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Translating Law in 19th-Century Belgium: Criticisms of Official Translations of Laws and Decrees

In: Tilburg Law Review
Authors:
Heleen van Gerwen PhD researcher, Translation and Intercultural Transfer, ku Leuven, Kortrijk, Belgium, heleen.vangerwen@kuleuven.be

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Marie Bourguignon PhD researcher, Leuven Centre for Public Law, ku Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, marie.bourguignon@kuleuven.be

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Bieke Nouws PhD researcher, Translation and Intercultural Transfer, ku Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, bieke.nouws@kuleuven.be

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From the late eighteenth century, nationalist winds blew over Europe, passing also through the new state of Belgium, seceded from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1830. Making use of French as the lingua franca in the political and administrative domains, and trying at the same time to engage the Flemish-speaking part of the population, the Belgian government committed itself to translate its legislative texts into Flemish. Yet, these official translations were broadly criticized by Flemish politicians, lawyers and journalists alike. Their response was to publish translations of key legislative texts via private channels. The purpose of this article is to point out the gap between the government’s explicit motivation to inform the people, and the quality and actual usability of the translations of laws, by engaging with the discussion of common criticisms of official translations expressed by members of the Belgian parliament, jurists and the general public.

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