Translating Contracts for Spanish Speakers in the US

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Spanish Contract Translation: Is it becoming more important?

The United States has roughly 41 million native Spanish speakers with another 11 million that consider themselves bilingual. That means there are more Spanish speakers in the US than countries like Spain and Colombia. By the year 2050, the US Census Bureau estimates the number will grow to 138 million Spanish speakers.

Companies doing business in the US have taken notice to this growing customer segment and labor force, and have invested in translating content into Spanish. Beyond their websites and marketing collateral, this translation effort also includes a company’s legal contracts and agreements which they have with their customers, suppliers, and employees. This is particularly common in states like Florida, Texas, and California, which make up 55% of the total Hispanic population in the US.

Translating contracts to Spanish for use in the US does not require the same adaption as translating a contract to be used in another country that speaks a different language (E.g., adaption of legal system, legal writing style, etc). However, it does take some skill and thoughtfulness to make sure the business is best protected. Below are a few tips when translating your business contracts to Spanish for use in the US jurisdiction.

Add a Prevailing Clause to Your Contract

In case of any future dispute, it is best practices to add a ‘Prevailing Language’ clause that tells the signatories that, should there be any discrepancies between the translation and the source document, the English version will prevail in court. Given the contracts will be used in the US and governed by its laws (and likely drafted in English), it is best practices to have the English version prevail. Below are a few sample clauses:

Prevailing Language. The English language version of this Agreement shall be controlling in all respects and shall prevail in case of any inconsistencies with translated versions, if any.

Prevailing Language. The Agreement has been prepared in both English and Spanish versions. In case of conflict, the English version shall prevail.

This Agreement is made in English and Spanish. In the event of a dispute as to the terms of this Agreement the English version shall prevail.

Leave US-Specific Laws and Regulations in English

There are many instances where words or concepts do not have exact equivalents in other languages. This is particularly true when it comes to local laws and regulations that may be specific to one country. For the purpose of clarity and specificity, it may be good practice to leave US-specific Laws and Regulations in English, even though it is a translation to Spanish, given they likely do not have an equivalent in Spanish. Transliterating is employed by some translators, but if you transliterate, always also provide the law or regulation in English so it is crystal clear what the transliteration refers to. Using a sample parenthesis can be an effective solution. Please see examples below:

IRS statement 1099 (“Constancia de Impuestos 1099”)

401(k) plans (los “Planes 401(k)”)

While these two tips may seem minor, they can be powerful tools to make sure your Spanish contracts do not create any new risk for your business.

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