Working Method of Translation Committee


Who says the same differently, says something different

Who says the same differently, says something different



This quote of Paul Scholten(‘Afscheidsrede’ (Farewell Speech), 499) has recently been chiseled in stone and put up above the gate at the Kloveniersburgwal, giving entrance to the Oude Manhuispoort buildings, where from old the law faculty of the University of Amsterdam has been housed. This was done within the framework of the so-called Citatenproject of the University of Amsterdam. The fact that this has been done recently, tells something about the abiding value many members of this law faculty attribute to the ideas of Paul Scholten.
The same abiding recognition is poortexpressed by the fact that of one of the research centers of this faculty is named The Paul Scholten Centre.

The quote got a special meaning for those who set out to make a translation of Paul Scholten’s famous General Part. It meant that the attempt was made to make this translation as literal as possible. Only when it would risk really driving away English readers, compromises were made.
An extra reason for this translation-strategy was the fact that the translation would probably be primarily used as a lingua franca by readers for whom the English language is not their mother tongue. Dutch legal terms will often be nearer to French or German words than to English as the countries share in many ways a common legal tradition.

As a preparation for the decision how to proceed with the job of making a translation, the board of the Paul Scholten project studied the report, made by the Center for International Legal Cooperation (Cilc) about the translation of Dutch Laws in English. (English Summary Cilc)
One of the main recommendations of the report was to realize a cooperation between experts, a translator and a native speaker.

From the beginning on the plan was accepted to organize the input of experts by putting a first draft of the translation on a website and invite a broad public to annotate this draft with the help of a blog.
At first the board tried to find a professional translator and a native speaker, but this was stopped when it became clear that there was no budget for this. Then it was decided that the translation would be made by volunteers from the board, while a PHD student of the law faculty  Cassandra Steer – offered help as native speaker.

This way a Translation Committee (TC) was formed, consisting of two experts in Legal Theory and one native speaker. The committee didn’t strive for unanimity. Whenever there arose a discussion about the best way to translate a certain phrase, this was decided by following the choice of the majority. At the same time however a research question or a comment of the TCwas formulated to accompany the draft of the translation which would be posted on the web. This replacement of discussions within the translation committee by the attempt to elicit a discussion on the web, made the hard work of the translation committee easy and pleasant.

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