The internet has made international commerce easier. No longer does a company have to be large and powerful to have an international presence. But the comparative ease of doing international business is accompanied by legal requirements that many companies may never have encountered before. Suppose you hire someone in another country to do contract work for you, or suppose there is a dispute over something you sell in another country. Legal cases involving contracts are inherently complicated, and when parties to a legal issue speak different languages, they're even more complex.
Boilerplate Language Designating English as the "Official Language" Is Insufficient
Some business owners may believe that adding basic boilerplate contract language declaring English as the official language of the contract is sufficient for making a contract legal and enforceable in other countries, but that is not so. Any contract that doesn't comply with jurisdictional requirements in other countries can be ruled invalid and unenforceable. Many countries require that all contracts be made in the local language, even if both parties to the contract speak English, and in these cases, a professional translation is required.
Any company doing business in non-English speaking countries must understand the rules of contracts in those countries, or else they could end up with contracts that are unenforceable. Professional legal translators with subject-specific knowledge of law, science, engineering, insurance or other topics relevant to the contract are necessary to ensure that contracts are accurate and meet legal requirements in those countries so that they will be valid and enforceable.
Enforcing Judgments Made in One Country in Other Countries
When a legal judgment is rendered in one country, it may not be enforceable in another country. If a contract made in, say, the United States, is to be enforceable in a non-English speaking country, it must include an accurate translation. Additionally, while an accurate translation by a professional translator is necessary for a contract to be enforceable abroad, it isn't sufficient. It's important for those creating an international contract to consider where a dispute is most likely to be raised. If it's more likely that a dispute will be raised in another country, where another language is spoken, then it makes more sense for that country's language to be the official language of the contract, with English versions of the contract made for reference.
When Disputes Are More Likely to Arise in Foreign Countries
Many US companies are learning to navigate the legal environment surrounding contracts with manufacturers in China. For a contract to be enforceable in China, it must be litigated through the Chinese court system, under Chinese law, and the governing language must be Chinese. Non-Chinese speaking US clients who have contracts with Chinese suppliers may be uncomfortable having contracts in a language they do not understand, but it's required by China, and an English translation of the contract can be created for reference purposes. Different nations have different rules about what evidence is admissible in court, and this too often requires that documents be translated professionally.
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