“Tribunaux judiciaires”: France’s newest translation challenge

Published on September 6, 2019 by Charles Eddy |   Share

It’s the end of an era. On January 1, 2019, France’s Tribunaux d’instance will merge with the Tribunaux de grande instance (per the Judicial Reform Act – Law 2019-222; see executive implementing decree here) to form a single court of first instance, the new “Tribunal judiciaire”.

As with any institutional change, this means translators will need to adapt and find an adequate translation solution for the new term.

Of course, the translation chosen will always depend on the specific context, but it’s common for one or two “top solutions” to win out among translators, and I’ve already started to wonder what they will be.

Some contenders we might see to translate “Tribunaux judiciaires” in English:

“Judicial Courts”. This solution is clearly too general – essentially a translation error, if we’re being honest – but I’m sure some (too many, even) will go for this calque.

“Lower Courts”. A bit general as well. There are far better choices.

“(Judicial) Courts of First Instance”. Not the worst solution, I suppose.

“District Courts”. Not an especially bad option either, particularly for an American audience.

Then there’s the old standby of leaving the term in French: the “Tribunal Judiciaire of Lille”. Also a perfectly defensible solution.

One thing is certain: only time will tell what will win out as the “standard” term.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Thoughts on the article? Suggestions for potential translations? I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment, discuss the topic with me on Twitter (@ceddytrad) or LinkedIn, and be sure to share the article with friends and colleagues who might be interested!

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