Machine Translation in the Field of Law: A Study of the Translation of Italian Legal Texts into German

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Abstract

With the advent of the neural paradigm, machine translation has made another leap in quality. As a result, its use by trainee translators has increased considerably, which cannot be disregarded in translation pedagogy. However, since legal texts have features that pose major challenges to machine translation, the question arises as to what extent machine translation is now capable of translating legal texts or at least certain types of legal text into another legal language well enough so that the post-editing effort is limited, and, consequently, whether a targeted use in translation pedagogy can be considered. In order to answer this question, DeepL Translator, a machine translation system, and MateCat, a CAT system that integrates machine translation, were tested. The test, undertaken at different times and without specific translation memories, provided for the translation of several legal texts of different types utilising both systems, and was followed by systematisation of errors and evaluation of translation results. The evaluation was carried out according to the following criteria: 1) comprehensibility and meaningfulness of the target text; and 2) correspondence between source and target text in consideration of the specific translation situation. Overall, the results are considered insufficient to give post-editing of machine-translated legal texts a bigger place in translation pedagogy. As the evaluation of the correspondence between source and target text was fundamentally worse than with regard to the meaningfulness of the target text, translation pedagogy should respond by raising awareness about differences between machine translation output and human translation in this field, and by improving translation approach and strengthening legal expertise.

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