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Poll: Do you ever translate handwritten documents?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 16:13
Apr 30, 2014

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you ever translate handwritten documents?".

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Teresa Borges
Local time: 00:13
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No, not any more! Apr 30, 2014

As a sworn translator I was often presented with birth certificates that were handwritten...


Laurens Sipahelut  Identity Verified
Dutch to Indonesian
+ ...
Other Apr 30, 2014

I did once translate from Dutch into Indonesian some old letters written in longhand cursive. The text was legible and, given the content, it was rather a gas. But that was a long time ago; I was still in college and naive and the translation agency that assigned me the job pulled a fast one on me by not paying (for reasons I don't recall).

Then two decades passed by and I was offered a similar project (different client this time, but same language pair), but as I was only given illegible Xerox copies to work with, and because of remunerative differences, I passed.

So, I come across projects like these once in a blue moon. And maybe I should've had answered 'Yes'.


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:13
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other - very rarely Apr 30, 2014

I have helped genealogists with some old documents, but I do it more as a favor. It's not part of my work flow.

I definitely do not do handwritten medical charts. There's too much room for error and I don't want to take on that responsibility.

In short, I have to be really, really motivated before I take on a handwritten text.


Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:13
Hebrew to English
Yes Apr 30, 2014

Mostly letters (contrary to popular belief people do still use the old fashioned 'pen and paper'), I quite enjoy it sometimes but it can be a nightmare if the writing is barely legible or the person has horrendous handwriting.


Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:13
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
No Apr 30, 2014

I have only been asked once or twice and declined for various reasons, such as illegibility, archaic language (where I am not at specialist) and enough other work.

[Edited at 2014-04-30 09:58 GMT]


Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:13
French to English
Do I? Have I? Apr 30, 2014

Do I ever translate handwritten documents?
There is a strong chance that I would refuse for legibility. Also, it would depend on the type of document. If it is just text, clearly written, then that would not be too much of a bother. If it requires a whole lot of fiddling around with for illustrations, references etc, things which you could otherwise overwrite in a Word document for exemple, then it will certainly take much longer to do and that time would be accounted for when invoicing.

Have I ever translated handwritten documents?
Before the internet explosion, lots of folk were still computer-resistant. That said, as my clients have almost always been direct corporate clients, then that simply does not apply. It is only relevant for the very occasional private individual.


Helen Hagon  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:13
Member (2011)
Russian to English
+ ...
Occasionally Apr 30, 2014

...but only if I can see the document first to make sure I can read it before I accept the job.


Thayenga  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:13
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Long ago Apr 30, 2014

During my time as an in-house translator I had to translate handwritten documents quite often. Since then such a request has not materialized again. But I would do it without a problem. After all, I can read old German texts and even my doctor's handwriting.icon_wink.gif


Marlene Blanshay  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:13
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
yes Apr 30, 2014

I have in the past, but now.... It's the same with me, i have to be really motivated.


Alberto Montpellier  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...

No way... Apr 30, 2014

And I don't translate in handwriting either. My penmanship is so bad, that I'm glad I was born into the "digital age".


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:13
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Of course! Apr 30, 2014

Helen Hagon wrote:

...but only if I can see the document first to make sure I can read it before I accept the job.

Not too long ago, I was asked to translate some handwritten medical reports.
Sorry, I don't translate medical stuff.
Can you at least transcribe them?
Let me see them. ... No, the handwriting is illegible.
Can you refer us to someone?
Yes. ... Unfortunately, no. I sent the files to two medical translation experts, and neither could understand the handwriting.

Yet I always wonder why the first and foremost non-negotiable demand from some outsourcers who are trying to assign such jobs is "MUST have Trados!"

I never had/saw Trados, I use WF.
Can Trados really handle bad handwriting?icon_confused.gif


DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:13
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Yes ... Apr 30, 2014

More frequently in the past, but now mostly only handwritten medical notes


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:13
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Occasionally Apr 30, 2014

I insist on being able to read them.

I take pride in my own handwriting, and ther are stil others who do too, though I am rarely offered much handwriting to translate. Usually just a few words or a note in the margin.

I did once have a favourite client - a designer - who worked for a big Danish company, and at one time they seemed to have been dragged straight from the 19th century to the 21st, springing the 20th century over completely. Typed instructions and formulae were suddenly needed in English (possibly typed in the first half of the 20th century, but the traditional methods went way back...), and I worked my way through them. In between, I had to translate hand-written instructions for modern drawings, in the designer's very distinctive, half-illegible handwriting.

I used to call him to check on what he had actually written and ask about terminology before I started translating. He was really interesting to talk to, and explained terms I would never have understood from the dictionaries I had available.
Often there were beautiful diagrams and hand drawings of the products - I kept the faxed source texts for a long time! But finally I shredded them for security reasons.

Luckily I was paid for my time. Several colleagues refused those jobs, and they were certainly a challenge, but I still smile when I look back on them.


Local time: 01:13
English to Serbian
+ ...
Other Apr 30, 2014

I did once and I doubt I'll do it again unless the text is readable. Having a hard time to decypher what someone wrote takes way to much time for an only-translation fee.

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