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The Spanish Lawyer Online
The Spanish Lawyer Online

Antonio Flores’ Blog

Thoughts about laws and regulations which affect foreigners in Spain


Archive for February, 2018

The Language of Law in Spain

February 16th, 2018

shutterstock_222873250We often hear statements relating to the implication of contracts and other legal documents that are in a language different from Spanish. One of those statements has, by its own right, risen to the category of legal myth/urban legend: I am referring to the belief that a contract signed in Spain in a language different from official Castilian (or for that matter regional languages) is null and void and thus, does not create rights or obligations.

There is an evolution of the above far more twisted: that if a person that does not understand Spanish signs a legal document in this language, they can challenge it in Court where, incidentally (according to a minority of expats) the Judge should -at the very least- know English but if not, a translator should always be provided at to ensure his/her rights are protected.

The following notes should help dispel any potential confusion as to what is correct from what not, “language-wise”:

  • A document of a contractual nature can be drafted in any language for which an official translation service is available. This implies that contracts in any language that is official somewhere in the world is legal, since a valid translation can be provided.
  • Not understanding the content of a contract is not an excuse, as much as ignoring the law excuses no one, as the principle goes (save for some exceptions, notably in financial or investment contracts).
  • Pursuant to art. 142.1 of the Civil Procedure Law, “In all judicial procedures, the Judges, Senior Judges, Public Prosecutors, Court Clerks and other civil servants in courts and tribunals shall use Castilian Spanish, the official language of the State.”, but it also adds in 143.1 that “when a person who does not know Castilian Spanish nor, in the event, the own official language of the Autonomous Authority has to be questioned or make a declaration, or when it is necessary to personally let him know a decision, the Court Clerk may issue an order authorizing any person who knows the language concerned to act as interpreter, in which case the said interpreter shall be required to swear or promise that the translation is true to the original.”
  • And finally, in accordance to art. 144.1, “any document worded in a language other than Spanish or, as appropriate, the official language of the Regional Authority in question shall have a translation of such document attached thereto.”

Legal Practise ,