last name not listed in birth certificate
Thread poster: mike316
Aug 2, 2012

I have this client who wanted his birth certificate translated from Arabic to English.
The original birth certificate says the baby's first name, the father's full name, and the mother's full name.
The baby's last name is not listed.
So we translated this to English and he took it to the county's recorder's office, and he just got a rejection letter saying that since his last name is missing, it cannot be accepted.
so he called me, wondering what he has to do. I told him if it's not in the original, we can't just insert it in. we have to write exactly what the original says. Then i thought i would ask here, so I told him I will research this and get back to him.
What can we do to help him? This is in the US.

[Edited at 2012-08-02 23:07 GMT]


Jean Chao  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:43
English to Chinese
+ ...
Indeed, if it's in the States...then the client needs to provide the proof in the orginal Aug 3, 2012

Hi Mike,

I'm not sure if you were asked to provide an official declaration and certification of translation accuracy for this birth certificate. As required by the California law, a legal document as such can only be officially notarized after the ATA-accredited translator signs the declaration to claim his or her legal responsibility. I know this because I did this for a direct client of mine who found me through ATA, as required by our local county registrar. With this, I think it'd better that you explain to your client to see if he could get more specific records from his home country as a supplement to this unusual birth certificate.

Hope this helps.



Angelo Lettere  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:43
English to German
+ ...
Could it be a cultural issue? Aug 3, 2012

Hello Mike,

I do not know if in the country where the birth certificate was issued, it is normal not to indicate the child's last name. As you correctly stated, if the last name is not given in the document, you cannot just add it. What's more, you may not even be able to determine the last name correctly unless you really know the specific country's laws that rule this aspect. I used to work at a consular office for many years and know that names can be a very tricky question. There is also the possibility that they may not even have proper last names, or at least not as we do in the Western world.

Thus, in order to solve the problem, I would suggest the following: Have the client verify if the certificate was issued correctly. If so, he/she will have to talk to the county's recorder's office and ask them if a translator's note and/or (what I consider more appropriate) a statement from the issuing country's embassy can solve the problem. Maybe a letter from the corresponding embassy explaining the issue would be acceptable to the recorder's office and fill the information gap that they have.

In case, however, that the birth certificate itself is faulty, your client will obviously have to undertake the necessary steps to obtain a correct one.

I hope this comment is helpful.



Ambrose Li  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:43
Chinese to English
+ ...
Maybe there is no last name Aug 3, 2012

I believe in some countries (e.g., some in the Middle East) our notion of a “last name” does not in fact exist. Your client’s birth certificate might possibly be issued by such a country.


Lau Wei Tsinn  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:43
Member (2011)
Chinese to English
+ ...
There are no last names in the Arabic naming system Aug 3, 2012

I will give a name example from Singapore, which I'm more familiar with for obvious reasons... say a name like Marlina bte Ariffin or Marlina Ariffin. Ariffin is not the last name/family name/surname or whatever you call it... it is the name of the father. The full name will usually include a "binte" (daughter of) or "bin" (son of) for the different genders in official documents, but sometimes in more informal situations, people often leave out the binte/bin.

Male - (Name of person) bin (Father's name)
Female - (Name of person) binte (Father's name)

The rule above is not cast in stone because depending on what region or country you are from, "son of" or "daughter of" can change according to the different languages. Also, I'm not sure if there are different naming conventions for those of different religions, for e.g. Christian Arabs. Best thing to do is to check with your client again.


Aisha Maniar  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:43
Member (2003)
Arabic to English
+ ...
As an Arabist... Aug 3, 2012

I can confirm that Arab people DO have surnames.

Names in most Arab countries - regardless of religion, although sometimes affected by ethnicity - are either of three or four parts - 3 = name, father's name, grandfather's name/ 4 = name, father's name, grandfather's name, family name (surname)

The mother usually keeps her own name - i.e. she is identified by her own family name and father's name

However, on a day-to-day basis, people are usually identified just by their own name and father's name, not the surname.

You need to check with your client if any of the names in the father's full name is the child's surname

In cases where I've translated official documents where the surname is not provided or is required, for use in the UK or occasionally other English-speaking countries, I simply mention that is missing on my certificate. You cannot add it in if it is not there. However, this has never been the case with a birth certificate, usually just with diplomas and degree certificates. Your client may need to go back to the authorities in the country of birth, if this is possible, and ask for a full, proper certificate.

Finally, why didn't you ask your translator about this?


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

last name not listed in birth certificate

Advanced search

Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »
Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search