Since the beginning of the 21st century, international business activities has become more and more frequent among countries. With China’s position on the world stage becoming higher day by day, China has also become more and more active in the international market.
Nowadays, English, as one of the most popular and important official languages in the field of economy and trade ,is commonly used in international business. According to related statistic, almost 90% of the 1.6 billion English-speaking people, including people who use it as mother tongue, a second language or a foreign language, deal with business English , from which we can see how widely the business English is used.
One of the important features of language is its functionality. Business English follows the rule without exception. The business that we carry out exist in different fields, such as trade, finance, insurance, investment, tourism, labor services, etc, while none of the above business activity can go on smoothly and successfully without a contract, which is the written form of business English.
Contracts, as the basic and significant guarantee for normally carrying on and smoothly accomplishing a trade, play an important role. Therefore, in terms of international business, the translation of business contracts becomes especially important.
General principles of translation are not efficient for business contract translation due to the traits of contracts and contractual language. This paper analyzes the features of contractual translation through the study on contracts and contractual language. The author puts forward the view that the specific criteria for contractual translation should be “faithfulness and accuracy; expressiveness and smoothness”. With examples taken from business contracts translation and problems occurred in personal practice, the author bring forward some methods dealing with the translation of words, in which the author studies the application of the criteria to real practice.
Function and Effect
The legal nature of contracts makes them the most important documentary evidence for the involved parties to carry out business and protect their rights and profits. Once a contract is made, its sanction of law comes into effect. So contracts are always in association with law. As the philosopher David Humor said, “Law and edict are made and promulgated by words.” As an instrument of expression, language must be consistent with the traits of the language environment it is used. Therefore, it will have its own features at the same time.
In the process of making a contract, in order to make sure of the integrality and perspicuity of the contract, identify the right and obligation of the involved parties, and avoid different interpretations, contract makers gradually endue contractual language some features: being rigorous, accurate, and normative. These are the three main features of contractual language. And it is these features that result in high demand in contract translation.
Embodiment of the Features
Naira, in his monograph Language, Culture and Translation, viewed language as” being formed by four elements: phonetics, words, sentence structures and writings”.
 Except the phonetic feature, the other three are all written. S forms of language o the features of contractual language can be mainly studied from three aspects: words, sentence structures and writing formats. To put it concretely, for example, the format of both English and Chinese contracts is very similar, which goes from general principles to detail clauses, from the macro part to the micro part. In terms of sentence structures, the sentences using in contracts are often in statement form. Questions, imperative sentences and exclamatory sentences are never adopted. The sentences are usually with additional components like adverbial clauses, attributive clauses, etc, which are used to make sure of the integrality and perspicuity of the contract, identify the right and obligation of the involved parties, and avoid the possibility of making mistakes or causing different interpretations.
Criteria of Contract Translation
General Translation Criteria
After viewing the traits of contracts and contractual language, we can get down to the criteria for business contract translation.
As we all know, since the existence of translation, the criteria for the process is always under discussion. Nowadays the principle of faithfulness, expressiveness and elegance (which in Chinese is “信、达、雅” ) advocated by Yan Fu is still the general guide in Chinese translation fields. According to my own understanding, for the three criteria, faithfulness is the basic requirement, which is a necessity for any kinds of translation. Expressiveness is the central factor. It makes the translation work understandable, so it is an important criterion for a successful translation. Then Elegance pays attention to rhetoric, which reflects the aesthetic pursuit in a translation course, and is the most a
dvanced level among the three.
Specific Criteria for Contractual Translation
The particularity of different translation activities requires the integration of the general principles with practical translation work. The contractual translation is even more such a case. Contracts’ feature as documentary evidence for the involved parties to carry out business and protect their rights and profits brings forward the requirement for the translation of them.
A correct comprehension of the original text is the chief factor for the translation. And the effect of contracts and the features of contractual language require that the translation be faithful to the original text and as accurate and expressive as possible. To put it concretely, we here name the criteria for contractual translation as faithfulness and accuracy,expressiveness and smoothness.
Application of the Criteria
General Guide Principle
Sappier mentioned,” the real meaningful part of language is the words made up by a series of sound, or the meaningful part of a word, or a phrase.” So the study of words is the most basic study, which is also of equal importance. The author will go on further study focusing on the basic language element ---- word.The view of context is a general principle in dealing with word translation. Most words in both Chinese and English have more than one meaning. In different language environment, a word may carry different meanings. Forth pointed out “the meaning of a word is changing according to the context it is used in”. Darioff also said “the meaning of a word with multi-interpretations is always revealed through the context it is used in.” The style of the contract has very strong logicality. The relation between words and words, sections and sections, is interdependent and they restrict each other. So we should understand the meaning of a word and choose a proper interpretation all-roundly and objectively, rather than isolatedly, statically and one-sidedly while translating. When we come across the problem of choosing words, no matter they are synonyms or words with multi-interpretations; we should keep in mind the view of context and try to make the translation faithful, accurate, expressive and smooth.
According to the principles given above, the following version may be better.
Choice of Synonyms
Synonyms occupy quite a large amount in English. They are also commonly seen in contracts. When coming across synonyms, the translator must make correct choice. Otherwise, the improper choices of synonyms may have bad effect on the right and obligation of the involved parties and even cause dispute on the performing of contracts. So how to choose synonyms is one of the problems needed to be concerned. There the author will introduce three aspects to be considered for choosing synonyms: considering the connotation, considering the grammar and considering the style.
Considering the Connotation
Considering the connotation is one of the effective ways. The synonyms may seem very similar in the surface meaning. However, when we study their connotation, we’ll find that they actually possess individuality as well as commonness.
E.g.2 “to perform a contract ” and “to fulfill a contract ” are both commonly used in contracts which can be translated as . They are the same from the surface consideration. However, when we go deeper into their connotation, we’ll see the deference in their usage. The legal meaning of “perform” is “to do what one party is obliged to do by a contract;”, and the one of “fulfill” is “to do everything which is promised in a contract”. So the contract emphasizes that one party of the contract has fulfilled the concrete obligation prescribed in the contract, it should be “fulfill a contract”, Meanwhile, if the contract emphasizes in general that every responsibility and obligation of both sides defined in the contract should be fulfilled, relatively, “perform contract” is more suitable.
Considering the Grammar
Sometimes the choice of synonyms is made according to certain rule of grammar and sentence structure.
The Chinese wordis equivalent to “obey, observe, abide by, comply with” in English. When choosing from these words, we need to consider from the grammatical aspect. The subject of the sentence is （activity）, so here we should use “comply with” which means “to act in accordance with a provision, rule, demand”.
While for “observe and abide by”, they shall be used in sentences with the parties as the subject. So the whole sentence can be put as: All the activities of a joint venture shall comply with the provision of laws, decrees and pertinent regulations of the People’s Republic of China.
Considering the Style
We have mentioned that the contractual language is rigorous, accurate, and normative. So the choice of synonyms should also be faithful to the contractual style. The translator should choose formal and normative words in contractual translation.
“To have the right”, “ to keep the right” and “to reserve the right” are all correct for the translation of. But “reserve” is special word for legal English, which means “to have a specified power of right in law”. So here we should use “reserve”. Like for ， the English expression is “All rights deserved”. For the word ,in English, there are “cancel, abolish, call off”, etc. But “rescind” has the exact meaning of “cancel a contract or an agreement”. So the whole text can be put as “The seller reserves the right to rescind the Confirmation without further notice.”
Words with Multi-interpretations
In contractual English, the phenomena of one word with multi-meaning or one meaning expressed by several words is comparatively common. To understand these meanings and words thoroughly, still we should think about the context and choose carefully according to the specific situation.
“Discount” in E.g.7 means “amount of money taken off the cost of sth” . This meaning is commonly used in the field of business trade. While in E.g.8, it means “the amount of money deducted from the face value of a note”. This is usually used in banking.
Another place requiring translators’ attention is the translation of prepositions. In Chinese, prepositions are semi-empty words. They are often used in front of words or phrases to indicate direction, location, the object and the aim. But there are not as many prepositions as those in English, and the prepositions in English don’t have that many usages either. There are quite a lot of prepositions in English and they are commonly used in expressions. Sometimes, although there aren’t any prepositions in a Chinese sentence, we should understand the logical relation in the original text and maybe need to add proper preposition to reflect the logical relation.
The translation version is “A contractual joint venture shall, upon the expiration or termination in advance of its term, cancel its registration with administrative authorities for industry and commerce and the tax authorities.” Here is a concept of time, the adding upon reveals the logical relation hidden in the original text.
This contract is entered into on October 2, 1997 by and between Party A and Party B
The Chinese word in the original text is put into “by and between” instead of “by”. This adding preposition not only reflects the contractors, but also reveals the contractual relationship between the involved parties.
Dealing with Prepositions
Sometimes in dealing with E-C translation, translators may ignore the strong terminative function of prepositions and make mistakes.
E.g.11 “Site” means the land and other places on, under, in or through which the Permanent Works or Temporary Works designed by the Engineer are to be executed.
The prepositions “on, under, in or through” in the original text is deleted without explanation. This obviously disobeys the criteria we mentioned above. And the lack of specific restriction may cause a lot of problems on rights and profits of the parties during the construction process. For example, how to treat the treasure dig out from the earth? So, the preposition must be translated exactly as the way they are used. The whole text may be put as followed:
In conclusion, due to the traits and special effect of business contracts, the contractual translation has its own features and criteria. In the process of translating business contracts, faithfulness and accuracy is the chief criteria, expressiveness and smoothness is the higher-level criteria for a successful translation. For the treatment of word, the view of context is very important. The methods introduced in the paper cannot cover all the effective ways. But the proper application of them may avoid making unnecessary mistakes.