Vancouver Community College Multilingual Legal Dictionary
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LFWAbout the Glossary

Vancouver Community College is pleased to provide you with this glossary of 5000 Canadian legal and court-related terms in English Plain Language, and their equivalents in six other languages (Chinese, Farsi, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese).

Why is this glossary needed?
The glossary is an attempt to respond to an issue identified by the Law Courts Education Society of B.C. (LCES) and the Vancouver Community College Certificate Program in Court Interpreting (VCC) that of a lack of consistency in the comprehension and use of legal terminology among unaccredited court interpreters working in the courts of British Columbia. This issue is particularly significant in areas outside the Lower Mainland, where accredited interpreters are virtually non-existent.

Who can benefit from this glossary?
The glossary is intended not only for court interpreters, but for everyone participating in court or legal processes. In fact, the target audience for the glossary includes

  1. lay persons not familiar with legal terms, and
  2. non-English speakers.

What does the glossary aim to do?
It aims to explain Canadian law and legal terms to the above target groups.

What does the glossary cover?
The glossary contains terms in the following areas:

  • criminal law
  • court-related terms
  • street language heard in court for drugs and arms
Each term has its own entry.

What is contained in each term entry?
Every entry contains the following elements:

  • an English entry term
  • the part of speech
  • a simple definition of that term in English
  • related terms such as synonyms or antonyms (if any)
  • a foreign language equivalent of the English term
  • a translation in the foreign language of the English definition
  • related terms in the foreign language (if any)

How were the entry terms chosen?
The entry terms were carefully chosen. Initially, a list of 7000 terms, in the areas of criminal law, court-related terms, and street language heard in court for drugs and arms, was created by a certified terminologist and a certified court interpreter. Subsequently, two judges reviewed this list and selected the 5000 terms they considered most pertinent.

How were the entries prepared?
First, simple definitions in English Plain Language, understandable for lay persons, were created by lawyers and reviewed by legal Plain Language specialists.

Then, equivalents of the entry terms were found or created in each of the six foreign languages by certified translators and lawyers.

How was the quality of the work ensured?
Each entry has been reviewed by peer terminologists.

The entries for each language have undergone final review and approval by bilingual lawyers and legal translators with experience both in Canada and in the country where that language is spoken.

The entire project was overseen by a Steering Committee representative of the legal and multicultural community.

What challenges were involved in the preparation of this glossary?
The biggest challenge was that of dealing with a number of different foreign language scripts.

What are the limitations of the glossary?
The glossary is obviously limited in scope, both in the number of terms covered and in the areas dealt with. The field of law is vast and it is unrealistic to expect any single glossary to cover all the terms of all the areas of law.

The glossary does not relate to laws of the countries in which the six languages are spoken. Its aim is to explain Canadian legal terminology and to provide foreign language equivalents for concepts related to Canadian law.

The glossary does not include formal definitions from legal dictionaries or contexts from legal documents due to copyright issues. The only definitions included are Plain Language definitions created specifically for this glossary.

The Plain Language definitions cover only the legal uses of the terms included in the glossary. A term may have other meanings which are not found in this specialized glossary but will be available to you in an ordinary dictionary.

The Plain Language definitions are not exhaustive, i.e. not every aspect of each legal concept is explicated. A choice of elements to be included in each definition had to be made in order to remain within the scope of the project.

How can this glossary help you?
Despite these limitations, the glossary can help you in different ways:

  • it can help you to understand 5000 Canadian legal or court-related terms
  • it can help you to express a Canadian legal concept in a foreign language

How can you help to improve the glossary?
This glossary is a work in progress. It is hoped that in the future it can be expanded both in scope and in the number of languages covered. We hope not only to continue adding words to it, but also to improve on the definitions provided. Please send us your comments and suggestions. Send comments on words and definitions to ce-interpret@vcc.ca and comments on the site and the way the dictionary works to jhamlin@talltech.com.