Contracts and agreements between two individuals, businesses, or government agencies are standard practice. In an increasingly globalized world, these contracts and agreements frequently have to be prepared, checked, and signed by parties who do not necessarily share the same language. That means that the contracts and agreements must be first fully translated accurately before they can be used.

What is contract translation?

Contracts and agreements are typically legal documents setting out the arrangements that have been agreed to or are to be agreed to between two or more parties. Like any other legal documents, if they need to be translated (and this is becoming a much more common requirement these days), the translation must be done by a competent translation agency or individual translator. Translation services tend to be specialized, so different translators will offer different language pairs as well as specialized content translation. For example, one translator may specialize in medical document translations, while another in marketing translations such as website translations, and yet another in legal document translations. Contracts and agreements, therefore, fall under the legal document umbrella and should be translated by experienced legal document translators.

Common contracts are those relating to sales and purchases, employment contracts, privacy policies, terms and conditions, business contracts between international partners or subsidiaries, and government agreements such as licenses to operate a business.

What is the benefit of translating your contracts?

The most obvious benefit of translating a contract or agreement is that it will be understood by all those who need to appraise it and sign it. There may be a misconception amongst certain business managers that English or another major language should be understood everywhere, but this is definitely not the case and is a dangerous assumption. It is easy to imagine, for example, a situation in which a contract has been prepared in English and presented for appraisal in a country where English is not a commonly used language. The danger of misunderstanding is then extremely high and it probably would lead to all sorts of potential problems, including an unintentional breach of contract. 

What are the challenges in translating contracts? 

The main challenge involved in translating contracts and agreements is the use of legal terminology specific to at least two different countries and a potential difference in legal systems and laws. This may mean modifying the contract or agreement to take these into consideration before presenting the documents for translation. As has been already mentioned above, contracts and agreements are legal documents and it is vital that when they are translated that they are translated by translators who have a good background in legal documents, preferably in the drawing up of contracts and agreements. It is good practice to work with a legal document translator before the final documents are actually drawn up to ensure that there is no confusion when terms are substituted without recognition of differences between two countries’ systems. For example, the French legal system and the U.S. legal system are based on different sets of laws – the French are based on civil law, whereas the U.S. is based on common law. When clauses are drawn up, this can create challenges in devising the actual wording so that there are no contradictions between the two systems.


The drawing up of contracts and agreements are standard practice in many areas of ordinary life. Increasingly, they are an essential part of doing business on an international scale. Although contract and agreement translation may be necessary within a multilingual society (e.g. countries like Switzerland where there are at least three official languages), they are certainly an essential part of contracts and agreements between international parties where languages are different. Contracts and agreements are legal documents and should be translated by specialized legal translators who have a good understanding of differences in legal systems and legal terminology relating to contracts and agreements.