Translating EU texts

Not every translation can be approached in the same manner. Every topic has its own rules, and sometimes even the client has alternative instructions that must be complied with. The good thing about translating EU texts is that there are established rules for almost everything. There is an abundance of sources filled with instructions regarding language and style, making our job easier. Or maybe just the opposite.

The more rules there are, the more likely it is that you are going to make a mistake.

This is why today we will teach you some of the most basic instructions for translating EU texts and, hopefully, help you in creating the basic knowledge that you can then upgrade.


  1. Check all sources.

If you have received reference documents for the translation, you must use them. Also, if there is a provision, regulation, act or something similar mentioned in your text, make sure to find and open them, because there is a reason why they are mentioned. You will surely find something of use, and you cannot make up translations if there is an official translation to be found. EUR-Lex and Ctrl+F are your allies.

  1. No additions or omissions.

Your duty as a translator is to translate everything that is written. In legal texts there is no artistic freedom like there is in, for example, tourism or literature texts. Follow what is written in the original text, even if you encounter a mistake. You can possibly write a comment in the translation in which you explain the existing mistake in the original.

It is unacceptable to interpret the text in any way, invent new attitudes or insert additional explanations within the text. If the sentence in the original sounds ambiguous, try to keep that ambiguity in your translation. But this does not mean that you will translate everything literally. You will translate so that your text sounds as clear as possible in the target language, while simultaneously being as close to the original as possible.

  1. Find several examples of the text being translated.

Regardless of whether you are translating an act, regulation or a contract, try to find several similar acts/regulations/contracts so that you can see their format and the established expressions that must be used in the target language. As we said, such things are prescribed, and they must be followed.

  1. Find as many style guides as possible.

In order for you to get used to the style and manner of writing, you need to find as many reliable sources as possible. Translating texts for the EU is actually quite different from translating other types of texts. The majority can’t be improvised, and you will surely make mistakes in the beginning. This is why you firstly need to prepare well, and EU websites have got you covered! Read the Interinstitutional Style Guide, English Style Guide and every other piece of official literature you can find, write down the most important points and have them at hand in case you need to check something. That way you will learn something, or at the very least know where to find what you need.

  1. Read and understand.

After you have translated your text, go through it once again. Read everything you’ve written with understanding and additionally form the sentence so that it is clearer, if necessary. Be focused and aware of what you have translated. It is very easy to get lost in the verbiage that you don’t understand. But how can you expect anyone to understand what you have translated if you don’t understand it yourself? Therefore, study the relevant acts and try to understand individual terms, which will lead to a high-quality translation.

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As everything in life, you need practice if you want to create high-quality translations for the EU. You won’t know everything at once, nor should you expect it. Regardless of the experience you have in other types of translation, you will need additional preparation for this. Having in mind the fact that such translations will become a part of the law of a certain state, it is very important to pay attention to their quality.

Good luck!

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