Translation at the Court of Justice of the European Communities
Translation Issues in Language and Law, Olsen, F., Lorz, A. and Stein, D. eds. (Palgrave Macmillan 2009)
Posted: 30 Jan 2013
The Court of Justice of the European Communities produces a multilingual jurisprudence consisting of collegiate judgments drafted by jurists in a language that is generally not their mother tongue. It undergoes many permutations of translation into/out of 20 different languages, and thus is necessarily shaped by the particular way in which the Court works and by the actors within it. The main difficulty in the production of that multilingual jurisprudence is reconciling the notions of ‘law’ and ‘translation’. The Court aims to produce statements of law that are exactly the same in every language in which they are published. This does not sit easily with translation theory, which claims that the act of translation is an approximation. The actors at the heart of this dilemma are the lawyer-linguists, whose job it is to translate the judgments of the Court of Justice into all of the official languages of the EU. The results of their efforts and struggle to reconcile the two sets of norms (of translation and law) is a compromise, the existence of which is widely acknowledged and widely accepted within the small legal community of the Court. It is precisely because everyone in this community is aware of that compromise that it is actually able to function. However, the impact of the May 2004 enlargement (with further enlargements on the horizon) on the dynamics and functioning of the Court of Justice remains to be seen. Will almost doubling the number of official EU languages have any implications for the way in which EU law works?
Keywords: translation, legal translation, European law, EU law, ECJ, Court of Justice
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