Merrill Brink News Reviews and Opinion on Feb 21, 2015: English is an Official Language of German Courts, But You Still Need German Translations

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http://www.merrillbrink.com -- In cross-border disputes, legal translations are commonly required, as the parties involved frequently need to translate their supporting materials into the official language of the court.

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Because of this prevalence of English language in business, many English-speaking parties whose cases are being heard in German courts are often uncomfortable at the prospect of having their trials conducted entirely in German.

In cross-border disputes, legal translations are commonly required, as the parties involved frequently need to translate their supporting materials into the official language of the court. In Germany, however, the courts have allowed cases under German law to be heard in English, eliminating the need for English-speaking parties to translate their documents and evidence into German. Nonetheless, it is still wise to translate your materials as a best practice to minimize risk.

The following sections provide important context to Germany’s acceptance of English as an official language of its courts and why it is important to engage a language services provider to perform your German legal translations.

English as a Second Official Court Language in Germany
Despite the growing demand for language translation to support global business, international business dealings are still largely conducted in English. Indeed, most cross-border contracts are written and negotiated in English, and many German companies are affiliated with or owned by English-speaking corporations. Because of this prevalence of English language in business, many English-speaking parties whose cases are being heard in German courts are often uncomfortable at the prospect of having their trials conducted entirely in German. Instead, these parties prefer to have their cases arbitrated in courts that allow the use of English throughout the proceedings. In an effort to bring these cases back to the German courts, the states of North Rhine–Westphalia and Hamburg proposed the establishment of English as a second official court language in 2010.1 The proposal was accepted, and in May 2010 the case of BDC International vs. Bonner Elektrotechnikgruppe Moeller Schadenersatz was the first to be conducted in English as it was heard in a German court.2

In order to use English during the proceedings, both parties had agree to its use, and the presiding judge was required to have proficiency in English while in a master of laws program or through employment at an international law firm before working as a judge.3

Why Translating Legal Documents into German is Important
It is in your best interest to have German translations of your materials on hand during the proceedings even if they’re not strictly required. Remember, your case is being heard under German law, which is written in German, no matter which language is used during the hearing. Therefore, when English is used as the case’s primary language, a linguistic “gap” exists between the law and the proceedings.4 To minimize potential disagreements over precise definitions and word choices—particularly as they relate to technical terms—it helps to have accurate translations of crucial documents on hand. This allows all parties, regardless of their native languages, to be certain they agree on details that may ultimately determine the outcome of the case.

Using English during hearings in German courts may make many aspects of the legal process easier, but it still presents the potential for complications and misunderstandings, especially if a case is highly technical or involves specific phrasings of ideas. To minimize your risk related these issues, partner with a language services provider that has translators who are native to Germany and knowledgeable about the German legal system.

References
1 Miriam Lichstein and Oliver Seyd, “English as an Official Language of the German Courts: Lost in Translation?” International Law Office, April 6, 2010, http://www.internationallawoffice.com/newsletters/detail.aspx?g=f8867ec1-f103-49b9-a2b6-aa6916974518.
2 “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” The European Lawyer, June 2010, http://www.wegnerpartner.de/site/pdf/ael.pdf.
3 Ibid.
4 “English as an Official Language of the German Courts.”

Full article: http://www.merrillbrink.com/you-still-need-german-translations-in-german-courts-02162015.htm

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Merrill Brink International (http://www.merrillbrink.com) is a leading provider of complete translation and language solutions for global companies and law firms, with special expertise in serving the legal, financial, life sciences, software, heavy machinery and corporate markets. A proven leader with more than 30 years of experience, Merrill Brink offers a wide range of language solutions including translation, localization, desktop publishing and globalization services.

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