Legal translation

German Legal Translation (Regarding Agreements)

1. Keiyaku & Yakkan – Contracts & Agreements

The Japanese terms 契約 (keiyaku , contract) and 約款 (yakkan , agreement) are translated into German as either Vertrag or allgemeine Geschäftsbedinungen, in cases where they refer to a standard form contract. In other contexts, the term Klausel is also acceptable. However, the term is often simply abbreviated as “AGB”.

Today, I’d like to discuss the ways a yakkan is indeed a special form of “contract”, despite not being fundamentally different from a standard keiyaku, in that both stipulate an agreement between two concerned parties.  Additionally, in our upcoming German Legal Translation Course which starts January 30th, we’ll be using one text which discusses AGBs in IT-related companies.

2. Yakkan – Agreements

The term yakkan is stipulated not only in civil law, but also in special laws that govern a variety of social interactions. For example, when signing up for both life insurance and damage insurance, you’ll get a yakkan agreement containing a large amount of fine print. To use a perhaps more familiar example, you enter into a “transportation agreement” (unsou yakkan) when you ride a train!

“Wait, what? I don’t exactly sign and stamp a contract every time I board a train…” you might say to yourself. Imagine, for a moment, that in order to simply board a train you had to head to a station, tell a person from the railway company the exact station you were heading to, as well as the fare and time, then had to draw up a contract which both parties agreed to, and, with a representative of the railway company (who of course has the proper authority), had to sign and stamp a written document. Modern society would cease to function.

It’s here that a special form of contract can come in handy: by stipulating the content of an agreement between an unspecified group of people in a contract known as a teikei yakkan (“standard form contract”), you can agree to the terms of a transportation agreement every time you tap your smartphone on the machine at the gate of a train station. That is to say, a yakkan is defined as a contract (or agreement) which is drawn up by one party (usually a company) for an unspecified number of other parties, where all parties involved find the content to be reasonable and entirely or at least partially consistent.

3. The Yakkan in Japanese Civil Law and German Civil Law (BGB)

The last sentence of the previous paragraph is precisely the definition provided in the Japanese Civil Code, Article 548, Section 2, Paragraph 1. The legal regulations governing yakkan in Japan are all stated from there until Article 548, Section 4. Similarly, German Civil Law outlines these regulations in § 305 to 310 of the BGB (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch). Furthermore, regulations for more specific, varied regions of the law are left up to the Special Law (tokubetsuhou), standing in contrast to the General Law (ippanhou), which is also part of Civil Law.

To add one final comment to this discussion, user license agreements of computer and internet applications you might be familiar with are also considered yakkan. We think it’s highly likely that demand for translation of AGBs for apps and software will grow in the future.

If you find yourself interested in studying German Legal Translation, please don’t hesitate to check out the details of our course. This course is carried out online, meaning you can attend from the comfort of your home from anywhere in the world.

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