Legal Translation, Multilingual Document Language Translation and Expanded Foreign Language Contract Laws

Multilingual legal translation services rendered by legal translation professionals play an important role in contract law.  SB 146 and AB 309, also known as expanded foreign language contract laws, were signed into law in 2003.  Businesses in California are required to translate every term and condition of the contract, if the negotiation or agreement was done primarily in any one of these languages: Spanish (SB 146), Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Korean (AB 309). Jointly, these would apply only to specified consumer contracts, such as:  car sales and leases; retail installments, certain secured and unsecured loans for personal, family or household purposes, rental agreements and legal service fee agreements.

The California Motor Car Dealers Association argued that several problems could occur if lending companies (to whom the contract is subsequently assigned) are not notified that foreign language translation was rendered.  If substantial changes are needed in the document, lending companies bear the obligation of providing a new round of foreign language translation.  Without a statutorily mandated disclosure, lenders may find it difficult to provide the appropriate translation services for clients on time.  Far worse, they cuddle contracts without knowing whether a contract was negotiated in one of the covered languages or not, and whether the Korean, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Spanish translation already exists. Thus, the lenders become more susceptible to committing a violation, which may later result in the rescission of the contract.

While there is some merit in the above argument, the Senate Judiciary Committee (2003-2004) firmly believed that market forces will drive either the dealers or the banks to provide translations.  Furthermore, both the lending companies and car dealers should exercise due diligence to avoid any mistake or excusable neglect by ensuring that consumers have completed the disclosure requirement as they would propose.


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