Can’t read, won’t sign – the importance of bilingual contracts

Can’t read, won’t sign – the importance of bilingual contracts

When dealing with international businesses, your clients may require contracts to be drafted in several languages - even where all parties have an understanding of the language the original contract was drafted in. There are several reasons why having a contract translated is important. 

Good business practice

For solicitors who have international business clients, providing accurate translations of the contract into the native language of all parties to the contract is good practice. Business contracts can be complicated, and even where the parties have a good understanding of the source language, they may be apprehensive about signing a contract that they are not confident they fully understand. Carrying out complex transactions in their own language, or at least in a language they are fully comfortable with, can make the transaction proceed smoothly, with all parties confident and comfortable with what has been agreed. 

In addition, having the contract translated can ensure your client’s business relationship runs smoothly and that all obligations are fulfilled on time and to the expected standard. If a contract term is not fulfilled, the failing party will not be able to rely on the defence that they did not understand the contract if they have been provided with an accurate translation in their native or working language. 

Legal validity of the contract

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the validity of legal contracts in another language. Many believe that a contract in any language is legally binding, while others assume that unless a contract is in the official language of the jurisdiction, it lacks all validity. Neither of these are strictly true, and what it usually comes down to the capacity of the parties to the contract to understand what they are agreeing to.

In principle, the language chosen to draft a private contract does not inherently affect its validity or the parties' obligations to the contract in most jurisdictions. If the contract is well drafted and the parties can understand the contract, any language may be used. 

If a client signs a contract in a language they do not understand fully, is it legally binding? 

The answer to this question will depend on the circumstances. However, in most jurisdictions, the law provides that both parties to a contract must understand what they are agreeing to and the consequences of the agreement. However, it is typical for international contracts to be signed in two languages to ensure that all parties are secure in their understanding of the contract terms. A contract in a foreign language will not be enforceable if it can be proven that one of the parties did not understand it. 

Avoiding contract disputes

Having international contracts translated isn’t just about getting the contract over the line, but it can also ensure the contract is enforceable and can help your client to avoid disputes at a later stage. Even business contacts with a good understanding of the contract language may easily misunderstand a key contract term which could have significant consequences for your client’s business.

Having an accurately translated version of the contract ensures all parties fully understand their obligations and can lead to a much smoother business relationship. 

The role of accurate legal translation in international contracts

Every business which targets multilingual audiences requires various legal translation services to ensure they are protected. As we have discussed above, legal translation services can ensure there are no delays in signing contracts, build your client’s brand, avoid contract disputes and can ensure their business operations run smoothly. So, the next time a client asks whether they need a contract translated for an international client, we would recommend that you advise them to do so. 

Contact IMD Translation - International Contract Translation

If you require an international contract translation, our expert translators can help you. Our skilled team members have an excellent understanding of the importance of international contracts to your client’s business, and have the attention to detail and experience you need. We offer a fast turnaround, exceptional accuracy, and high-quality service. To discuss your needs with us today, please get in touch.