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Proactive Steps to Managing Language Complexities in International Commercial Arbitrations

NEW YORK, Feb. 28, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Any company doing business in the global marketplace must be prepared for the possibility of legal disputes taking place in other countries. In the event of such a dispute, it is not unusual for parties to handle such disagreements through arbitration rather than litigation because it allows for greater flexibility regarding the arbitrators, institution and languages used to settle the case. However, this same flexibility, especially as it relates to language, can introduce complexities affecting all phases of the arbitration.


The language related aspects of international commercial arbitration are manageable, if you partner with an experienced language services provider and keep the following practical advice in mind:

  • Be fully educated on the country's international arbitration institution. Early in the arbitration process, the parties need to agree on the institution that will oversee the matter and the means of arbitration to be employed. The institution is typically located in the country or region of the party initiating the arbitration. Major international arbitration institutions include the London Court of International Arbitration, the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, and the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission. Typically, the parties elect to use the arbitration rules of the institution that is chosen. However, rules vary from institution to institution, so it's important to be well informed about the institution, its rules, and the language or languages used in the arbitration. All of these factors will have a direct impact on the proceedings.
  • Verify all translations of the arbitration rules. International arbitration institutions offer their rules in several languages to accommodate arbitrators from around the world. Typically, one or two of these translated sets of rules is designated as "official." The translated rules are furnished by the institutions themselves, so it may seem reasonable to assume that all versions are exact translations of the official set of rules. This is not always the case. For example, the Chamber of Arbitration of Milan, which has its official set of rules in Italian, provides an unofficial English translation of its rules. In the English version, Article 9.3 includes the sentence, "In any case, any time limit set by the Rules will run from the sending made by the Secretariat,"but this sentence is omitted from the French, Spanish, and Italian versions.1 At a minimum, such discrepancies create confusion and more importantly may result in awards being contested. Consequently, it is extremely important to verify that the translated version of the rules being used by your arbitrator exactly matches the official version of the rules.
  • Establish translation requirements up front. After verifying the translations of the rules, the next step is to determine overall translation requirements for the proceedings. The choice of language to be used in the arbitration can be decided by the parties, arbitrators or institution, all of whom may have varying translation needs based on who chooses the languages. For example, because most sets of rules do not specify the extent to which the language of arbitration must be used, the tribunal is sometimes in a position to decide whether all aspects of the proceedings, including witness testimonies, must be translated to the language of arbitration.2 The tribunal may also decide to conduct the arbitration in two languages, which is not uncommon. In such cases, all documents, testimonies and evidence must be translated into both languages of arbitration. If translations or interpreters for the evidence and testimonies are required, it is helpful to determine at the outset to the fullest extent possible what kind of assistance will be needed. This will allow you, early in the arbitration process, to find and secure the services of a language services provider who can meet all of your requirements.

As these points illustrate, it is critical to understand the role and complexity of language and translation at all stages of international commercial arbitration. You can maximize your chances for success by choosing a qualified language services provider with pertinent arbitration translation experience and proven experience in supporting companies throughout the intricacies of an arbitration process.


1 Liger, Isabelle. "100 Translation Errors in International Translation Rules." University of Illinois College of Law (March 8, 2011), p. 14.

2 Varady, Tibor. Language and Translation in International Commercial Arbitration. West Nyack, NY: Asser Press; 2006, p. 76.

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About Merrill Brink International
Merrill Brink International ( is a leading provider of complete translation and language solutions for global companies and law firms, with special expertise in serving the legal, financial, life sciences, software, heavy machinery and corporate markets. A proven leader with more than 30 years of experience, Merrill Brink offers a wide range of language solutions including translation, localization, desktop publishing and globalization services.

Merrill Brink is recognized in the industry for its commitment to quality and its pioneering approach of leveraging technology to reduce costs, eliminate redundant processes and accelerate translation life cycles. Merrill Brink is certified to ISO 9001:2008; ISO/IEC 27001:2005 and ISO 13485:2003, and compliant to EN 15038:2006 and ISO 14971:2007. Together, these standards provide assurance that the most stringent process and quality standards for translation are followed. Merrill Brink International is a wholly owned subsidiary of Merrill Corporation.

Media Contact: Vanessa Lontoc, Merrill Brink International, 212-229-6532, [email protected]

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