Common mistakes in Italian to English legal translations (part 1)


If you sometimes come across certain words in Italian to English legal translations that don’t sound quite right or leave you scratching your head, it’s probably because the translation is too literal or unsuitable for the context in question.

Knowing how legal terminology is used matters so that the appropriate translation for a word or phrase can be used. Being bilingual isn’t enough and things can get pretty confusing if careful attention isn’t given to the specialist terminology involved in legal documents.

What causes these mistakes?

  • Not all translators are familiar with legal texts;

  • There are major differences between legal systems, which means a particular concept in one system might not exist in another;

  • Some words have way too many different meanings.

Here are some of the most common mistakes that I’ve seen translators make in the Italian to English language combination. Some of these aren’t too bad or necessarily wrong because you can still understand what the translator is trying to convey, but it doesn’t hurt to brush up on one’s legalese.

Per/di cui è causa
✗ For which it is cause
✓ In question or at issue

Curatela (finance)
✗ Curator
✓ Receiver or administrator (receivership/administration also work depending on the sentence).

Trattamento (when discussing data/GDPR)
✗ Treatment
✓ Processing

Titolare del trattamento
✗ Data holder
✓ Data Controller

Responsabile del trattamento
✗ Data manager
✓ Data Processor

Conferma di credito
✗ Credit confirmation
✓ Facility letter

Fondo d’ammortamento
✗ Redemption fund
✓ Sinking fund

Inammissibile come prova (on correspondence)
✗ Inadmissible as evidence
✓ Without prejudice

Testimone essenziale
✗ Essential witness
✓ Material witness (US)

Statuto sociale
✗ Company statute
✓ Articles of Association (UK) or bylaws (US)