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University of Yaounde I




The European-inspired bilingualism and bi-legal system spot Cameroon as an irregular profile bearing a great deal of interest for the European Union (EU) in its quest for preservation of intercultural process through translation. The Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) hosting bilingual and bi-legal Cameroon is only affiliated to Civil Law. However, bi-legal Cameroon (Civil Law and Common Law) prescribes a balance in conceptual, epistemic and stylistic representation. Intercultural dysfunction is the consequence of methodological void upon legal translation issues. Collaboration between legal translators and practitioners is key to adopt an agreed-upon model in multilingualism.

Keywords: Legal Translaboration, OHADA, culture, Histoire, Intercultural Communication


À travers son bilinguisme et son bijuridisme d’inspiration européenne, le profil atypique du Cameroun est porteur d’un intérêt certain pour l’Union Européenne (UE) dans sa quête de préservation du processus interculturel par la traduction. L’Organisation pour Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires (OHADA) à laquelle le Cameroun appartient est essentiellement affiliée au Droit Civil; or le bijuridisme camerounais (Common Law et Droit Civil) prescrit un équilibre dans l’échelle des valeurs conceptuelles, épistémiques et stylistiques. Le dysfonctionnement de la communication interculturelle est le résultat de l’impensée méthodologique autour des questions de traduction juridique. La collaboration entre traducteurs juridiques et praticiens du droit est essentielle à un consensus en milieu multilingue.

Mots clés : Translaboration juridique, OHADA, culture, history, communication interculturelle.


I- Introduction

The historical odyssey of European nations allow a comparison and experience-sharing between former colonial masters affiliated in the European Union (EU) and erstwhile colonized nations which were superimposed with ontological traits, i.e, language and legal systems that became the backdrop against which daily issues are being dealt with (De Saussure, 1913[1]; Harvey, 2002[2]; Way, 2016[3]). Indeed, language policy and (legal) translation in the EU are of major importance in peacekeeping and identity convergence (Ferreri, 2013[4]). Dysfunctions recorded in European-shaped territories are therefore of importance to prevent the rise of similar breakdown in Europe. The legal translation of Ohada uniforms Acts did happen amid what has been commonly referred to as Anglophone crisis (Bell Mandeng, 2019[5]; Engola, Bell Mandeng, 2019[6]). The Organization’s legal conceptualization is tailored to the dimension of Civil Law States (Ndongo, 2013[7]). It is therefore unresponsive to English-speaking legal conceptualization and representation. Indeed, amid the seventeen Member States of the Civil Law-designed Organization, Cameroon is the only bilingual (English and French) and bi-legal country (Civil Law and Common Law). Cameroon’s legal profile encompasses a great deal of complexities ranging from epistemic, technical to historical. In this regard, the country ushers in an intercultural demand to be addressed in legal translation. Unlike other African nations, Cameroon was instilled with a double cognitive paradigm which later on yielded an internecine conflict for the adoption of standard model for legal representation in bilingual and bicultural and bi-legal institutions (Kenfack, 2009[8]). French and English imbued Cameroon’s cognitive and institutional structure. Indeed, the historical facsimile tells the story an unequal coverage of the nation, with France (Civil Law) having the lion’s share in the legal, institutional network and Great Britain assuming the position of the minority power in the nation (Eyelom,). Methodologies used in legal translation to secure identity convergence is of relevance since it could potentially entail fallouts at the social level. Every community is homesteaded on a specific physical and semantic territory. The sustainability of social life within the borders of a community is guaranteed by the abidance to an agreed-upon sociocultural model constructed over time. Local episteme and cognitive patterns of thinking are enshrined in the legal gestalt and materialized in fined-grained segments of social life (Trade, justice, business, social affairs, etc.) through specific references mentioned in the legal text. Terms and concepts aligned following syntactical conventions and expressed in abidance to stylistic tradition (Gémar[9], 2002; 2014[10]) are the artefactual realization of collective identity avowed by a legal community in the course of its sociohistorical journey. In this regard, literal translation and the systemic search for terminological/conceptual correspondences are detrimental in the peacekeeping intercultural imperative as legal translator – cultural actor and intercultural negotiator - is endowed with a set of references and sneakily superimposes an epistemic standpoint to a minority culture. Collaboration among legal translators appears essential to secure effective intercultural communication.

II- Theoretical framework

1. Neumann’s game theory

Legal translation is a major importance as it encompasses cross-cultural and territorial range of interest - historical, sociocultural, normative, commercial - subsumed under the heading of institutions. (Gémar, 2018[11]). This painstaking task to be carried out legal translators prescribes a set of methodological technics tailored to the complexity of multi-legal, multilingual and multicultural areas like the European Union or countries faced with high-stake identity issues like Cameroon and South Africa (Gémar 2011[12]; Ndongo, 2013[13]). In this regard, minimax strategy, the lodestar of game theory propounded by Neumann can be of relevance in translation (Guidère, 2010[14]; Munday, 2008[15], Rakova[16], 2014). It can be implemented by a collaboration between legal stakeholders to find a venue on the intercultural proposal to be adopted in legal translation. Legal system and linguistic diversity (French and English) in Cameroon are both a legacy and an epitome of European countries which merged in an institution, the European Union (UE) to form a pole of power undergirded by sociocultural and institutional references.

In effect, the gut link between language and culture is a matter of common knowledge in the field of cultural studies, linguistics and intercultural communication (Martin & Nakayama, 2010[17]; Ladmiral & Lipiansky, 2014[18]). In line with the Durkeim’s views on the coercive aspects of culture, Sinha (2014[19]) and Bruner (2014[20]) both support the view that culture is endowed with deontic and restrictive epistemic truth framing the mind and engaging community’s insiders to perceived the world through filtered lenses. Law is indeed the immaterial substance connecting members of a community and regulating their action-perception model in the course of their daily experience. Therefore, law is the cornerstone undergirding the sociocultural model implemented in a community at a specific time. Language is an important lever for intercultural communication as the immersion in a material world calls for material references expressing the cognitive truth implicitly shared by cultural insiders. In this regard, language is an identity displayer or sociocultural manifesto expressing specific truth. In this regard, translation, especially translation of law does require an immersion into the Other’s framework of references and ethnographic standards of representation and communication. Gémar (2015[21]) suggests recourse to a specific field commonly referred to as jurilinguistics to secure sociocultural symmetry and identity convergence through an apt management of semantic tools (terms, notions, concepts) in translated text. In this regard, Garzone (2000:1[22]) supports the view that:

the distinctive quality of the language of law, which marks it off from ordinary language and makes it a case apart in the field of special languages has been recognized and legal translation is no longer regarded simply as a particular case within the general framework of LSP [Language for Specialized Purpose] texts, a certain reluctance has emerged to accept the application of a general translation theory to include the translation of legal texts.

Actors molded within the framework of specific communities anchored on geographical territories are world citizens taking part in the circulation and mobility of ideas and paradigms undergirding the mental infrastructure which is home to global mind. Indeed, the underlying assumptions about worldliness its existing realities. Pool (2010[23]: 76) does refer to it as paralingualism. However, the difference of geographical setting and historical route directs communities to represent the shared experiential truth using ever-specific artefactual resources and ethnographic conventions. This state of affairs does not result in local cosmetics creating the illusion of ontological difference. That perceptual illusion is being referred to as aspect (Pool, 2010). The aspectual representation of sociocultural models hold a unanimous truth to be evidenced in the process of (legal) translation. Legal translation, especially in intercultural and multilingual spheres is sometimes a process whereby the majority holding a power of diffusion prevails its aspectual truth (textual, semantic representation) over the Other in view of driving him out from the conscience of commonness/sameness to meet a cultural alienation, sociocultural and economic agenda. The legal translation of OHADA Uniform Act is a patent demonstration of the attempt Civil Law actors (legal translators) versed into French mind frame due to the colonial experience and assuming the majority position in Cameroon, meant to conquer representational model. Martin & Nakayama (2010:245) support the view that: translation is more than merely switching languages, it also involves negotiating cultures […] one part of our cultural identity is tied to the languages(s) that we speak”. Civil Law and Common Law are legal systems endowed with specificities. Methodology is the process whereby negotiating is being conducted with an aim to find a consensus. Pool (2010:76) supports the view that: “a strategy that might make paralingual transparence nonfictional is aspectual phased translation […] we might model translation as having two aspects: cultural and linguistic”. The cultural aspects referred to within the line of this quotation could be tantamount to deep structure of human engaging peope to have a commonsensical view of reality. Linguistic aspects are the surface structure representing communities in what make their specificity and identity. In the domain of legal translation, textual elements (terms, notions, concepts and syntax) are the elements pertaining to the community’s surface structure. These elements are the cultural appropriation of the shared conceptual substance at the very basis of universal culture. Bruner (2014), Sinha (2014), Hall (1971[24]) support the view that there is a kind of predilection effect in the impregnation of neural apparatus connecting individuals to the local design of representation expressing commonsensical view (cross-cultural) on a matter. Ecocultural and eco-linguistic guided tour in the Other’s network of representation is therefore of major importance for identity convergence. Collaboration among legal translators emerging from distinctive cultural setting is of major importance to capture the identity-bound process through which the specific realization of commonsensical and underlying perception of the world is done.

2. Critical approach to intercultural communication

The awareness of the multiple implications of ethnographic realization in language in contacts, especially in multicultural and multilingual areas of representation did extend the epistemic scope of translation which skates cross the borders of linguistic territorialities to reach erstwhile alien sphere of sociopolitical arena (Baker[25], 2013; Wang Hui[26], 2011; House, ). Institutionalization of multilingualism and multiculturalism are most of times spoils of war waged by minority group for identity recognition at the official sphere, be it at the local, national or transnational levels (Cronin, 2011). The clash of cultural perspectives between majority group members - releasing a set of references extracted from the shrine of ecology and history and represented through a wide array of identity diffusion like language and text – and minority group endowed with ecocultural truth running counter the prevailing literature spread by institutions seems to be unavoidable. As the receptacle of experience, ecocultural and historical truth, language is indeed an ontological and identity displayer in the face of alterity. It is also a facsimile of sociocultural and political model in force in specific/local territories. Contacts between languages carried forward by distinctive communities during intercultural intercourse result into the triumph of one over the Other which tends to be disregarded by institutions.

The experience of African countries (former colonized countries) especially countries where a colonial master overpowered the Other to conquer the reins of power and convention, is emblematic of the attempts aiming at homogenizing the cognitive truth nationwide through linguistic and translation policies adopted by institutions. Krog & al (2010[27]) tell the story of tug-of-war between languages in South Africa resulting into the victory of majority group language: English. Social resistance done against the homogenization of experience and epistemic truths calls for the intervention of specific actor apt at achieving betweenness. In this regard, Krog & al (2010:17) support the view that: “translation might mediate […] as a form of reconciliation in which the periphery talks to the center as well as the center to the periphery, and which all the languages are enriched as a result”. Legal language/text be it at the gestalt or in fined-grained domain is an offshoot of specific culture (Terral, 2004 ).

Legal translation of OHADA Uniform Acts is an epitome of ideological annexation and sociocultural resistance. As the verbalization of experience and historically-constructed anthropological truth, legal text and the semantic tools (terms and concepts) contained therein are the avatar of identity. In this regard, Krog (2010:18) supports the idea that: “every term in translation has an ideological freight”. Ideologies are nurtured on a political ground over time. The historical facsimile reveals the majority position occupied by Civil Law with regards to the conceptualization of law. French is being considered as the language of law in Cameroon. The translation workload carried out in the Administration is most of times from French into English with a strategy of translation for informative purpose. This tendency is observed in legal translation strategies paralleling/drawing correspondence between both epistemic standpoints. Schweda Nicholson (2010[28]: 38) suggests that: “Common Law and Civil Law are quite different in their approaches”. In this regard, legal translators should engage into an overarching reconciliation process ranging from epistemic to sociocultural and historical and last but not the least ecological.

Recognition of historically-constructed and ecologically-shaped identity representation (language) are underlying elements of the concept of power. Terms, notions, concepts, language structure are items endowed with both prescriptive and anthropologizing properties unveiling sociocultural norm and directing individuals towards an epistemic source of action and perception (Levi-Strauss, 1962[29]; Ladmiral & Lipiansky, 2014). Binary space/network of representation are painstaking areas for identity brokers since a consensus should imperatively be found amid potentially antinomic models of representation. The case of representation legal system is one of the kind (Gémar, 2011; Ndongo, 2013; Bell Mandeng, 2019; Engola & Bell Mandeng, 2019). The country is home to competing sociocultural and normative models enshrined in legal systems. In this regards, Pelage (2007[30]:166-167) supports the view that: “Ne correspondant à aucune notion connue de nous, les termes du droit anglais sont intraduisibles dans nos langues comme sont les termes de la faune et de la flore d’un autre climat. On en dénature le sens le plus souvent quand on veut coûte que coûte le traduire”. Indeed, Civil Law and Common Law are legal systems expressing antinomic social norm. Methodology used in legal translation is therefore of major importance to bridge the gap amid legal divide. Legal text is an anthropological field where experience is verbalized through specific symbols canonized by the community. Terms, notions, concepts and syntactical conventions are the sociocultural avatar of reality taking part in the institutional game where no cultural actor is supposed to take the lead over the Other. Textual correspondence in legal translation is a tacit institutionalization/standardization of the source language’s sociocultural hegemony over the target culture. Each semantic item (term, notion and concept) translated following a nominalist approach is tantamount to advancing a pawn on a chessboard without allowing the Other camp to play, i.e., communicating its ontological specificity. The case of the legal translation of OHADA is an emblematic example of irrelevance of what shall commonly be referred to as a (bi)lingual approach to legal translation. Indeed, languages are the representation of distinctive ontologies/identities molded within the framework of ecocultural references. Translation plays the role of watershed between two ecocultural divide, each using (legal) language as a megaphone of their specificities. Edwards (2010[31]:93) talks about the lack of betweenness in bilingualism. He suggests that: “the broader point about borders is that, for those whose bilingualism is of the more formal variety, they are more often intellectual than geographical – but the effects may be just as consequential as those associated with commerce and custom-post”. Legal language in OHADA represents the anthropological model nurtured by communities in a specific geographical areas and in specific field like commerce. In the case of Cameroon, Common Law and Civil Law are legal systems covering Anglophone (minority) Regions and Francophone (majority). The intellectual dimension of translation abovementioned lack realism in the representation of sociocultural model to the representation of local identity.

III- Legal text and Intercultural Communication

Diversity is an emblematic feature of the world. In this regard, the necessity to communicate, i.e., finding the common substrate among people irrespective of the rhetoric/ethnographic specificities, is a vital one (Saville-Troike, 2003[32]; Bielsa[33], 2005; Bielsa & Aguilera[34], 2017). Legal text is both the cultural and institutional verbalization of the anthropological dimension characterizing a specific communities engaged in the market of communication and negotiation in view of meeting economic, political, sociocultural agendas. Undoubtedly, languages are the most important channels of community’s identities. Organizations are most of times multilingual by nature. They are therefore the scene hosting multicultural systems of representation. Translation issues are therefore of paramount importance for identity convergence and intercultural communication. The strategies used therein are vital to secure the abovementioned imperatives. In an alarming analysis of the misleading techniques used to secure smooth communication among stakeholders in institutions, Law is the language of institutions. Therefore, in line with the idea supported by Pelage (2007), an adaptation and groundbreaking methodologies are essential for the gap-bridging process.

1. Legal translation and ideology

Culture, language, ideology and law are pervasive elements framing identity, perception and communicative patterns used during intercultural intercourse with alterity (Moro & Muller Mirza[35], 2014). The Whorfian tradition supports the view that language is the receptacle where abovementioned patterns of identity are showcased ahead of intercultural encounter with the Other. It is a record of the sociocultural and normative models adopted by a community in the course of its historical experience (time) in a specific ecology (space). Issues of time and space take center stage in the investigation of meaning construction and representation (Cole[36], 1996). Indeed, meaning and sociocultural model conveyed in legal language are embedded in an ecocultural network of reference (Rastier[37], 2006; Federova[38], 2012; Hostova[39], 2016). This instance emits semantic and logical stimulus patterning the minds of local people sharing their account of epistemic truth through the process of neural linkup (Singer, 1987). The neural connection between community insider result in the production of symbols representing their shared experience, i.e., the paradigm or filtered lenses through which they perceive the world. In this regard, Schäffner (2014: 35) is supportive of the view that:

Concepts attain particular meanings in contexts, through association with neighbouring concepts, i.e. they are part of frames or schemata which are mental representations stored in long-term memory on the basis of experience of the physical, social and linguistic worlds […] Changing meanings of one concept thus ultimately means changing frames, including ideologically determined frames.

Concepts are the mental representation of ever-specific sociocultural models anchored on a physical ground. They gain a territorial seat and institutional status through their enshrinement in legal systems. Europe as a geographical area of the globe offers a fair view of the territorialization of meaning and concepts. Through its historical and philosophical tradition and its power of diffusion, Europe has been the leading light spreading the diversity of its epistemic vision across the world. Colonization has been the event through which local ontologies were reframed. In this regard, the existing divide between legal systems is a consequence of the event. The Ideological bias is a common and at times, inevitable flaw in the practice of (legal) translation (Berman, 1990[40]; Schäffner, 2014[41]; Krog, 2010). In effect, as Aristotle stated, every human being or citizen immersed in a society is “a political animal” i.e., s/he partakes in the sustainability of a cultural approach to politics fueled by ideologies. Prominent among stakeholders in the sociopolitical game is the legal translator. He is imbued within specific set of references received from his experience accumulated across history and within a particular ecology. In this view, Schäffner (2014:41) supports the view that: “decisions at the linguistic micro-level have had effects for […] society debating its identity due to the textual treatment of ideological keywords”. Legal translation, especially in space featured with bilingualism is a process whereby identities are negotiated on the balance of translation subjectivity. Its abidance to a normative model directs him to misplace legal terms therefore perpetrating cultural/ideological annexation. Elements of micro-linguistics (terms and concepts) bear the sociohistorical and ideological load of a specific community. Relying on morphological resemblances to drawing equivalencies in the translation process is a misleading method igniting social resistance.

2. The Epistemic Location of the Legal Translator

Each physical territoriality is stamped with an epistemic seal standardizing the cognitive substance adopted by the deep-seated community at a specific period of its historical experience. The neural apparatus of community members receives the set of cognitive references released in the ecological setting. The said reference pattern the mind and frame their perception. Thus, discourses upon norms in translation are closely tied to issues of ecology, geography and environment (Italiano[42], 2016; House[43], 2016). As from colonization, Cameroon is an epistemic battleground between citizens located in distinctive epistemic and geographical segments. From an historical and legal viewpoint, one can say it is the scene of an institutional contest between followers of French ideology enshrined in Civil Law and English philosophy materialized in Common Law. Cameroon has 10 Regions. North-West and South-West Regions are English-speaking areas. Both Regions were historically under English rule during colonization and therefore formed the minority group. At the same time, the other part of the country which forms the majority was ideologically framed by French mainstream culture. Civil Law then became the legal system of French-speaking Cameroon and the dominant system of law in institutions.

IV- Methodological considerations

The relevance of methodology used in legal translation is measured following the yardstick of epistemology (O’Brien & Saldanha[44], 2013). In effects, the epistemic substance conceived at different spaces and at times at different points in time provide handy hints on the gap-bridging strategies to be used for smooth communication in legal translation. The ontology on cultural stakeholders in multicultural organizations also is of relevance as it stands as guiding lines for the optimization of receptivity.

1. Profile of OHADA members

Profile of OHADA members

OHADA is predominantly composed of Civil Law affiliated country owing to colonization and ontological superimposition. Lambert (2009[45]: 82-83) supports the view that French ideology is characterized by a Universalist approach in communication. He suggests that: “The Code Napoléon […] is heavily inspired by the idea of standardization and homogenization: all in one movement the dispersed legal traditions were meant to be unified in one single formulation that became a model of the French community”.

This ideological trait in legal translation is materialized by conceptual cleansing and nominalist approaches. Cameroon’s is one of the kind in the institution. It is made up of European-inspired bilingualism (English & French) and legal biculturalism (Civil Law & Common Law). The superimposition of legal structure through the footbridge of language is therefore at the basis of (social) resistance.

2. Comparative analysis of micro-linguistic realization

Terms, concepts and notions arranged in a conventional syntactic structure in legal text are the avatar of sociocultural truth in the game of institutional representation.

a) Terms

Procédure d’alerte (translated in 2016)

Table 1: Procédure d’alerte (translated in 2016)

§ In this article, the term Procédure d’alerte is translated by Alarm procedure. The translation of the term is done following the onomasiologic approach in terminology. Indeed, this approach is built against the backdrop of Universal truth. However, each legal community avows a specific conceptualization of reality (L’Homme[46], 2005). Translation is realized following a nominalist approach to language, i.e, without any consideration to the Other’s epistemic truth as to how accurate a symmetric process is termed into the target’s community’s network of representation. According to the Companies and Allied Matter Acts (C.A.M.A[47]), the cultural symmetry between Civil Law and Common Law in the domain of Commerce is Early Warning Procedure. Failure to keep the balance in the representational offer in multicultural networks like Organisation can be perceived as cultural annexation.

Procédure d’alerte (translated in 2019)

Table 2: Procédure d’alerte (translated in 2019)

§ The second version of the translation of OHADA uniform Acts was published in 2019. Indeed, it didn’t emerge as the expected representational revolution. Surface change were observed but it was not proper to give rise to terminological equivalence. The term Procédure d’alerte wrongfully translated as Alarm Procedure was changed by Alert procedure. The cosmetic changes applied to this retranslation is not proper to achieve terminological symmetry as the items used in this translation refers to a different meaning out of the scope of specialized language.

Dissolution de la société (Translated in 2016)

Table 3: Dissolution de la société (Translated in 2016)

§ The term Dissolution de la société and Dissolution of the company fails to achieve both conceptual and semantic equivalence in both networks of representation. Indeed, the French term refers to the process whereby a company goes through a liquidation process as a result of economic failure, bankruptcy or the end of the social object. As opposed to the semantic content of the term, the English equivalence in the translation is out of the scope of specialized language. It belongs to general language. This translation is therefore biased by a mix between specialized language and general language. According to the C.A.M.A, the terminological item likely to realize ecocultural equivalence is Winding up of the company.

Dissolution de la société

Table 4: Dissolution de la société

§ The retranslation of this article could not meet the accurate semantic and conceptual convention of the target community. Indeed, the issue is rather epistemic than stylistic. The proposal Company Dissolution is nothing but a syntactic inversion of the initial proposal Dissolution of the company. The semantic gap remains as wide as it previously was at the first translation. The research of formal correspondence therefore cannot create legal symmetry. Winding up or liquidation of the company is the terminological equivalent which can create identity convergence with the right modulation of concepts.

b) Concepts

Concepts are core elements of identity. It refers to the specific understanding one community has of cross-cultural and transnational elements. Concepts are at the rationale for the quarrel of universals. The literal translation of concepts from one language to the Other can be considered as an identity superimposition as no account of the target culture’s specificity is taken. Relevant methodological strategies in translation should therefore be found for efficient gap-bridging process between stakeholders in a multicultural network of representation.

Durée de la société

Table 5: Durée de la société

§ The conceptual projections both legal communities have on the term are divergent. Civil Law community supports the view that a company’s time span should not go beyond the critical threshold of 99 years. As opposed to that epistemic stance on the issue, Common Law does not set any limitation to a company properly incorporated. Owing to its historical and colonial past, Cameroon is home to two legal systems having a range of divergence. Text is the verbalization of ecocultural truth upon the sociocultural and normative patterns of identity. This state of affairs must be taken into consideration in the translation process. Literal translation done for informative purpose imposes ecocultural untruths in the target’s culture network of representation. In this regard, legal translation stakes go beyond legal and textual frontiers to reach that of ecological. Negotiation on the epistemic content to be proposed for identity convergence is to be carried out by translators coming from different ecocultural network of representation.

Durée de la société

Table 6: Durée de la société

§ The retranslation of this article could not dovetail both epistemic standpoints. The textual facelift realization on the latest version is not proper to solve the epistemic and ecological issues of this passage. The switch between duration of the company and company’s existence doesn’t give a fair account of what the concept is in the Common Law representation.

c) Syntactic Structure

Encourir une sanction pénale

Table 7: Encourir une sanction pénale

§ The sociocultural substance is ethnographically converted in the syntactical structure of legal text. The French sociocultural tradition places the subject at the helm of the historical process through which evolution is experienced. This state of affairs directs the linguistic community to distance itself from the convention (Subject + Verb + Object) and trigger the evolution of the motionless rule and norms governing a situation. The syntactic structure encourent une sanction pénale, les dirigeants sociaux qui ont sciemment […] is a demonstration of the hegemonic position of the subject using his instrumental reason to (re)shaping of normative convention governing community’s life in a specific institutional network. The precedence of the verb in the sentence is the expression of the activity (as opposed to passivity) and the preeminence of individual rationality in the shaping of new deal social contract.

English mainstream culture envisions legal norm as an assemblage in motion (Glanert[48], 2014). As the language of institutions, legal language is the verbalization of the evolving states of the normative model. The jurisprudence is a conceptual reform experienced by a community in the course of its historical evolution (Gonzalez-Matthews). It is the verbalization of the superorganic paradigm engaging community members to shift from one position to the Other. In this regard, the individual’s willingness is not of paramount value in the emergence of the new social convention. At the level of syntax, the Subject keeps a passive position in the syntactic structure. Shall face a criminal charge, company management who have knowingly […] gives center stage to the verb representing instrument shaping community’s willingness. This syntactic convention runs counter to local representation.

d) Style

The ethnographic process whereby specific communities represent their ontology is subjective (Saville-Troike, 2003; Martin & Nakayama, 2010). Geertz () supports the view that communities have a local and subjective view of reality. Indeed, terms, concepts, notions in text are artefactual representation of the local and experiential truth of communities. These semantic items appear following a specific design uncovering the traditional representation of perceptual stance advocated by each community. The elected design of representation of identity and perception is referred to as style. The respect of style is of paramount importance for the optimization of receptivity in the target community as it is as aspect of avowed identity. Legal communities (Civil Law and Common Law) have their respective tradition in the representation of truth. Vinay & Darbelnet (1958:131) support the view that: “le français préfère le présent au futur dans les avis où interviennent des considérations juridiques […] Mais l’anglais, plus empirique, met le verbe au futur”.


Table 8: Style

§ The literal translation is par excellence the demonstration of a Universalist approach in identity negotiation through text. The correspondence between the French présent de l’indicatif “Ne SONT considérés comme libérés que les apports en numéraire correspondant à des sommes […]” and the Simple present tense in English: “The starting date of company’s existence IS the date of its registration with the registry of commerce and securities […]” can be regarded upon as a stylistic annexation. It sustains a feeling of oddness. The modulation is therefore of major importance for the identity convergence.

V- Collaboration among legal translators

a) Legal translation and bilingualism

Language is the cloak of culture and local experience in ecological settings energized by distinctive sociohistorical headlines and artefactual processes used to represented collective identities. Bilingual areas, especially those bringing antinomies together are intercultural hotspots encompassing a great number of stakes ranging from textual, to identity and social (Dullion[49], 2014). With regards to social uproars triggered by translation-related issues in bilingual areas (Ndongo, 2013; Engola & Bell Mandeng, ), it becomes imperative to negotiate (legal) identities in the textual game.

The traditional methodological options (strategies and technics) used to secure receptivity, intercomprehension and most importantly intercultural communication seems to be outdated within the framework of an ever-changing world. Indeed, the immersion of translators in an ecological network of representation subsuming dynamic patterns of history, ideology, sociocultural and normative models constructed over time, along with artefactual resources (ethnographic convention in language) directs him to bias the intercultural negotiation in translation. Multilingual countries and Organizations are intercultural hotspots requiring efficient methods to secure intercultural communication and taper the social resistance which might derive from identity ascription. In this regard, Cameroon is an emblematic case of the necessity to bridge the gap between contrasting tradition of law, language and ethnographic convention. This special status is due to the tug-of-war inside and outside Cameroon at a specific point in its history.

The colonial experience in Europe resulted in the defeat of Germany and the disruption of the ideological and cultural supply as to how sociocultural model along with legal system is implemented. France and Great Britain took the lead and reframe the legal systems. Therefore, Cameroon, just like other multilingual countries and Organizations became the scene of epistemic showdown. Polezzi[50] (2011:172-173) suggests that:

Latin word translatio indicating the movement or transfer of objects and people across space […] Travel and its textual accounts are associated with a form of translation of the Other and the new in terms familiar to a home audience. Translation, in turn, is configured as a form of transportation or appropriation of the foreign within the language and culture of the nation. The coupling between the figures of the traveller and the translator (or interpreter) is also well established and encompasses historical as well as phenomenological parallels

The complex historical background ensuing the travel of epistemic substance calls for a set of innovative methodologies to secure a fair negotiation and intercultural communication. Indeed, there are historical and phenomenological parallels between Cameroon and European countries grouped in the European Union (EU). The negotiation of (trans)national unity and identity call for a set of methodological strategies likely to achieve epistemic conversion. In this regard, collaboration with actors emerging from different ecological network appears as an imperative for intercultural communication in translation.

b) Legal translaboration

The shrinking impact of globalization result into the absorption of majority power systems and the resistance of minority group expressing their identities through dedicated social and anthropological channels like text. Thus, the research of sociocultural consensus in multicultural networks of representation can’t be achieved unless collaboration between actors pertaining to distinctive ecocultural and sociohistorical micro-worlds constantly involved in interaction in institutional settings like Organizations. In effect, languages are tools expressing the identity, anthropological, sociohistorical, normative and esthetic model advocated by communities immersed in their ecological setting. In this regard, translation is undoubtedly the in-between allowing intercultural communication to take place.

However, the case study of OHADA reveals that effective intercultural communication in translation, especially in legal translation can’t take place unless the content (epistemic truth conveyed through terms and concepts) and the cover (style and ethnographic convention) match the expectations of target communities. The results observed in the retranslation of legal texts reveal the dysfunction of the processual strategies geared towards achieving intercultural communication. It is of relevance to mention that ideologies which are the ecocultural servitudes direct institutional brokers (translator) to maintain a sense of power imbalance through the ascription of terminological and conceptual representations. A groundbreaking methodology likely to secure sociocultural and institutional consensus by mobilizing actors pertaining to ecocultural micro-worlds is therefore required.

Translaboration, i.e collaboration between actors belonging to distinct micro-worlds appeared as a buzzword in the framework of translation to reach sociocultural consensus and identity convergence. Alfer[51] (2017) suggests that collaboration in translation is necessarily conducive to epistemic and stylistic decentering and conversion. The experience-sharing in intercultural brokering shall allow the construction of an agreed-upon model especially through technics like corpora-based approach (Biel[52], 2017). The collaboration of cultural stakeholders in the intercultural experience in multicultural networks of representation is a guarantee to sociocultural convergence, especially if the architecture of the participation is done aright.


The receptivity of the legal text in translation is conditioned by the accuracy of the epistemic offer and the appropriateness of the stylistic support especially in a high-stake domain like commercial translation (Olohan[53], 2011). In this regard, four profiles should be mobilized:

1. Legal practitioner(s) of Civil Law. They shall be tasked with providing the right interpretation of law ahead of re-verbalization by the Other.

2. Legal translator(s) having French as First language and a great deal of experience in legal translation. They shall come up with the ethnographic specificities of French legal language.

3. Legal practitioner(s) of Common Law. They shall play a key role as they by providing solution to find a middle ground between static Civil Law and dynamic Common Law. Indeed, jurisprudence marks evolution in the epistemic truth advocating Common Law affiliated community. They shall therefore give an indication of the level adaptation to be made.

4. Legal translator(s) having English as First language and a great deal of experience in legal translation. They shall be predominantly tasked with proposing a stylistic offer likely to meet the expectation of target culture.


Current states of multilingualism and plurality of legal cultures in African Organizations like OHADA are a result of conceptual and epistemic travel across history, specifically during colonization by European powers. Therefore, the identity and legal translation challenges encountered by European-designed Organizations, bilingual and bi-legal countries like Cameroon are of great interest for European countries grouped in the European Union (EU). The results indicated that intercultural communication in legal translation lies on sociohistorical and ecocultural reflexive text in translation. The efficiency of traditional methodology in legal translation especially literal translation is called into question as they maintained power gap between legal and cultural stakeholders. The ideological determiners received by legal translators located in a physical and epistemic setting are set to bias the intercultural process. Sociocultural consensus can therefore be found through experience-sharing in collaboration. Legal translaboration, i.e, collaboration among legal translators and legal practitioners coming from different communities is the solution to secure the receptivity of translation and identity convergence.

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