Florida International University

Department of Modern Languages










SPT-4803 is an upper-level course in Legal Translation (Spanish/English). It provides review and reinforcement of translation theory and its particular application to the legal field, through ample practice in the translation of a variety of legal documents in both languages. The readings and lectures will provide a basic understanding of the theory of law and its comparative application in Common and Roman Law countries, as a background to inform the practice of legal translation. Students should have completed SPT-3800 and SPT 4801 or equivalent courses, or have professional experience in legal translation, or be otherwise approved by the instructor. This course meets on ___________________ at _________.


Goals: a) to prepare students for an FIU Certificate in Translation Studies and/or Legal Translation and Court Interpretation; b) to enhance student command of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary in both languages through consistent translation practice; c) to develop translation technique, aptitude for linguistic and logical analysis, and the capacity for self-correction and critique, aimed at a professional level of performance; d) to develop a high standard of professionalism through increased knowledge of the field, its business practices, social issues, and code of ethics; e) to gain insight into the field of law so as to be able to approach legal translation work with confidence and knowledge.


Requirements:   This course will have tests on content from readings and lectures, and practical exams on translation fragments. Class participation and homework will also be evaluated. Attendance is mandatory. Absences will severely affect your participation grade, as will tardiness. Be on time. If absent, it is the student’s responsibility to secure from a classmate a copy of the weekly homework, notes, and other materials distributed. In order to participate actively in class you must always do the assigned translation homework, which will be discussed in class. All homework translations should be word-processed and double-spaced. Never turn in a rough draft. A portfolio of all the texts translated for class, with an expandable glossary of problematic vocabulary, phrases, and expressions, with their translations, will be maintained by each student and turned in for a grade toward the end of the semester. Keep class notes on a separate notebook.


Final Grade will be calculated as follows:     

Participation & homework         10%

Portfolio                                             20%

Tests                                                   30%

Exams                                                40%



Class Procedure:

1) Translation homework will be distributed for every class meeting. All students should do all assigned texts and observe the “Suggested Stages for Translations” outlined below.

2) Each day one person will make a model translation and bring photocopies for his/her classmates and instructor in order to facilitate its discussion and correction in class. All other students must also do the same translation at home so as to compare it with the model translation.

3) Each day we will discuss one or more model translations. We will also discuss an additional homework text for which no model translation has been assigned, thereby requiring the participation of all students. Occasionally, the instructor will bring fresh texts which students will translate as a team in class by working in small groups against the clock.

4) The instructor will announce, without notice, which homework translation texts are to be turned in for a grade on any particular day.

5) The instructor will return the marked translations on the following class meeting. The instructor will not “correct” the translations, but mark the perceived errors according to the “code” below.

6) The students will correct those translations and include a final, polished copy in their portfolio which will be turned in and finally graded towards the end of the semester.


Suggested Stages for Translations:

1) Carefully reread the original fragment. What does it mean? What are the main ideas?

2) Analyze the style. Is it formal, colloquial, technical, etc.? Is the tone serious, ironic, humorous, etc.? What type of readership is it aimed at?

3) Identify lexical and syntactical problems: usage, metaphors, technical terms, false cognates, slang, grammatical structures without direct equivalent, etc.

4) Write a first draft of the translation. Are there still unresolved lexical problems?

5) Reread the draft while comparing it to the original. Has the meaning or “spirit” of the original been lost or distorted?  What can be done to correct this?

6) Proofread the revised draft for grammar and spelling. Correct any error.

7) Reread the corrected draft from the point of view of a reader who does not know the original text. Does it sound good or does it sound like a translation (awkward, not smooth or natural)? Make the necessary changes.

8) Read the translation once again, paying attention to the style. Will the translation produce a similar effect upon the reader as the original would have?



Code for Corrections:


G   =    Serious grammatical mistake

g   =    Grammatical mistake

o    =    spelling (ortografía)

v    =    Vocabulary 

s     =    Meaning has changed (significado)

a   =    Capitalize

A   =    Use lower case

~   =    Change the order

e    =    A problem of style (estilo). Awkward,

            lacks clarity, or does not sound good

T    =    Sounds like a translation

            Lexical or syntactic influence (Tl,Ts)

 /   =    Strike, eliminate

(  ) =    Unnecessary, could be eliminated




Textbook and materials:


*Soto Gamboa, María de los Ángeles. Nociones básicas de derecho. San José, Costa Rica: Editorial Universidad Estatal a Distancia, 1999.  (Obtain from the instructor.)


*Photocopies of practice texts.


*Good Spanish, English, and Spanish-English Dictionaries.


*Access to: a good legal dictionary (Black's Law Dictionary), a Diccionario jurídico or Diccionario de derecho, an English-Spanish law dictionary (Butterworth's), and María Moliner's Diccionario del uso. Most are available at the library and/or the Spanish Resource Center







Introducción al curso. 

Repaso de técnicas traductivas y su aplicación a la traducción legal.

Características del lenguaje jurídico.



Definición del derecho.  Normas jurídicas, sociales, morales, y religiosas.

Inscripciones de nacimiento.  Certificados de defunción.

[Lectura: Soto pp. 11 - 32]



El Estado moderno.  Las fuentes del derecho.

Certificados de matrimonio.  Certificados de divorcio.

[Lectura: Soto pp. 32 - 45]




Las ramas del derecho.  El derecho público.


[Lectura: Soto pp. 51 - 65]



El derecho privado.

Contratos civiles: varios.

[Lectura: Soto pp. 65 - 73]



Concepto básico del contrato.  Los contratos civiles.

Contratos civiles: compra-venta.

[Lectura: Soto pp. 81 - 89]



Clasificación de los contratos civiles.

Contratos civiles: alquiler y arrendamiento.

[Lectura: Soto pp. 89 - 96]




Clasificación de los contratos mercantiles.

Contratos y otros documentos mercantiles.

[Lectura: Soto pp. 96 - 102]


Examen parcial



Las sociedades civiles: concepto, caraterísticas y clasificación.

Documentos procesales (litigio civil).

[Lectura: Soto pp. 102 - 115]



El delito y la pena: conceptos.

Documentos relativos al Derecho Penal.

[Lectura:Soto pp. 121 - 136]



Traducción de la correspondencia legal.


[Lectura: artículo en fotocopia]




Derecho público y constitucional.

Documentos administrativos diversos.



Traducción de documentos de Inmigración.



El ejercicio de las profesiones legales: abogados y notarios.

Analogías y diferencias entre ambos sistemas.

Documentos relacionados con esas actividades.


*** Entregar carpetas (portfolios) hoy.



Examen Final   9:30 a 12:15 p.m. en DM-144.



¡Buena  suerte  y  feliz  verano!