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Arabic Looking Over my Shoulder

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Lawyers love to define terms at the beginning of a contract, and then identify the definitions with capital letters as if they were proper nouns. So you might see a contract which defines “Annual Management Plan” as a management plan which is created or modified on an annual basis. I question the need for specially defining terms which have a well-understood meaning. Even in the case of a term which needs definition, the problem in the legal environment in the Gulf is that the contract has to be translated into Arabic. The English language text will specify that the Arabic language version is controlling in accordance with Saudi law. So while in the English version, the term “Major Maintenance Agreement” will use initial capital letters in all subsequent appearances of the term, doing so in Arabic is impossible. Arabic has no capital letters. As a solution I suggested using a bold Arabic font, but the translators were apoplectic. No matter, I got back at them: while the Arabic version is controlling, I included a provision that says that in case of any discrepancy between the Arabic and English versions, the English version shall be used as a guide to interpret the Arabic version.

Written by mokane

August 19, 2013 at 9:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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