Earlier this week I participated in a bilingual (French–English) conference. Of course, not all participants and presenters were bilingual, so simultaneous interpretation services were offered.
I’m always impressed with simultaneous interpretation. I think it’s a real feat to be able to listen in one language and process the information quickly enough to speak words of the same meaning in another language, while continuing to listen, continuing to process, and continuing to speak. I’m imagining reading a case while dictating a memo while running on a treadmill.
So simultaneous interpretation is wonderful and impressive. What also struck me, though, is that the interpreters at this event had to be able to do this while also choosing the correct word or expression in a technical subject area: To an extent, the lexicon of law is a third language to add to the task. So, while on the treadmill, the interpreters are also following a closed-captioned episode of Law & Order.
When I was pondering this yesterday, an inquiry about bilingual legal glossaries serendipitously showed up in my stream. The discussion resulted in a collaboratively sourced little list of online French–English bilingual legal glossaries or translation sites. I’ve checked them all out and, while they don’t move me to attempt simultaneous interpretation, they are all unique and useful tools:
- Éducaloi publishes a glossary and un lexique for meanings of legal terms in each language, without translation between them or legal equivalents.
- Justice Québec publishes a concise database of Termes juridiques (the French index) and their English equivalents, or Legal terms (the English index) and their French equivalents. Meanings and synonyms are included in the French index, English index, though they aren’t given in the English index.
- IATE (InterActive Terminology for Europe is the European Union’s multilingual glossary (with English and French and 23 other languages). It includes legal terms used in a variety of contexts.
- University of Ottawa hosts the Centre for legal translation and documentation or Centre de traduction et de documentation juridiques à l’Université d’Ottawa, which maintains a Legal Glossary of Federal Statutes (English–French and French–English). For each legal term used in a federal statute, this database shows the corresponding phrase or term in the other official language, as used in the same statute, and it offers various statutory contexts for the term. Definitions are not given.
- The CLTD/CTDJ sites also display a similar database for Ontario legislation, Lexicon of Ontario Statutes and Regulations, which is published by Centre franco-ontarien de ressources pédagogiques, and an indexed database of French translations of Ontario case law.
- McGill University hosts the the Dictionnaires de droit privé en ligne database. This is a resource of the Paul-André Crépeau Centre for Private and Comparative Law, which has long published print Private Law Dictionaries. The database consists of several volumes of the dictionaries that have been made available and searchable online. Searches return meanings of a term in the language selected and references to the term in the Quebec Civil Code, along with a corresponding English term.
Hat tip: The sources of much of the above information are @montserratlj and @cottinstef. Earlier in the month, the same knowledgeable contacts discussed Multilingual Legal Glossary, and our research program took particular note because it’s published just across the strait, by Vancouver Community College.
It doesn’t, in fact, include French, but it does offer equivalent words in one of eight languages, starting from an English word. A search of an English legal term returns the plain language meaning of the English word, along with the translated term and its meaning in the other selected language. It also suggests related terms in both languages.
I’m certain other useful free online French–English or multilingual legal glossaries exist, and I’d love to see readers’ favourites.