Plain language in Swedish translations of EU legal texts


  • Saga Bendegard


It is well known that Swedish translations of EU legal texts do not meet the plain language standards drawn up for texts produced by Swedish authorities. The influence of poorly written source texts is often seen as the main cause, but we actually know little about the process by which these translations are produced – and therefore little about what the impediments really are for meeting these plain language standards. The results presented in this article indicate that several other factors also have a significant influence. The material consists of field observations and interviews, conducted at the Swedish translation units of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union – and the results show that factors such as strong demands for correspondence between different Swedish texts, short deadlines and an indefinable readership are of importance. A key question is whether the translations should be considered to be texts in a Swedish target system at all, or if they remain in an EU source culture? In the end, a better understanding of this translation process, could help us both to understand how we can best proceed when trying to improve plain language in these EU-texts, and, by shedding new light on plain language processes in general, to improve plain language work within Sweden too.