The increasing availability of English-language translations of Greek laws on the Internet would seem, at first glance, as a blessing for any interested party: from international financiers seeking to familiarise themselves with the regulatory system governing the industry in which they wish to invest to legal practitioners trying to find the best way to word a Greek statute in English, and from law students with a need to familiarise themselves with English legal drafting to translators engaged to translate part or all of a law into English – or use English as a ‘bridge language’ for comprehension and subsequent translation.
However, those with an advanced command of the English language will soon realise that most of the translations found online suffer from a fatal flaw: poor quality.
These shortcomings concern all aspects of language, ranging from minor clerical errors like punctuation and spelling to extreme mistakes such as absent words or complete mistranslations of key terms, which at best hamper one’s understanding and at worst make the translation unusable or, worse, entail repercussions should one choose to use or reproduce it in a text of their own.
One might ask why this is the case – which would only lead to more questions:
There are few answers, satisfactory or otherwise, to most of these questions. Translations of Greek laws appear to take place on an ad hoc basis, as and when required, for various purposes. Whether or not they are ever updated, even to correct glaring typographical errors, remains a moot point.
Accordingly, their quality and usability varies.
For instance, the translations of the Hellenic Constitution and of the Standing Orders of the Hellenic Parliament, both of which can be found on the Hellenic Parliament website, are excellent, as one might expect given the stature of the institution. Other eminently usable translations can be found on the Bank of Greece website.
Sadly, these exceptional translations are just that – exceptions.
Anyone using search techniques, whether cursory or advanced, to find translations of pertinent Greek laws will soon be disappointed on several fronts:
Given this state of affairs, let us try to provide possible answers to all the above questions:
Why does the quality of English-language translations of Greek laws fluctuate so wildly?
Because they were translated by different people, at different times, each with different tools at their disposal and with different expectations from the commissioner of the translation.
Why are there no official, government-sanctioned translations of Greek laws?
Because the need for them is not immediately apparent and, even if that need were to be identified, the task would be passed on to the commissioner of the translation.
Why is there no editorial oversight?
Because there is no post at the agencies hosting these translations on their website for English-language control over such texts.
Who commissions these translations, usually found on governmental agencies’ websites? And why, after having received the texts, do they consider them as final versions of satisfactory quality?
These translations may be commissioned by divisions or departments within Greek ministries or authorities, perhaps in order to fulfil a statutory obligation on their part (e.g. if the European Commission has asked the Greek government to provide a translation of a law, and the government has delegated the task to the competent ministry or authority).
As for the quality of the final texts received and uploaded, we must once again assume that no one has been tasked with reviewing their quality and, even if they were tasked to do so, would lack the faculties necessary to identify the texts’ shortcomings.
Why is it that translations clearly dated five or ten years ago have remained unchanged for so long?
Because foreign-language translations of Greek laws are an afterthought in most cases. Greek laws are only translated if and when the need arises – and once translated, there is rarely if ever any reason to go back and add inserted articles or strike those deleted.
Has no one pointed out their errors to the governmental agencies in question? If they have, why haven’t they been rectified?
We are not aware of any such inquiries. Any we have made have never been replied to.
As language service providers dealing with primary and secondary legislative texts on a daily basis, the gap outlined above is more than apparent to us. Indeed, it is one we aim to bridge going forward, starting with Greek Corporate Governance Legislation, which we hope will serve as an authoritative version for its intended audience.
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