In my last post, I discussed multilingualism in the European Union and its complexity, especially with regards to the translation of official legal texts. Legal academia experiences a similar problem: there is a multitude of national legal journals that often publish articles of transnational interest. Unfortunately, these articles are mostly written in the native language and therefore inaccessible to a broad spectrum of potential readers. This situation can be seen as academic multilingualism.
The question is whether one should try to overcome this academic multilingualism by publishing all legal articles in English – the language spoken or at least mastered by most lawyers. I suggest writing all articles in English, because even articles on domestic legal issues might be of use for jurists from other countries.
Of course, the issue of translating specific legal concepts into English remains. Yet, other than with binding EU treaties, the wording in academic articles does not have to be exact or concise. Legal terms that are foreign to the English language could easily be circumscribed or defined and thus made known to a broad audience. This way, legal academia could in fact play an important role to overcome multilingualism in law by spreading legal concepts across borders.
- Leino, Päivi; Salminen, Janne: Languages and EU law discourse: A view from a bilingual periphery, VerfBlog, 2014/6/02, http://www.verfassungsblog.de/en/languages-eu-law-discourse-view-bilingual-periphery/
- Thym, Daniel: The Solitude of European Law Made in Germany, VerfBlog, 2014/5/29, http://www.verfassungsblog.de/en/die-einsamkeit-des-deutschsprachigen-europarechts/