Constitution English-language translation gets overhaul ahead of centennial ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Estonian constitution in paper form.
Estonian constitution in paper form. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The English translation of the Estonian Constitution is to be overhauled, with the updated version available by June, the Riigi Teataja – the state gazette – said on Tuesday.

"The constitution has been translated and attempts have been made to improve this translation at various times. The current translation was also revised about seven years ago," Jüri Heinla, head of Riigi Teataja, told ERR on Tuesday, adding that the translation has been criticized on several points in the past, with issues of technical terminology and dated terms being considered. In addition, the update is timely as the Estonian constitution celebrates its centennial in June.

According to a letter sent by the Ministry of Justice, an audit of constitutional terms was carried out and on that basis, commissioned Siiri Aulik, lawyer-linguist and former editor-in-chief at the legal translation center, and Ülle Allsal, former chief terminologist at the Center for Legal Translation (Õigustõlke Keskus), to carry out the work. Recognized legal experts are also to be consulted when updating the English translation of the Constitution.

"We are trying to improve terminology and the quality of the English translation. This is one of the reasons why we looked very closely at the constitutional translation and consulted with experts. The general opinion was that translation should be updated, especially in terms of terminology, language and general translation quality," Jüri Heinla said

According to the timetable, updated terminology and translation consultations and discussions are scheduled to take place in April and May and the final translation should be completed by June, in time for the constitution's 100th anniversary.

In order to ensure the quality of the translation, the Ministry of Justice has sought cooperation between the Riigikogu, the president's office, the Government office, the Supreme Court, the Chancellor of Justice's office, the National Audit Office (Riigkikontroll), the Bank of Estonia, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Finance and the Foreign Ministry.

According to Heinla, all Estonian laws are translated into English and updated regularly, and are published in searchable format on the Riigi Teataja website, as with the Estonian language versions.

"The purpose of translating [laws] into English is not to use these translations domestically, but are primarily aimed at foreigners - both investors and our partners internationally, for whom the availability and timeliness of these translations are important."

"They are certainly not meant for domestic use, something which also applies to Russian translations."

"In Estonia, Estonian is the official language, laws apply only in Estonian, and the authentic texts are in Estonian," Heinla went on.

The current English translation of the constitution on the Riigi Teataja site is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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