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Course design and lesson planning in
legal translation training
Adelina Gmez Gonzlez-Jover
a
a
University of Alicante, Translation and Interpretation , Carretera
San Vicente s/n, 03690, San Vicente del Raspeig, Alicante,
Alicante, 03690, Spain
Published online: 27 Sep 2011.
To cite this article: Adelina Gmez Gonzlez-Jover (2011) Course design and lesson planning
in legal translation training, Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, 19:3, 253-273, DOI:
10.1080/0907676X.2011.592201
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0907676X.2011.592201
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Course design and lesson planning in legal translation training
Adelina Go mez Gonzalez-Jover*
University of Alicante, Translation and Interpretation, Carretera San Vicente s/n, 03690, San
Vicente del Raspeig, Alicante, Alicante 03690, Spain
(Received 7 October 2009; nal version received 31 October 2010)
One of the questions traditionally posed in forums of legal translation training
and teaching is whether legal translations should be done by translators or jurists.
Very often, the answer lies halfway, and current theoreticians agree that a double
competence, in both translation and law, is the most adequate solution. In
accordance with this idea, the present paper examines, on the one hand, the
pedagogical elements which should be considered when preparing a legal
translation course within the university context, and presents, on the other, a
model of lesson planning, in the light of the future European Higher Education
Area and according to the real needs of legal, sworn or court translators. Many of
the reflections contained in this paper stem from the pedagogical practice of legal
translation courses taught at the University of Alicante, and are also grounded in
the teaching experience of the author as a legal translation trainer.
Keywords: legal translation; training for translation of English legal texts; course
design; lesson planning; European Higher Education Area (EHEA)
1. Introduction
Legal translation is a broad term used to allude to a type of specialized translation or,
to be more precise, to the translation of specialized texts from the field of law.
1
Translation in the field of commerce, finance, economics, science, medicine, religion
or literature provides further examples of specialized translation, since specialized
knowledge of the subject matter being translated is required. As with other types of
specialized translation, there is much debate about whether the translator should be
a trained expert (i.e. a jurist) or a trained linguist (Gemar, 1988; Lavoie, 2003; Pelage,
1999). Despite the strong belief that jurists are almost automatically capable of
translating legal texts, legal translation scholars and trainers seem to agree that legal
translators need not necessarily be experts in the law (Alcaraz & Hughes, 2002;
Lavoie, 2003) but must nevertheless have a good grasp of the legal systems
underlying or supporting the texts (Alcaraz, 2007; Alcaraz & Hughes, 2002; Hjort-
Pedersen & Faber, 2005, p. 52; Roberts, 1987, p. 9; Smart, 1999, p. 1) and be highly
competent in legal conventions of the target and source texts (S

arcevic, 2000, p. 1).


Therefore, it would be disproportionate to assert categorically that jurists are
better qualified than linguists to translate, just because of the fact that they possess a
profound legal knowledge and because law is a profession of words [and the] tools
and objects of the law are language (Gemar, 1983, p. 84). In fact, apart from the
*Email: adelina.gomez@ua.es
Perspectives: Studies in Translatology
Vol. 19, No. 3, September 2011, 253273
ISSN 0907-676X print/ISSN 1747-6623 online
# 2011 Taylor & Francis
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0907676X.2011.592201
http://www.tandfonline.com
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subject-matter knowledge, knowledge within the sphere of communication (source
and target languages, genre and text conventions, and the translation process itself) is
equally important, as outlined by Sparer (2002, p. 275):
A text, whether legal or otherwise, is above all an instrument of communication. It does
not necessarily follow that lawyers or doctors, for example, will always have the
communication skills that guarantee their readers a text that is readily understood. (My
translation from French)
In recent decades, schools of translation and interpreting throughout the world
have begun to offer courses in legal translation, trainee translators are writing
doctoral theses, conferences and symposia are being held, and the literature on the
topic continues to grow. With regard to jurists and lawyers, they are becoming
progressively more interested in legal translation,
2
thus giving rise to an inter-
disciplinary and inspiring common place of study.
In the context of the translation and interpreting curriculum, it would be naive to
expect trainees to acquire the legal knowledge level of the legal professional.
Nevertheless, it is our duty to give students insights into the field of law and into the
legal factors influencing the communicative situations within said field (Sarcevic,
2000). In translation training, course design and lesson planning are primary tools to
implement a teaching-learning model according to the real needs of future legal
translators. What skills will future legal translators need? What competencies should
undergraduate translation programmes emphasize to develop such skills, behaviours
and knowledge to perform well within a legal translator role? How are legal topics
and translation practice best dealt with and incorporated into the syllabus? In order
be able to provide answers to these questions, the following pages will focus mostly
on the pedagogical elements that any legal course at university level must include,
and also on the skills which trainee legal translators and interpreters are required.
With this in mind, the contents of the present paper are grouped in two sections.
The first is essentially an outline of legal translation training in the Spanish
university system and in the light of the European Higher Education Area. The
second section presents a proposal of a legal translation course according to the
personal experience of the author in graduate and postgraduate programmes of
English-Spanish/Spanish-English legal translation. This part is further subdivided
into two subsections, one devoted to the concept of course design and the other to the
notion of lesson planning.
2. Legal translator training: old practices and new challenges
It was not until 1978 that the first University School of Translation and Interpreting
in Spain (EUTI) was created at the University of Barcelona, rapidly followed by
Granada (1979) and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (1988); and it was not until 1991
that the degree was consolidated. Unlike studies in foreign languages or philology,
Translation and Interpreting studies are aimed at the scientific training in the basic
and applied aspects of translating and interpreting (Curriculum 2000). In short, the
main purpose of curriculum design and programme planning within the framework
of university translation training is the development of a translation competence by
trainees. Kelly (2002, p. 14) defines this competence as the macro-competence
comprising the overall skills, abilities, knowledge and even the attitudes of
254 A. Gomez Gonzalez-Jover
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professional translators, who engage in translation as an expert activity. According to
this author, translation macro-competence can be further subdivided into seven sub-
competences: communicative and textual competence in at least two languages;
instrumental and professional competence; interpersonal competence; psycho-
physiological competence; subject-matter competence; cultural competence; and,
strategic competence. In line with the future bachelors degree, the new Translation
and Interpreting Curriculum to be implemented in 20102011 adds to the previous
model the extra-linguistic, the socio-cultural and the deontological competences. The
description of these competences allows for the outlining of both the general and
specific objectives and the learning outcomes for translation training curricula.
As far as legal translation is concerned, the Committee for Legal Translation and
Court Interpreting of the International Federation of Translation (IFT) points out
eight basic legal translation skills (Katschinka, 2003, p. 93):
(1) Good language skills (mother tongue and working languages, as LIT [Legal
Interpreters and Translators] work in both directions).
(2) A broad educational background (because of the different subjects which
they have to deal with).
(3) Knowledge of the culture and the legal system of the countries of the working
languages.
(4) Professional skills (code of ethics, code of good practice).
(5) Interpreting and translation skills (the two modes of language communica-
tion should not be separated, as they are both required in practical settings).
Although legal language did not become an object of study either in Spanish law
faculties or in language studies until the 1990s (due, on the one hand, to the major
role of UE drafting of legal documents and, on the other, to the development of LSP
research), the translation of legal texts was nevertheless an established reality long
before. In Spain, the appointment by means of an official examination of sworn
translators or court interpreters is regulated by the Office of Language Interpretation
of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
3
which recognizes the seal and signature of sworn
translators to certify official translations into Spanish. The Decree 79/1996
4
also
regulates the credentials for the official appointment. In accordance with the
provisions of this regulation, translator trainees must have graduated and have
obtained at least 24 credits in legal and/or economic translation and 16 credits in
Oral Interpreting to be able to apply for the title of sworn translator. According to
the Ministerial Order 1971/2002 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 out of the 24
credits of legal and economic translation must match courses specifically designated
with the name Legal and/or economic translation or, failing that, Specialized
translation, whenever the corresponding syllabuses offer those subjects. The
remaining 12 credits can be obtained by means of traineeships, duly supervised
and supported by the university, and/or a final dissertation on the topic of legal or
economic translation or interpreting.
In the curriculum design, this means having to give priority to this particular area
to the detriment of other specialized fields. According to Curriculum 2000 of the
University of Alicante, in order to be officially appointed sworn translator and
interpreter by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs without sitting for the official
examination, trainee translators may take the courses listed in Table 1; and also
one of the optional courses in Table 2, according to their language specialization:
Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 255
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Interpreting is a compulsory subject in the Degree of Translation and Interpret-
ing at the University of Alicante; thus, first-degree students must pass the two
courses in the subject listed in Table 3.
In this time of transformation within the European academic framework, any
proposal aimed at presenting new university teaching models cannot close its eyes to
the demands posed by the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) to be
accomplished by 2010. The implementation of a higher education area represents
a commitment by 46 European countries to undertake a series of reforms in their
education systems so that the mobility of students, teachers, researchers and
administrative staff, and the recognition of qualifications will be greatly enhanced.
5
The EHEA was first boosted by the Sorbonne Declaration (1998),
6
which laid the
foundation for the Bologna Process. The Bologna Declaration (1999)
7
outlined six
initial objectives for the development of a coherent and cohesive EHEA: (a) the
adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees; (b) the establish-
ment of a system of credits; (c) the promotion of mobility for students and academic
and administrative staff; (d) the promotion of European cooperation in quality
assurance with a view to developing comparable criteria and methodologies; (e) the
promotion of the European dimension in higher education. The subsequent Prague
Communique (2001)
8
added three objectives to the process: (a) lifelong learning; (b)
the active participation of higher education institutions and students; (c) promoting
the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area in a global setting. In
Berlin (2003)
9
doctoral studies and the synergy between the European Higher
Education Area and the European Research Area were added as objectives of the
process. The Bergen Communique (2005)
10
and the London Meeting (2007)
11
welcomed new members to the process. The Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Meeting held
2829 April 2009
12
continued to define the shape of the European Higher Education
Area.
In order to develop an adequate framework for implementing a curriculum which
will meet the needs of the EHEA, the Spanish National Agency for Quality
Assessment and Accreditation (ANECA) produced the White Paper for the Degree in
Translation and Interpreting. This paper examines, on the one hand, the European
higher education scene vis-a`-vis translation and interpreting and, on the other,
Table 1. Courses required to apply for the appointment of sworn translator and interpreter.
Course ECTS credits Year Type
Economic, Financial and Business Translation A/B, B/A I 6 3 Compulsory
Legal-Administrative Translation A/B, B/A I 6 3 Compulsory
Economic, Financial and Business Translation A/B, B/A II 6 4 Compulsory
Legal-Administrative Translation A/B, B/A II 5.5 4 Compulsory
Table 2. Courses required to apply for the appointment of sworn translator and interpreter
(according to languages).
Course ECTS credits Year Type
Advanced Legal Translation (English) 6 4 Optional
Advanced Legal Translation (French) 6 4 Optional
Advanced Legal Translation (German) 6 4 Optional
256 A. Gomez Gonzalez-Jover
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presents a series of recommendations addressed to Spanish universities for changes
to be undertaken in the light of European Convergence regarding higher education.
With a view to adapting to the challenges of a knowledge-based society and
economy, the White Paper for the Degree in Translation and Interpreting establishes
two distinct levels for the career: the first level refers to professional activity within
the context of international relationships (institutions and businesses), multilingual
interpersonal mediation, multilingual information management, text editing and
revision, correspondence between the mother tongue and two foreign languages, and
any other language assistance task involving the use of at least one foreign language,
such as general translation or liaison interpreting. The second level applies to experts
with any of the following profiles: specialized translation (particularly legal,
technical, audiovisual, literary translation and localization), terminology, and
conference interpreting.
Legal and sworn translation and interpreting deserve a special mention, since
they are articulated very differently within Europe. In France, for instance, sworn and
court translators and interpreters fall within the responsibility of Appellate Courts
which, when faced with a vacancy, may designate an applicant on examination of his/
her track record. In Switzerland the appointment depends on the requirements
stipulated by the cantons Federal Departments for Justice. In Denmark, graduates
of an MA degree in translation may register as sworn translators in the Ministry of
Economic and Business Affairs to work as court interpreters. For the time being, the
Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to make a statement on the
qualifications of sworn translators according to the new degree in Translation and
Interpreting, so failing a new order, the requirements to be applied are still those of
Ministerial Order 1971/2002.
The degree in Translation and Interpreting designed by the University of Alicante
to be implemented in 20102011 continues to give priority to legal translation, but
still regards the discipline as one of the many subject areas of special-purpose
translation, together with audiovisual, literary, economic, scientific and technical
translation. As far as the weight assigned to each course is concerned, it still allows
Table 3. Interpreting courses required to apply for the appointment of sworn translator and
interpreter.
Course ECTS credits Year Type
Consecutive Interpreting Techniques 9 3 Compulsory
Simultaneous Intrpreting Tecniques 9 4 Compulsory
Table 4. Courses required to apply for the appointment of sworn translator and interpreter
(according to the new degree).
Course ECTS credits Year Type
Legal Translation A/B, B/A I 6 3 Compulsory
Legal Translation A/B, B/A II 6 4 Compulsory
Advanced Legal Translation A/B, B/A 6 4 Optional
Economic Translation A/B, B/A I 6 4 Compulsory
Economic Translation A/B, B/A II 6 4 Compulsory
Interpreting (Language B) 12 3 Compulsory
Interpreting (Language B) 6 4 Compulsory
Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 257
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for the official recognition of sworn translator by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see
Table 4).
Although the translation of legal documents is among the oldest and most
important specialities in the world (Sarcevic, 2000, p. 1), tendencies in new curricula
show that legal translation is not yet wholly recognized as an independent branch of
translation studies. Translation theorists and curriculum-makers still regard legal
translation as one of the many subject areas of special-purpose translation. A clear
example of this alleged inferiority might be seen in the guidelines provided by the
White Paper for the Degree in Translation and Interpreting, to be applied throughout
Spain. According to the recommendations of this book, special subject matters such
as audiovisual translation, literary translation, legal translation, economic transla-
tion, and technical and scientific translation are grouped together under the heading
Specialized translation, with the consequent levelling as regards the number of
credits, the distribution of theory and practice hours, etc. Even more surprisingly,
this disdainful attitude towards legal translation may also be perceived among legal
professionals and lawyers, who still regard legal translation as a low-profile activity.
Nonetheless, some university initiatives have emerged so as to meet the current
needs of a society that is increasingly going global, with a strong commitment to
specialization and lifelong learning in the field of legal translation. One outstanding
example is the Official Inter-University Masters Degree in Institutional Translation
(legal and economic translation) offered jointly by the universities of Alicante,
Valencia and Castello n (Spain) and integrated within the framework of the Official
Postgraduate Curriculum in Translation and the Knowledge Society. This masters
degree has been designed with a view to responding to a clear specialized training
need in the Valencian Community, a region characterized by the international
dynamics of its companies and the vast presence of European Union citizens whose
language needs are to be fulfilled by both translators and interpreters. The demand
for a specialization course is directly proportional to the job offer, covering a wide
range of professional sectors, such as international bodies, public administration
(ministries, courts, police departments, prisons, the Parliament and Senate, the Bank
of Spain, the Port Authority, etc.), notarys offices, private-sector companies (the
banking sector, law offices, insurance companies, shipping companies, estate
agencies, trade fairs, etc.). The masters degree is a one-year programme (60 ECTS
credits) distributed as follows: 15 credits of introductory courses (shared by all
students, regardless of the language choice); 30 credits of specialization courses
(according to the language choice), of which 20 are compulsory and 10 may by
chosen among optional courses; and 15 credits corresponding either to traineeships
or doctoral research, as well as a final dissertation.
Without doubt, and despite the short life of the Translation and Interpreting
degree in Spain, the last decade has witnessed the definitive establishment of the
profession and has consolidated the perception that society has of it, so today
nobody questions whether it is a specific economic sector. Proof of this trend is the
National Standard Industry Classification (CNAE) which, under the heading of
Miscellaneous business activities (74.8) includes Secretariat and translation
activities, which means the official recognition of the profession with regard to
other professional groups within the business and commercial sphere (Arevalillo,
2006, p. 108). Another example of the social dimension translation has achieved is
the recent publication of the European Quality Standard for Translation Service
Providers (EN-15038: 2006), which stands out as a frame of reference for good
258 A. Gomez Gonzalez-Jover
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practice throughout the several stages of a translation process. Broadly speaking, the
most outstanding features of the standard are: first, that it defines the translation
process where quality is guaranteed not by the translation itself, which is just one
phase in the process, but by the fact that the translation is reviewed by a person other
than the translator; and, second, it specifies the professional competences of each of
the participants in the translation process, mainly translators, reviewers, revisers and
proofreaders. As for translators who take part in translation projects under EN-
15038: 2006, they must demonstrate the professional competences specified in the
standard by meeting at least one of the three requirements: (a) advanced translation
studies (recognized qualification); (b) equivalent qualification in another specializa-
tion plus a minimum of two years documented experience in translation; and, (c) at
least five years of documented professional experience in translation.
In this section we have examined the present state of Translation and Interpreting
Studies in Spain; it is now time to turn our attention to the implications the above-
mentioned academic and professional trends have in the course design and lesson
planning of a legal translation course within the university context. More specifically,
we will focus on the pedagogical elements which need to be considered when
preparing the Legal Translation A/B, B/A I course, (six ECTS compulsory credits),
taught to third-year students in the Degree in Translation and Interpreting. The
reflections below deal mostly with the authors experience as a Legal Translation
trainer and stem from the training practice in the introductory course Legal
translation English-Spanish, Spanish-English I, offered at the University of
Alicante.
3. Anatomy of a course in legal translation
This section consists of two main parts: course design and lesson planning. The
former is a broader concept which requires several actions: to understand who the
students are, to decide what we want them to learn, to determine how we will
measure the teaching-learning process, and to plan activities, assignments and
materials that favour students learning. Lesson planning, however, refers to the
working plan to be followed throughout the course, which consists of several phases:
from the initial introduction to the final assessment (Alcaraz & Moody, 1983, p. 58).
In short, both course design and lesson planning must respond to the where,
what, when and how questions related to the teaching-learning model (Figure 1).
3.1. Course design
According to Posner and Rudnitsky (2000), course design embraces the following
aspects: (a) situation analysis; (b) establishment of objectives; (c) choice of
methodology; (d) syllabus planning (working plan); (e) teaching development; (f)
evaluation and control of results. Syllabuses are not designed in a lab vacuum; rather,
they must be based on the surrounding circumstances, such as the characteristics of
students and the social needs. Throughout history, several education theories, which
in turn are based on different approaches (the informationist or culturalist approach,
the behaviourist or reconstructivist approach, and the progressive approach), have
been developed. Each one has reported both satisfactory results and drawbacks, so
our proposal is to make a sensible use of the eclecticism and adapt the methods
derived from each theory to the actual learning conditions. In short, course design
Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 259
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represents the very core of curriculum design and must be developed according to
time and space constraints, as well as to the conditions of actual resources and
teaching staff, and to the analysis of students previous knowledge (Bautista et al.,
1995; Puigdell vol, 1998).
As previously stated, the Degree in Translation and Interpreting at the University
of Alicante divides the subject Legal Translation into two levels, Legal Translation I
and II. This paper will focus on the introductory course (Legal Translation English-
Spanish, Spanish-English I), which is a six ECTS-credit compulsory course taught to
third-year students. The envisaged programme gives the course a practical bias,
which results in 1.5 credits corresponding to theory contents and 4.5 to practice. This
means that most of the time, whether in-class hours or out-of-class hours, will be
devoted to translation practice, since trainee translators have previously gained
knowledge in the principles of direct and reverse translation, general translation,
terminology and documentation. Nevertheless, as we will examine further on, the
theoretical component of legal translation cannot be underestimated, so the
conception of each didactic unit also incorporates an important theoretical element.
Legal translation is certainly among the varieties of translations where the
translator is subject to the heaviest semiotic constraints at all levels (Garzone, 2000):
the language of the law is typically formulaic and obscure, being subject to very strict
stylistic conventions in terms of register, genre structures and even diction
(Mellinkoff, 1963; Tiersma, 1999); legal discourse is culturally mediated, which
determines profound differences in categories and concepts between legal systems,
and in particular between English law and its continental counterparts; legal texts
have a special pragmatic status, that is to say, they not only describe, report and
narrate facts, information and arguments, but also have the property of performing
legal actions (Austin, 1962; Benveniste, 1958, 1963). Among these, the cultural level
is probably the most striking, since it suggests some degree of incommensurability
between texts produced within the framework of common law and civil law systems
respectively (Garzone, 2000). As far as legal language and the legal systems
CONTENTS OBJECTIVES
SEQUENCING
TEACHING-LEARNING ACTIVITIES
WHEN TO
TEACH
HOW TO
TEACH
METHODOLOGY
WHAT, HOW AND WHEN TO
EVALUATE
WHAT TO TEACH
SELECTION
Figure 1. Pedagogical elements in the teaching-learning model.
260 A. Gomez Gonzalez-Jover
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underlying linguistic communities are concerned, Pasquau Lian o (1996, p. 10) states
that:
unlike other technical languages, legal language has not spread beyond national
jurisdictions, but, as a direct product of the cultural and legal traditions and
peculiarities of each country, it has become so compartmentalized as to make it
extremely difficult even for jurists who have a good command of a foreign language to
understand the specific features of the legal language of that country: it is the obstacle in
comparative law, that is to say, in the diversity of legal systems, a problem that becomes
particularly acute when we compare the European continent with the British Isles or the
United States, since despite the existence of certain similarities and common precedents
(especially Roman Law and Canon Law), this fact merely mitigates the problem,
without resolving it. (My translation from Spanish)
All this is further complicated by the formulaic, ritualistic, archaic and even
fossilized nature of legal discourse, by highly codified genre structures, strict stylistic
conventions and heavy constraints at morphological and syntactic level. Mart n Hita
(1996, p. 66) identifies four main problems in the translation of legal texts: a correct
term choice, the vagueness and inaccuracy of existing legal dictionaries, the
transposition from one legal system to another, and the lexical gaps. This complexity
not only makes the decoding task more arduous, but it also requires a real
hermeneutic effort on the translators part, very often far beyond the scope of the
ordinary decoding required for other kinds of translation (Garzone, 2000).
As a result of the above-mentioned features of legal translation, it is essential for
legal translator trainers working with legal English and Spanish to start with an
explanation of the legal and political systems in Anglophone countries (fundamen-
tally the British and American ones) together with their continental counterparts and,
more specifically, the Spanish system, all simultaneously accompanied by the teaching
of key vocabulary, in a way that learners become familiar with and that reinforces
legal concepts. The obscure nature of legal language also requires a thorough analysis
of the lexical and syntactic features; such is the difficulty of some structures that it
may be necessary to include ad-hoc exercises designed to help trainees learn these
specific contents. As for legal concepts, the legal translator trainer must, wherever
possible, explain and teach legal translation and legal language through references to
general principles of law applicable in the jurisdictions concerned.
Because legal translation is a practice that stands at the crossroads of legal theory,
language theory and translation theory (Joseph, 1995, p. 14), it is generally agreed
that apart from advanced language skills in the source and target languages, as well
as a good knowledge of the translation techniques and of the pragmatic considera-
tions of legal texts, it also requires a basic understanding of the nature of law and
legal language and the impact of those on legal translation (Cao, 2007, p. 7). Borja
(2000, p. 138) considers that the fundamental pillars on which legal translation
practice should be based are three: (a) a mastery of legal language; (b) a thorough
knowledge of legal text typology, especially with regard to the constraints of text
types and the conventions of the target texts; (c) a mastery of the specialist subject
matter and of the information and documentation acquisition techniques.
Again, we must stress that legal translation courses are not intended to teach the
law of any particular jurisdiction, but to teach how to translate and face up to
cultural, institutional, conceptual, textual and terminological asymmetries between
legal systems, according to the particular translation assignment. In order to achieve
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this general goal, our proposal of legal translation course design involves the
following objectives:
a good command of the subject field;
knowledge of the main linguistic, conceptual, cultural and institutional
asymmetries between the legal systems of the countries of the working
languages;
good language skills (both in the source and in target languages);
knowledge of the main text types (or genres) of the legal systems and their
basic features;
translation skills of medium complexity of legal and administrative texts
(direct and reverse translation);
comprehension of the methodological principles of legal texts;
knowledge of the professional aspects of legal and sworn translation.
In order to enhance student learning outcomes, the objectives must be based on a
series of competences, which are defined as the combination of skills, knowledge,
aptitudes and attitudes and the disposition to learn as well as know-how (Gonzalez
& Wagenaar, 2003). In this respect, the Tuning Educational Structures in Europe
project
13
aims at identifying points of reference for generic and subject-specific
competences of first- and second-cycle graduates in a series of subject areas.
Competences describe learning outcomes: what a learner knows or is able to
demonstrate after the completion of a learning process. This concerns both generic
competences and subject-specific competences. As stated by Kelly (2005, p. 34): The
first should be the aim of all undergraduate or postgraduate courses, the second only
of those in their own field. The first forms part of the tertiary education sectors
mission to help individuals attain personal fulfilment and development, inclusion
and employment; the second plays a role more specific to their own respective
fields.
According to the requirements of the EHSA, and using the common language
provided by the Tuning project, the objectives stated above are intended to develop
the following competences:
(a) Communicative competence so that students are able to:
have a good command of the terminology, phraseology, and rules governing
legal and administrative text types in both the source and target languages;
use legal terminology accurately;
distinguish specific terminology of law branches (civil law, criminal law, family
law, etc.);
develop resources and techniques, so as to find the best translation for legal
entities with no equivalence in the target language;
know the basic features of legal and administrative text types;
be aware of the terminological differences according to the countries;
analyse legal and administrative texts properly.
(b) Extra-linguistic and cultural competence so that students are able to:
be aware of the importance of acquiring the necessary knowledge to under-
stand the subject field of Law;
262 A. Gomez Gonzalez-Jover
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draw a comparison between the legal systems involved in translation;
k to know the main differences between the legal systems of the countries of
the working languages;
k to know the different branches of law and their basic concepts;
recognize problems related to the lack of equivalence between legal entities,
institutions, etc., and to overcome those problems from a critical standpoint, in
a dynamic manner and with fidelity to the source text.
(c) Transference or strategic competence so that students are able to:
know how to cover all phases in the translation process:
k to learn how to apply a systematic method consisting of:
j before: a preliminary reading of the text, so as to determine documenta-
tion needs (collection of parallel and comparable texts, documents
already translated, reference sources, etc.);
j during: a respect for the conventions of genres;
j after: text edition and revision of style and consistency and, finally,
incorporation of the translated text into the file system for a later
recovery or exploitation;
recognize and translate different legal and administrative genres and solve
problems related to formal and dynamic equivalence;
assess the need for documentation;
master the search and research techniques in the field of Law.
(d) Instrumental competence so that students are able to:
know how to apply documentation strategies depending on the translation
assignment;
develop documentation skills (library skills, IT skills, etc.);
know how to use printed and electronic legal dictionaries;
know how to use programmes and electronic tools typically used in the
professional market;
operate and work with the Internet, so as to gain access to the previous
sources;
strengthen and consolidate language skills through proofreading, reception
and production of texts.
(e) Professional and deontological competence so that students are able to:
develop the ability to work in a group;
know the career opportunities for legal and sworn translators/interpreters;
know the legal value of legal and sworn translations and the requirements to be
appointed sworn translator/interpreter by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign
Affairs;
know the responsibility for signing and sealing translations;
know basic matters of professional practice (regular fees applied to typical
translation assignments, the code of conduct and guides to good practice;
professional associations, etc.);
develop aesthetic sensitivity in translated products.
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(f) Psycho-physiological and interpersonal competence so that students are able to:
develop critical awareness;
provide creative solutions to translation problems;
learn autonomously in a continuous professional and personal development;
acquire legal knowledge through the reading of journals and doctrinal texts,
attendance at training courses, etc.
In this respect, the efforts made by the members of the GROTIUS 98/GR/131
project, promoted by the European Commission and aimed at defining the skills of
trainee legal translators and interpreters, are indeed worthy of mention, as is their
work of designing several training initiatives in order to develop these skills, both in
undergraduate and in postgraduate programmes. In the light of the university reform
process which has arisen from the Bologna Declaration, the conclusions of the
GROTIUS 98/GR/131 project have set the trend for undergraduate programmes
when defining their objectives for legal translation courses:
(1) Knowledge of the criminal and civil legal systems: structures, procedures,
processes and personnel.
(2) Written and spoken competence in both languages; the formal terminology
and informal vocabulary and the range of registers most commonly used in
the legal context.
(3) Transfer skills (one and two ways): short consecutive and whispered
simultaneous interpreting skills and translation skills.
(4) Code of conduct and guides to good practice: the understanding and the
ability to follow these, which includes the ability and skills to resolve
professional problems and to recognize and accept professional limitations.
(5) Continuous professional and personal development; the ability to take
control, and to be responsible for their own development through objective
reflection and learning and to contribute to the profession as a whole.
(6) Professional practice [. . .]: practical requirements of the work of legal
interpreters and translators.
One fundamental feature of course design is methodology. The choice of
methodology must be based on curriculum aspects such as the number of credits
and the credits devoted to theory and practice, or the size and heterogeneity of the
group, and it also has implications in the sequencing of the course. As stated
previously, Legal Translation A/B, B/A I is a six ECTS-credit compulsory course,
with a total of 150 working hours spread over approximately 15 weeks. The
curriculum assigns 4 hours per week to the teaching of Legal Translation I, which
means 60 working hours of in-class activities (2.4 ECTS credits) and 90 hours of out-
of-class workload (3.6). It also makes a distinction between 1.5 credits corresponding
to theory and 4.5 credits corresponding to translation practice. Given the essentially
practical nature of the course, approximately 75% of the course is aimed at the
professionalization of trainee translators through translation practice. Therefore, the
tasks of documentation and theory preparation are chiefly in the hands of students.
264 A. Gomez Gonzalez-Jover
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Both in-class activities and out-of-class activities must be carefully designed, so that
the objectives of the teaching-learning process can be successfully achieved.
In-class activities or face-to-face teaching include the presentation and explana-
tion of theoretical issues, so as to facilitate the assimilation of legal concepts and
legal terminology. Theory may be presented to students in several ways. Some
underlying theory can be presented during the translation practice, when introducing
text types or a particular subject. However, the vehicle which best adapts to this kind
of contents due to its propositional design is the lecture, which at the same time
should be supplemented with additional pedagogical tools (such as group assign-
ments, class questions, etc., aimed at the verification of comprehension, participation
and attention). While lecturers will still present some material didactically, their main
job is to help students to learn by themselves. For our purposes, no more than 15
hours should be devoted to the lecture format. Translation practice, which is the core
of the course, should account for at least 45 working hours of in-class workload. This
means having to devote greater time to translation-related tasks, such as pre-
translation tasks of textual analysis (comparable and parallel texts), in-class
correction, brainstorming or feedback tasks, revision, terminology acquisition,
case studies, etc. Practical classes (by definition taught to smaller groups) better
match the cooperative and creative characteristics of workshops, so the main
methods should be contrastive analysis and brainstorming sessions, since they
strengthen the students critical awareness and problem-solving skills. In-class
correction of translations may be aided by the use of slides, sight translation (an
instant transfer from written to verbal language) or chain translation (sight
translation or correction of translations in a group) procedures, etc. The contrastive
analysis of already translated texts by trainees or by translators in a real translation
framework allows students, on the one hand, to analyse and assess translation
mechanisms and the results that are considered acceptable and, on the other, to
understand plurality and diversity as to the translation phenomenon, by assuming
that there is no single correct version. Brainstorming sessions should also be
encouraged. By brainstorming sessions we mean well-organized, structured work-
shops in which trainee translators present their translated versions. Thus, brain-
storming sessions serve several purposes: to review students translations, to analyse
and compare the texts degree of social acceptability and to enhance students self-
criticism.
Following the student-centred learning approach promoted by the Bologna
reform, ECTS credits are defined in terms of workload, as a combination of learning
outcomes, class contact hours, assignments, independent study, research and/or other
assigned work. In other words, the student workload is the time needed to complete
all the planned learning activities. Thus, it is important to properly define out-of-
class hours (the time spent pursuing knowledge or proficiency outside class,
preparation for assignments, etc.), which in our case stand for 3.6 credits
(approximately 90 working hours). Any legal translation trainer should structure
out-of-class hours taking into consideration four basic activities, with the aim of
producing legal translators capable of taking decisions in professional work and
taking responsibility for finding the knowledge they need: (a) documentation; (b)
individual study and reading; (c) exercises and assignments, individual or in groups;
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(d) tutorials. The distribution of time required for the accomplishment of these
activities is: approximately 20 hours for documentation (in the library or on the
websites); 30 hours for studying and reading materials provided by the lecturer; 30
hours for translation practice and for carrying out assignments; 10 hours for
attending tutorials (individually or in group), as a means of academic, methodolo-
gical and psychological advice. Tutorials may be useful not only to resolve doubts,
but also to receive specific guidance on the translations, the analysis, the assignments
or the exam. They also constitute an excellent feedback system for trainers to gather
information about students outcomes. Tutorials may turn into seminars when they
are held in groups to carry out previously designed tasks (analysis of specific issues,
discussion with student experts on assigned topics, exploration of certain topics,
etc.).
Although it is true that any translator trainer should keep to a clear schedule of
work and development of contents and activities, it should not be fixed, but rather a
flexible forecast of the pace at which learners will cover the materials.
Once the objectives and methodology have been established, the next step is to
design the syllabus. In order to choose and structure the contents of the Legal
Translation I course, the following criteria have been taken into account:
(a) the objectives below, according to Borja (2000, p. 138) and the GROTIUS 98/
GR/131 project;
(b) previous training and background of trainee translators;
(c) students interests.
With regard to previous training, third-year students have already gained
knowledge concerning terminology and documentation, new technologies, direct
and reverse translation, general translation, linguistic and cultural contrasts in the
working languages, and also have a good command of Language B (English). With
regard to students interests, trainee translators feel especially motivated towards
specialized translation, particularly legal translation, since it occupies a top position
in the demanding professional translation market. Moreover, the official recognition
as sworn translators by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also become a great
incentive for students to specialize in the field.
In accordance with the previous criteria, our syllabus consists of the following
didactic units:
(1) Introduction
(2) Comparative analysis of legal systems
(3) Features of legal translation (in the pair of working languages)
(4) Professional issues in legal and sworn translation
(5) Translation of civil law texts
(6) Translation of criminal law texts
(7) Translation of commercial law texts
(8) Translation of family law texts
(9) Translation of intellectual property texts
(10) Translation of administrative texts
(11) Sworn translation of legal and administrative texts
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The next section will be devoted to the teaching development of the syllabus, in
what we call lesson planning.
3.2. Lesson planning: a pedagogical experience
Any lesson plan must give an account of the working plan to be followed throughout
the course. It consists of several didactic phases, from the initial introduction to the
final assessment. In order to design a lesson plan for the Legal Translation A/B, B/A
I course, our model comprises five categories or sections:
(a) objectives
(b) contents
(c) methodology
(d) didactic application (learning activities and teaching resources)
(e) bibliography.
This model is further developed in each lesson or didactic unit, with a precise
indication of the number of hours devoted to each unit and to the planned activities.
It also concludes with the assessment, which can be organized in three stages: initial,
continuous and final (Gomez Molina, 1995, pp. 11124). Now we shall briefly
present each of these sections.
As formerly stated, the setting of objectives must be a previous step in any course
design or lesson planning. Objectives are therefore prior to any other element of the
training process. According to Kelly (2005, p. 36):
Writing clear learning outcomes is the first essential step to communication between
teacher or institution and student, between trainer and trainee, so thought and care
should be put into it. The basic rule is that outcomes should be easy for the student or
trainee to understand; they will normally be written from the students point of view,
and in the future tense.
Nevertheless, objectives are set from the list of contents, which in turn may be
restructured according to the objectives (Alcaraz & Moody, 1983, p. 74). In every
unit, objectives should be designed regarding knowledge, skills and attitudes.
The establishment of contents should go in hand with the setting of objectives.
Contents must also be realistic and fit in with the sequencing, whether in-class or
out-of-class hours, and allow for flexibility. In view of the course objectives, the
contents focus on three main aspects around which the different activities should be
envisaged:
(a) basic concepts of Continental law and law in Anglophone countries;
(b) features of legal English and problems in their translation into Spanish;
(c) legal and administrative text types;
(d) translation practice.
The methodology depends on a series of elements, such as the nature of the
classes (theoretical and practical) and whether it applies to in-class or out-of-class
hours. As stated previously, the main methodological tools used are the lecture, the
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workshop in smaller groups for translation practice, together with tutorials, which
can be used to help learners assimilate and consolidate knowledge. The usual in-class
dynamics should consist of a presentation and explanation of theoretical issues by
the teacher (issues already studied by learners individually and out of class), and
practice by means of exercises or translation assignments. The latter should also be
prepared individually by students out of class, and discussed later in workshop
sessions.
The didactic application refers to the set of materials, exercises, resources or
activities to be implemented in order to achieve the goals of the didactic unit.
Additional reading materials, exercises to reinforce terminology and concept
acquisition, reading comprehension activities, etc. may be used to develop each
unit, and may be assigned both as in-class or out-of-class activities. A key element in
the legal translation classroom is the selection of texts to be translated. Texts
represent the natural working material of translators, together with dictionaries,
monographs, encyclopaedias, databases, etc. Thus, texts must represent the focal
point on which translation training should be centred. The importance of texts in
syllabus design may be a fundamental condition for any translation course to
succeed, since their gradation and choice can aid and enhance the teaching activity,
providing examples and problem-rich situations from which to draw conclusions. In
order to achieve a coherent design, the selection and sequencing of texts should
follow a series of criteria (Franco, 1998):
(a) Authenticity: texts must be authentic and reflect the real professional
translation context. Therefore, they should display real language, i.e. the
linguistic and extra-linguistic elements of commonly used written legal
discourses.
(b) Variety: the choice of texts must be varied. The purpose of variety is to
promote intellectual stimulus and to foster as wide a range of knowledge as
possible, so as to gain flexibility when facing any translation within the field.
(c) Attractiveness: texts must allow for self-motivation. This parameter is
subsidiary to the one of variety.
(d) Relevance: texts must allow for coordination between the theory and the
practice. Relevance means selecting texts that allow the exploitation of generic
features as well as particular problems.
(e) Gradation: the degree of difficulty of the text must be appropriate to the
objectives of the course and to the achievement of the expected learning
outcomes. Familiarity with the subject matter, the degree of deviation or the
documentation needs are useful parameters to measure the degree of difficulty.
(f) Flexibility: as in the case of gradation, flexibility is linked to the learners
needs. In the classroom context, this parameter means that a closed set of texts
should not be submitted to students beforehand. It is advisable that the
teacher creates a database to store texts from which they may be retrieved
according to the students needs, tastes or learning rhythms.
As to the selection of texts, there are two types of texts that any translation lesson
plan should include: metatexts and parallel and comparable texts. Metatexts are those
theoretical and applied texts that deal with the discipline (legal translation); they
must also comply with the requirements of relevance, variety and applicability. The
second group is made up of parallel and comparable texts. Parallel texts or bitexts are
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texts originally written in a source language together with their translations;
comparable texts or paired texts are a collection of texts in a target language
covering the same genre or thematic parameters as those of the text to be translated.
As an end to the didactic unit, it would be advisable to include a final
recapitulation or abridgment, in order to solve the problems that may have arisen,
review and clarify potential doubts, highlight key points and guarantee that the
basics have been successfully assimilated.
Bibliography is a key factor that needs to be considered when organizing the
course, as well as the availability of reference works. Apart from the general
bibliography provided at the beginning of the course, students should also be
provided with a set of basic and additional bibliographical references corresponding
to each didactic unit. Regarding bibliography, learners should have a manageable set
of references in terms of both quantity and quality. With this aim, it is desirable to
provide students with as many electronic resources as possible, ranging from
institutional websites, official forms, journals and papers to legal glossaries,
terminological and specialized databases, etc.
Finally, it only remains for us to give an account of the evaluation or assessment
process. The assessment is a fundamental pedagogical phase which may pursue
several objectives: to measure group and individual learning, reveal teaching
weaknesses and, especially, to work as a motivating element to learning. Unlike
the classical method of assessment, usually unidirectional (in which the teacher
evaluates learners), any assessment method deemed to be guided by quality criteria
should be bidirectional. This means that the assessment should be an ongoing
process where the teacher evaluates students and students, in turn, evaluate the
teaching process so as to establish a feedback mechanism for quality assurance. This
two-way process is better illustrated in Figure 2.
The evaluation process in the university context can be approached from several
perspectives: (a) as a method to measure results; (b) as a motivating element to
learning; (c) as a requirement of the educational system; (d) as a students right. The
first approach traditionally regards evaluation as the penultimate stage in the
teaching-learning process, only ahead of the resit examination. As a measurement
element, evaluation gathers and analyses information in order to determine the
effectiveness of the teaching and, in short, to verify that the learning outcomes have
LEARNER LEARNER TEACHER TEACHER
EFFECTS
WHAT TO EVALUATE? WHAT TO EVALUATE?
Characteristics Characteristics
Performance Performance
Acquisition Acquisition
Attitudes Attitudes
PEDAGOGICAL STRATEGY PEDAGOGICAL STRATEGY
OBJECTIVES OBJECTIVES METHODS METHODS TECHNIQUES TECHNIQUES MATERIAL MATERIAL
Figure 2. Bi-directional assessment.
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been successfully reached. By means of evaluation, we can assess to what extent
learners have reached the objectives, whether the methodology and resources are
appropriate or whether they should be redefined with a view to forthcoming courses.
Evaluation also has an effect on motivation and, consequently, on both course
design and lesson planning. From this viewpoint, evaluation is a useful source of
information for both learners and teachers.
In the context of a course of legal translation, evaluation should be the result of
the combination, whenever possible, of the following systems: active participation,
translation assignment (whether individual or in a group), written examination (it
may consist of several parts: a set of questions on legal concepts; vocabulary test;
translation of texts studied in class; translation of unseen texts with the help of a
dictionary, etc.).
In brief, an appropriate and proportionate evaluation should be the perfect coda
to a good lesson plan.
4. Conclusion
To conclude, we revisit the main ideas mentioned throughout this paper. First, the
teaching of legal translation presents a number of challenges, due on the one hand to
the early recognition of legal translation as an independent branch of translation
studies and curricula; and, on the other, because legal translation is an ill-defined
concept (Pelage, 2004, p. 9), especially with regard to the content and level of
understanding required in the training of legal translators. Certainly, the wide range
of needs to be considered regarding the various ways of exercising the profession
(specialist or occasional legal translator, court interpreter, sworn translator and
interpreter) is a key aspect to take into account in curriculum design and programme
planning within the framework of university translation training.
Second, the European Higher Education Area has been an excellent opportunity
for trainers to shape or re-design translation curricula according to the real needs of
legal translators in a wide range of situations. So far, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign
Affairs does not foresee a change in the official appointment of sworn translators, so,
in our opinion, translation curricula should be flexible enough to provide students
the opportunity to exercise the profession.
Third, this paper offers a vertebrate model of a legal translation course based on
course design and lesson planning. Both parameters prove useful in defining the
precise limits of the said course. Focusing on the Legal Translation Spanish-English,
English-Spanish I course taught to third-year students in the Degree in Translation
and Interpreting at the University of Alicante, we have illustrated a systematic model
comprising learning objectives (language, conceptual, cultural, textual, terminologi-
cal, documentary or deontological), competences describing learning outcomes,
methodology and sequencing of the course (distribution of in-class and out-of-class
hours), syllabus and its implementation in each didactic unit, etc. This pedagogical
conception is based on previous experiences and current translation needs of future
legal translators, in view of the Bologna requirements and other quality instruments,
such as the 15038 standard.
Finally, regarding the question of whether legal translation should be done by
either translators or jurists, we can conclude that a legal translation course can
hardly aim for the nigh impossible, i.e. the legal knowledge level of the legal
professional. Instead, it should raise the translation trainees level of awareness,
270 A. Gomez Gonzalez-Jover
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providing students with the tools to develop long-term cognitive strategies of their
own (as to the recognition of information needs, handling of terminology knowledge,
etc.). We agree with Hjort-Pedersen and Faber (2005, p. 52) that curricula must
incorporate structured components that will to some degree enable the trainees to
build up a legal knowledge scaffold of their own.
Notes
1. Legal translation is an ill-dened term usually applied to several modes of translation
(legal, sworn and court translation) which are different with regard to the translator
himself and also to the status of the translated text. The rst meaning of legal translation
refers to the translation of documents of a legal nature (including those which must be
ofcially signed or those involved in legal procedures). In Spain, sworn translation or
interpreting requires that the translator be credited by the Governments Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. Sworn translators act as public ofcers authorised to attest ofcial
documents, such as birth or marriage certicates, notary acts, judicial statements, and
other non-legal texts (like school or medical certicates). In Spain, sworn translators are
regulated by Decree 2.555/77 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Decree 79/1996; Order of
08.02.1996, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Decree of 21.03.1997, Ministry of Foreign
Affairs). Finally, court translators or interpreters are those ofcially credited to work in
legal procedures, generally as permanent members of the staff in courts or tribunals (cf.
APTIJ). Although they are usually accredited sworn translators, unfortunately, some-
times all that is required is a good command of the working languages and proven
experience in legal mediation.
2. From the standpoint of jurists, there are also outstanding works on legal language, such
as those carried out by Tiersma (1993, 1999), Solan (2006, 2009), Mattila (2006), Bjerre
(2005), Co te (2004), Coulthard (2005), Sullivan (2004), McAuliffe (2008), Mikhail
(2007), etc.
3. Sworn translators were, however, the result of a historical evolution, which dates from
the rst Spanish settlements in the New World, where the different Amerindian
languages had to be dealt with in the viceroyalties courts. The rst known rule goes
back to 1529 and, curiously enough, it dened the returns for services rendered.
4. Real Decreto, 26 January 1996.
5. See http://ec.europa.eu/education/index_en.htm.
6. See www.bologna-berlin2003.de/pdf/Sorbonne_declaration.pdf.
7. See ec.europa.eu/education/policies/educ/bologna/bologna.pdf.
8. See www.eua.be/leadmin/user_upload/les/Quality_Assurance/OFFDOC_BP_Prague_
communique.1068714711751.pdf.
9. See www.bologna-bergen2005.no/Docs/00-Main_doc/030919Berlin_Communique.PDF.
10. See www.bologna-bergen2005.no/Docs/00-Main_doc/050520_Bergen_Communique.pdf.
11. See www.dcsf.gov.uk/londonbologna/uploads/documents/LondonCommuniquenalwith
Londonlogo.pdf.
12. See http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs/bologna/conference/detailed_programme.
htm.
13. See www.thematicnetworkdietetics.eu/downloadattachment/1649/TUNING%20executive%20
summary.3-1.pdf.
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