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Multilingual Legal Glossary

I know what it is like to try to communicate in a foreign language. I remember a visit to Madrid’s Bibilioteca Nacional (National Library), where I tried to do research for a book I was writing. Crushed by the limits of my skills in Spanish, I left the building in tears (and never finished the book).

Simple cross-cultural communication can be hard enough, but a legal situation can have very high stakes (that is, be very important) for the people involved. For that reason, the online Multilingual Legal Glossary was a pleasure to find. A project of Vancouver Community College, in Vancouver, British Columbia, the site provides translated definitions of 5000 legal terms–from English into Chinese (Simplified), Farsi, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. For Punjabi, it provides a downloadable Anmol font.

I searched for recidivism, motion to vacate, and settlement just to see how the site works. Beyond just settlement, my choices were amicable settlement, debt settlement, fair settlement, lump-sum settlement, and out-of-court settlement.

Although I can only vouch for the Spanish (in my limited way), I can say that the site is straightforward and simple to use. It also uses plain language.

If you use legal terms in your business writing and may need to include translations, try the Multilingual Legal Glossary.

Thank you, Cheryl Stephens, for sending me a flyer about the site.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.