Mexican firearms laws--translation:

Here's a new project to utilize the immense collective mind of VC readers: an English translation of the Mexican firearms statute. The Mexican law, in Spanish, is here. My translation thereof into English is here. Neither the intern who did the first round of the translation, nor I, speak Spanish as a native language. Indeed, my Spanish is extremely primitive; I know less than an American middle schooler with one year of Spanish. Although I am developing an interesting vocabulary, of words such as "fuego circular" (rimfire).

The initial translation was done via machine, and then reviewed and modified by very inexpert humans. So I solicit readers with good Spanish skills to provide suggestions for improvements in any or all of the 91 Articles of the Mexican firearms law. Please focus on improving the translation, and not on arguing about policy questions involving the law.

BTW, the dictionary I used was the Larouse College edition, which is high quality, but did not have the definitions for some words (e.g., "cumuneros" "lanzagases"), or had general definitions for some words, but perhaps lacked the tertiary definitions that were needed here. Do readers have any good suggestions for more advanced Spanish-English dictionary? And, clearly, web-based translation programs are great because they're free, but they obviously have trouble with complex sentences or vocabulary. Any recommendations for a software program for Spanish-English translation? Muchas gracias, lectores inteligentes.

p.s. If you're looking for the spots that caused me the most trouble, just look for the ? in [brackets]. BTW, I would also be grateful for a link to the Mexican Firearms Regulations if there is an on-line version. And for the June 2009 report to the Mexican Senate on arms smuggling.

Kevin P. (mail):
You could put the text and translation in a wiki so that a number of Spanish speakers could contribute to it.
2.16.2009 12:05am
Kevin P. (mail):
It looks like a large amount of text is missing from the English translation - paragraphs end in mid-sentence, etc.

[Very strange. It displayed fine in Front Page, but, as you said, when I looked at in Google Chrome, a huge amount of text disappeared. I solved the problem by cutting out the text, pasting it into Notepad, and then pasting it back into Front Page. It may have been caused by some problem in the original Word document. Anyway, the comment earns the glorious Green Border, to be given to any comment which results in a change that is implemented.]
2.16.2009 12:08am
The Wiki idea is a good one.

I'm surprised the recent 2nd Circuit case on the Second Amendment and incorporation has not yet been addressed on the Corner (that I have seen).
2.16.2009 12:18am
RiccardoS (mail) (www):
You could pay a professional and get a high-quality translation. A good legal translator should complete the translation in about a week (plus another couple of days for editing, by a second professional). If you ask an experienced translator, the cost will be around $2500 to $3000.

Or you can do what you are doing: rely on untrained amateurs and software programs, get the translation for free or on the cheap, and end with the quality you are paying for.

I know that many assume that mere knowledge of a language is enough to translate. A professional translator, however, is the product of a rigorous university and postgraduate course of study, followed, at least for those who succeed in their job, by several years' professional experience.

Hoping that untrained amateurs and a software program can produce a reliable translation is as plausible as hoping that a pro se defendant and a software program can produce a useful legal brief.
2.16.2009 1:32am
MattR (mail):
I don't know if you still need a translation for "lanzagases", but I've done some digging.

Roughly translated, you've got "lanzar" (to throw) and "gases" (gases), so "throw gases". In the Mexican statue it is listed with "escopetas", which are shotguns, in a section describing firearms only police can use. So I think these are tear-gas guns, the type used for riot control and the like.

If you search "lanzagases" on google, the second result is a newspaper article. If you hit the translate button on google, the article doesn't become very clear in english, but it does describe tear-gas cannisters.

Also, you can go to the youtube video below where the author in the info section describes police using "lanzaaguas" (essentially, water cannons) right before he talks about them using "lanzagases". In the video, it's water cannons followed by tear gas.

Hopefully that helps.
2.16.2009 1:48am
I suppose it depends on what you are using it for. I sure I wouldn't recommend using Koppel's translations for trying to figure out how many guns I'm allowed in my checked baggage for a trip down to Caba at spring break in a couple of weeks. But if someone is just trying to complile an outline of foreign gun laws for academic purposes, then spending $3k per translation would get pretty old by the time you got to the twentieth country. B
2.16.2009 2:15am
K. Dackson (mail):
Man, no wonder lawyers cost so much. My wife does professional translations from French and Spanish as a side business. She has a DML (Doctor of Modern Languages) in French and Spanish, and charges about $0.11/word.

She has done legal, engineering and medical translations, but then again, her sister is a lawyer, her sister's husband is a doctor, and I am an engineer. So after she translates to English, she verifies the correct terminology and ensures readability.

Just let me know.
2.16.2009 4:33am
K. Dackson (mail):
Oh yeah, and if she ever catches a student using an on-line translation program or software, she gives them an F for that paper/project. It's just too easy to tell.
2.16.2009 4:36am
Dan L (mail):
I'm not a native speaker of Spanish, but I have an undergrad degree in it. I don't have the time to comb through the whole thing, but I've looked at portions of it, and your translation seems to me to be reasonably competent. I've seen perhaps a few structures/wordings that I might quibble with a bit--in areas the translation is a bit too literal, making the translation sound rather stilted and unnatural--but nothing that would radically alter the meaning of the translation. In fact, perhaps the best thing for it would simply be to edit it as an English document, rewording it to sound natural in English, and then going back through that comparing it to the original, to ensure that the English revision didn't stray too far from the original Spanish meaning. Most of my quibbles would be fixed by that. Of course, I haven't been through the whole thing, but hopefully this should give you a bit more confidence in what you've translated.

For dictionaries, I recommend, which has a rather extensive dictionary, but which also searches its forum for related threads at the same time, which is often helpful. It couldn't help with lanzagases, but "cumunero" may be a misprint for "comunero", about which there's some useful stuff. They suggest for comuneros "communal land owners" depending on context, but that translation would make sense in the context of Article 9.

As for software, I can't really recommend any. There's no substitute for the human eye. Though I would point out that, contrary to Dackson, online translations, provided that they are reviewed carefully manually are not quite so horrible. I personally would generally avoid them simply because they would probably serve to slow down my translation, but for those with more limited Spanish skills, beginning from a web translation can be a useful way to speed up the process, so long as one is very careful about it.

I would also recommend against paying for a professional translation. In addition to being ridiculously expensive, there' just no reason for it, particularly when one is translating into one's native language and has a decent knowledge of the original language. Of course, if you were translating the other way around, that'd be different. But it seems to me that you and your intern (well, at least your intern, if your skills really are as rudimentary as you suggest) should be able to produce an adequate translation for your purposes.

Oh, and for "readers", it should read "lectores", not "lectors" in your final line. :-)

Hope I've been helpful.

[DK: Wordreference was great. It leads to a Spanish-only dictionary, which explained "mosquetones" "tercerolas" and "postas" in "cargados con postas"]
2.16.2009 5:57am
K. Dackson (mail):
Unfortunately, most online translators are far too literal and miss out on common usages.

For example Google translator mangles "buon apetito" in Italian into the English equivalent "Bon Apetit" (which in reality is French) then going into Chinese (盂兰盆胃口好) and back to English as "Bon appetite and good" and finally back into Italian "Buon appetito e buona" which makes absolutely no sense.

Of course we all know that "buon apetito" means "enjoy your meal", but how would you get that?

And if you type in English "enjoy your meal" it gets correctly translated into Italian as "buon apetito".

And that is just a simple everyday pleasantry.
2.16.2009 6:39am
New Yorker:
I disagree with those who say that paying a professional translator is not worth it. I am a legal translator of German texts (and admitted lawyer). Not only should one have a great command of both the translated and target language, ideally one should have a working knowledge of the civil law system in which the language is operative.

Law and language are inextricably tied: laws are legal notions put into words and thus the object of semantic problems. So I can't see why anyone would run a translation 1) through a translator service, or 2) expect that a non-lawyer, non-proficient translator could translate such a statute.
2.16.2009 9:55am
Houston Lawyer:
I recall a story from an Austrian friend of mine who moved to the US and got his legal degree after finishing his doctorate in Salzburg. He is well trained as a US attorney and had the occasion to work on a transaction with some German lawyers, with German as his native tongue. He said that the whose experience was difficult for him, because he was unfamiliar with German legal and finance terms. I wonder if the same could apply to Spanish, where a Mexican statute should be translated by someone familiar with both Mexican and English law.
2.16.2009 10:02am
Dan L (mail):
I suppose I should clarify that I'm assuming that David Kopel is writing the translation primarily for research purposes, rather than representation ones. If he has clients' cases that could turn significantly on the nuance of the text he is translating, obviously he should get a professional translation and/or consult with bilingual attorneys trained in Mexican law. But for research purposes, the sort of thing he's attempting should suffice. I'm a history grad student, and I would never pay a translator to translate anything for my own research into foreign language documents. That would simply be madness.

And I'm not disputing that online translators aren't terrible things, used improperly. I'm merely saying that, used carefully, they can perhaps save a little bit of time for novice translators. Each sentence still needs to be examined carefully, and unfamiliar words still need to be looked up to ascertain that they are being used correctly in context, but the sort of literal output of a web translator can provide a useful starting place for that work, compared to a blank page. The amount of time saved, however, is (or, more precisely, ought to be) quite modest. One should think of it as a clunky, rudimentary tool that can perhaps provide some assistance for translation work, nothing more. If you think you're saving a lot of time by using an online translator, then you're doing it wrong.
2.16.2009 11:13am
RiccardoS (mail) (www):
Dan L:

I wonder why you would consider a professional translation "ridiculously expensive": for example, translating that Mexican statute would probably take a professional translator about forty hours. An editor would then spend ten or more hours to check the first translator's work.

Also, when you say "[there is] just no reason for it, particularly when one is translating into one's native language and has a decent knowledge of the original language.": a translator always translates into his native language. He also needs to have a superb knowledge of the foreign language he is translating from. That's just the start: a good translator specializes in just a few fields, to be able to understand the source text perfectly and to render it into the target language correctly.

I know that David may need this translation for academic purposes, and that there may not be enough money to pay for a professional translation.

Even for such purposes the translation needs to be very accurate. Otherwise there is the risk of misinterpreting the foreign statute because of a translation that, thought apparently plausible, is actually incorrect.
2.16.2009 12:03pm
rim fire? is that like anal herpes? is that joke inappropriate for such an intellectual blog?
2.16.2009 5:18pm
One concept which is probably correctly translated, but which I would annotate with a footnote were I translating it because it is uncommon in Anglo-American jurisprudence, is the phrase "days of fines" which is one of the more common penalties described in the statute.

In civil law countries, a common unit of punishment is the "day fine" which translates roughly (I'm sure it is defined precisely elsewhere in the penal code) as a fine equal to one day of income. Thus, if someone makes 365,000 pesos per year, a two days of fines is 2,000 pesos. But, if someone makes 3,650,000 pesos a year, two days of fines would be 20,000 pesos.
2.16.2009 5:30pm
Robert C.:
girtz: a rimfire is a type of ammunition. In a rimfire cartridge, the primer - the substance that is crushed by the firing pin, causing it to explode and set off the gun powder inside the casing - is packed along the rim of the base of the cartridge casing. This is opposed to a center fire cartridge, where the primer is in the center of the base of the cartridge casing.
2.16.2009 6:02pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

BTW, I would also be grateful for a link to the Mexican Firearms Regulations if there is an on-line version.

I found this, which looks like what David was looking for:

It covers all of Mexico:

Disposiciones Generales
ARTICULO 1o.- Las disposiciones de este Reglamento son aplicables en toda la República.

[DK: This is actually the 1972 version of the federal firearms statute. It's handy to have, and I added a link to it from the translation. You can see how much changed from the 1972 law to the 2004 law (although I think most the changes were made before 2004), particularly in terms of enumerating all the things that ordinary people cannot have.]
2.16.2009 8:11pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Dave, you need a gun guy (not me) to translate this stuff:

n) . – Estifanato [¿ Esters ?] of lead;
Apparently Lead Styphnate, from comparing explosive materials.
2.16.2009 8:26pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

y los cargados con postas superiores al 00

(.84 cms. de diámetro) para escopeta.

Here I would say "los" = "cartuchos", making this part of the sentence "and shotgun cartridges loaded with buckshot greater than 00 (.84 cm in diameter)."

(That webpage contrasts buckshot with birdshot; I cannot speak to the accuracy of the rest of it.)
2.16.2009 8:50pm
Antonio (mail):
@everybody specially Dan L
I would also recommend against paying for a professional layer. In addition to being ridiculously expensive, there' just no reason for it, particularly when one is reading one's native law system and has a decent knowledge of the original law system. Of course, if you were acting as a lawyer the other way around, that'd be different. But it seems to me that you and your intern (well, at least your intern, if your skills really are as rudimentary as you suggest) should be able to produce an adequate defense in front of a court for your purposes.
2.18.2009 8:39am

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