Reducing the Impact of Mistranslated Testimony in International Arbitral Hearings

Contemporary Asia Arbitration Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 197-216, November 2016

32 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2016

See all articles by Joshua Karton

Joshua Karton

Queen's University Faculty of Law; National Taiwan University - College of Law

Date Written: November 30, 2016

Abstract

Issues of language and translation do receive attention from the international arbitration community, but most of that attention has been excessively narrow. The majority of international arbitration legislation, rules of procedure, and practice guides only go so far as to recommend ways to avoid the need for translation as much as possible. Little effort is given to improving translation when it is needed. This is a mistake and a missed opportunity. Translation is often inevitable in international arbitrations, and translation inevitably changes meaning. Mistranslation is therefore not just a technical problem, but one with serious legal consequences. This article focuses on the stage of arbitral proceedings where mistranslations with serious legal consequences are most likely to arise: live interpretation of witness testimony. It seeks to educate international arbitration practitioners about the ways — avoidable and unavoidable — that translation changes meaning, describes the inadequacy of current law and practice to deal with these linguistic realities, and presents a series of practical steps that arbitrators and counsel can take. Adopting these recommendations will help to reduce the incidence of mistranslations and to blunt the legal impact of those mistranslations that do arise.

Keywords: International Commercial Arbitration, Language and Law, Translation, International Civil Procedure

Suggested Citation

Karton, Joshua, Reducing the Impact of Mistranslated Testimony in International Arbitral Hearings (November 30, 2016). Contemporary Asia Arbitration Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 197-216, November 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2879703

Joshua Karton (Contact Author)

Queen's University Faculty of Law ( email )

Macdonald Hall
128 Union St.
Kingston, Ontario K7L3N6
Canada

National Taiwan University - College of Law ( email )

No.1, Sec.4, Roosevelt Road
Taipei, 10617, 10617
Taiwan

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