wear trousers, and such groups of employees as hack drivers and newspap
If you are a lawyer working with documents in Spanish, you may come across some terms you are not sure about. After all, each Latin American country has a different set of laws, and with them, different terms. Some of these terms contradict terms from other countries that are apparently identical, but carry a different meaning. Other terms can baffle you, and a good dictionary could be the key to unlock the unknown. Here are five dictionaries/glossaries that will aid anyone i