“Official Translation” of degrees for US graduate school applications
Thread poster: Sheila Sullivan

Sheila Sullivan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:34
Spanish to English
Oct 2, 2010

Hi everyone,

Handing in translated undergrad degrees is part of the graduate school application process, and all graduate school admissions committees request “officially” translated degrees from foreigners.

What do US graduate schools consider an “official” translation into English? I ask this because, since the degree must be translated into English they probably want a native English speaker to translate it, but I understand there is no such “Sworn Translator” government exam/certificate in the United States. So what are they looking for?

Many thanks,

Sheila


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:34
English to German
+ ...
This information might help: Oct 2, 2010

"International Student Guidelines
Transcripts
Official copies must bear the official university seal and signature of the registrar. The copies must be returned directly to the School of Public Policy Office of Admission in the official sealed envelope. All applicants must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. If you attended a non-English language institution, you must submit certified translated copies of your university transcripts to the School of Public Policy. If the transcripts or marksheets are from a university outside of the United States, they are to be signed by the registrar, controller of examinations, or president of the university issuing the document. Official records are to be in the language of instruction, accompanied by official translations in English, if necessary. Translations sent directly from the institution attended or from a recognized translator are considered official.

Note to Foreign Applicants
The academic records which we refer to as transcripts should provide a listing, year by year, of all courses taken and the grade or marks received for each one. It is helpful to have the grading scale of the institution and the student’s rank in class included when such information is available. Do not submit secondary school records. Transcripts must bear an official signature in ink of the appropriate official of your institution(s), such as the registrar or recorder of records, and must bear the institutional seal. If your college or university will not provide original official academic documents, exact copies that have been verified as “Certified True Copies” by the appropriate institutional official of each institution attended should be sent. Uncertified photocopies are not acceptable. To be considered, all documents not in English must be accompanied by official English translations. These translations must bear an original ink signature and seal. Translations alone will not be accepted."

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:-7kqbE8eheAJ:publicpolicy.pepperdine.edu/admission/international-applicants/%20foreign%20students%20admission%20university%20papers%20translation&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us



This has nothing to do with translations done by native speakers.


 

Werner Maurer  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
official translation Oct 2, 2010

Do I understand correctly that you are applying to a U.S. school?

There are a couple of possibilities (maybe more):

I don't know about other Spanish speaking countries, but here in Mexico "traduccion oficial" means certified translation. They use the word oficial because it's the government that certifies translators, and no other form of certification is recognized. Sounds like your existing degrees are in Spanish, is that right? If not, perhaps other countries have a similar system and thus also use the term "official translation".

The first possibility, then, is that the person at the university you're applying to is aware of this, and hence their decision to say official rather than certified. In addition, they might want you to give them an "official translation" from the state or country that your former school is in. Could that be?

The other possibility is that the the university person is a Latino and that's the only way he/she knows to say "certified translation".

To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing obtainable in the U.S. itself as an "official translation". Unless they mean that they want your old school itself to commission or carry out the translation (seems like a long shot).

In short, they probably want to be sure the translation was done by a real translator, who will have to be certified in order for them to believe he/she is "real" - as opposed to yourself or a friend having done the translation. Many institutions outside our profession are unaware that plenty of professional, reliable translators are not certified.

You'll probably have to clarify this "live" with the university.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:34
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The general rule Oct 2, 2010

Werner Maurer wrote:
You'll probably have to clarify this "live" with the university.


Some countries (e.g. Brazil, Spain) have laws on certified translations for official purposes. In such cases, the law prevails over any agency policy.

If anyone is interested in how it works in Brazil, my explanation may be read at http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/faqs.html .

Countries that don't have any such law on the matter (e.g. USA, UK, Canada) leave it wide open for each institution, agency, whatever, to set their own rules on what translation is acceptable, and these may vary considerably. Some of them require the translation done by whatever is deemed an official translation in the documents issuing country!

So either there is a law on the matter, or the sanest option is to ask at the place where the translated documents will be submitted. I recommend to get this information in writing; even an e-mail should do.

To illustrate my point, there is no law in Brazil on when signatures or photocopies must be notarized or not. This varies from one place to another, often in the same place from one purpose to another, and sometimes on the attendant's mood from one day to another. So it always helps to have some printout to back your assertion that you have brought exactly what they told you they require.


 

Yolanda Broad  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:34
Member (2000)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
I concur with Jose Henrique on "the sanest option" Oct 2, 2010

Jose Henrique is right. You need to ask the institution what they mean by official. I especially agree that you need to get that information in writing!

 

Anne Bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:34
English to French
"official" translation Oct 3, 2010

Sheila Sullivan wrote:
What do US graduate schools consider an “official” translation into English?


Hi Sheila,
I have experienced this problem twice for my son who studies in the States.
What they mainly want is to have the documents "certified", which does not mean that it has to be a "sworn" translator, but that the person who translated writes who he is, what are his titles if possible, and acknowledges that he has translated "to the best of his knowledge". Then, in the States, the person must have his signature notarized (a notary simply certifies that the signature is authentic).
I have managed to have documents notarized in France, by simply going to my Town Hall and asking somebody to certify that the identity and signature agreed with the ID that I showed, and put the official stamp on it.
In my opinion, the University does not require specific diplomas or certifications from the translator, nor do they really check if the translator was a native speaker (but they may see that easily, if not). The only thing which does not work is if you or a family member translates (conflict of interest).


 

Anne Bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:34
English to French
Additional comment Oct 3, 2010

(see my previous post)
For the initial application (Community College) the translator who signed was an ATA-certified translator... from English to French and nobody complained.
For his transfer to University, the translator was a native English-speaker, but held no ATA certification. Nobody complained and my son was accepted into Stanford (as well as Carnegie Mellon, UCLA, etc.). He had a hand-written declaration of the translator with the translation, but in the second case I'm not sure it was notarized (I can ask him if you want).
There are probably no rigid rules, as long as the translation looks professional and reliable, and as long as it says who made it.
On the other end, be very careful with your essay, get some advice from people who know about it.


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:34
English to Spanish
+ ...
Run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it Oct 3, 2010

I translate quite a few academic documents such as degrees, transcripts and others, practically all from Mexico, for persons desiring to further their studies in the USA. My practice is to include a non-notarized statement to the effect that it is a faithful and precise translation to the best of my knowledge and ability, and that I am certified by the United States Federal Courts. My official capacity as such is not pertinent (academic documents have nothing to do with the Federal Courts) except for the fact that it shows that I have passed a very difficult exam. In the USA, anyone can translate with no formal qualifications whatsoever, because no requirements exist. Mine are for court interpreting, not translating, although the court interpreter job description (I do not have a job) also includes translation duties.

Normally the documents and translations are sent to one of many evaluation agencies that issue evaluations for a fee; on what basis they do so I am not aware. All this would then go to the institution(s) to which the client is applying. I do not know any more; clients take care of that detail.

All I can say is that no client has ever come back saying the translation was not accepted for some reason, so from that I assume I am doing the right thing. Thus, an "official translation" consists of what I have just described, except the translator need not have any official status as I do.

The idea here is just to "run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it."


 

Vadim Kadyrov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 21:34
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
Official translation in CIS countries Oct 4, 2010

Just for you to know: when someone in Ukraine (or Russia, or other former USSR countries) needs an official translation of a document, he looks for a translator with a diploma (with the record that "he/she is able to translate from ... into..."). Then they both go to a notary who certifies the signature of the said translator, showing the the document was translated by a person who is a professional translator from ... into ...

So, when someone would tell me to give him an official translation of my diploma, marriage certificate, etc., I would stick to the aforementioned procedure.


 

Sheila Sullivan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:34
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Case-by-case basis Oct 4, 2010

Hi everyone,
Thank you very much for all the information and help. Yes, this is for Spanish people with Spanish degrees applying to US grad schools. It seems like the rules about who can translate their degrees are not very rigid, and it must be taken on a case-by-case basis. Asking each school individually and getting their answers in writing is probably the best strategy. Thanks very much.
Bohy, if you wouldn’t mind asking your son if it was notarized, I would really appreciate it. Thank you.
Thanks very much!


 

Anne Bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:34
English to French
Don't ask the school administration Oct 7, 2010

I asked my son, and he confirmed that this year, the translator's statement was not notarized. And it worked.
He stated: "Anyway, if it's not OK, they will tell you and you will have the opportunity to send additional documents."
On the other hand, nobody will give you a second chance for the essay!

I do not recommend asking the schools for the rules, especially if you request an answer in writing! It may be binding for you too.
If you ask open questions, they may keep vague (as the rules are not that precise) and if you ask closed questions, they will choose the most demanding option.
That's my experience with US administration (and probably anywhere).

In my opinion, Henry's advice is the best you'll get.


 

Sheila Sullivan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:34
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Oct 7, 2010

Thanks everyone for the help. Bohy, thanks for asking your son. It's good to hear from someone who's been through the process. Wow, they really do make applicants jump through a lot of hoops! Anyway it sounds like I probably could translate degrees for people here in Spain then.

Thanks everyone!


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:34
English to German
+ ...
Sheila - please note that regulations vary from state to state Oct 7, 2010

Bohy's suggestions are brilliant - however, they apply to California. Other states may have different requirements.

 

Anne Bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:34
English to French
in other states too... Oct 7, 2010

Actually my experience with U.S. administration is mainly in Texasicon_wink.gif
I don't think there are state regulations about the way these specific translations should be performed, but a more or less intentional absence of regulation.icon_wink.gif
I have also the feeling that Henry has translated for students applying for universities in various US states, so that's why I think his advice is really valuable.
I can also add that my son was not only accepted in California, but in other states too, including into Carnegie Mellon. The translator of the school transcripts was not ATA-certified, his statement was not notarized, but he holds a PhD and was more than qualified to produce an excellent translation.


 


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“Official Translation” of degrees for US graduate school applications

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