Although U.S. researchers usually want translations of foreign legal materials into English, they are only occasionally available. Official documents of other countries are published in their official languages. Translations are unofficial, may not be reliable, and are rarely current. Machine translation is possible and can be used for finding documents and getting a rough idea of their content, but they should not be relied on for more than that.
The first choice for the researcher is to find collections of legal materials already translated. Some translations of legal materials are available on foreign government sites, commercial databases, university websites, and foreign bar associations and law firms. If there is none available, the researcher may have to rely on translation of individual words and phrases to supplement partial knowledge of the language, or electronic or machine translation of websites and documents.
Searching for primary documents will be easier and more accurate if the researcher already has citations or dates, allowing a search by numbers. With a citation, you might even find the documents with a Google search. Some sources for citations and dates may include links to the documents themselves.
To find citations and dates, try:
There are several databases that include English translations of national constitutions.
Some of the subject collections in this guide include full-text translations or English-language summaries or abstracts.
Subject collections with translated materials include:
You may be able to find primary legal materials translated into English. Remember that translations are never official. These are only available for some countries, and only for select documents. Human translation is rarely available for the most recent documents. Constitutions of other countries are usually available in English translation, and databases of national constitutions are listed above. Codes and individual statutes are sometimes available in translation. When jurisprudence is available, it is normally only for select Supreme court or Constitutional Court judgments.
Guides and databases that list English translations:
Collections of translated laws for individual countries:
Republic of Korea
United Arab Emirates
If you are able to read some materials in a foreign language, you may just need to find specialized legal terms in English translation to read the document. Even if you plan to use an electronic translation resource like Google Translate when you find a document, you may need to translate individual legal terms to search in foreign legal databases or government websites. However, it is better to start with a date or citation (numerals) to search in databases in foreign languages.
In addition, the law library reference collection includes bilingual legal dictionaries. Search in discoverE to find titles.
Use caution when using electronic translation, since your results are not as accurate as those created by human translators, and machine translation sometimes has difficulty with technical legal terms. Legal terms may have different meanings in different countries or may have no equivalents in other languages. Limit your use to identifying documents and websites and getting a general understanding of the document.