Legal translation is arguably the most complicated and most important of all types of translation. Mistranslation of a single word or sentence always imposes material impact on court judgement. In Hong Kong, it used to be the non-Chinese who served as judges back in the 20th century. As non-Chinese speakers, they had to rely on translated versions for perusal of documentary evidence. Therefore, translation was always the critical factor which affected court judgement. A case is provided below as an example:

Fu Chuen Sang and another v. Cheung Ching Tak and Others (1961)


This is a case about dispute over an estate between the deceased’s wife and son. The late husband had made a will during his living days intending to allocate (撥交) his estate to his wife after his death. His son, however, considered that the term ‘allocate’ which his father used should only be interpreted as putting the estate under his mother’s ‘custody’ on his behalf without the meaning of ‘giving’ the estate to his mother. Therefore, the English translation of the Chinese term ‘撥交’ was the critical factor which affected court judgement.

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Being conversationally fluent in two languages is a great thing when you want to chat with your new neighbor whose first language is your second language, but it doesn't mean that you can take on legal translation work when the need arises. Both books and movies have told the stories of real and fictitious scenarios made worse due to a linguistic oversight. Millions of dollars have been won in malpractice lawsuits due to improper translation of a patients ailments and companies have had rebrand themselves in foreign markets due to a poor translation that was off-putting to locals in their new market. 

Legal cases are usually high-stakes and you only want the best when it comes to services associated with obtaining a favorable outcome in the case. Don't let your case be hurt with poor-quality or rushed translations; follow these  best practices for having legal translation done in Hong Kong. 
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