Translation of Certificates - how to deal with names
Thread poster: Susan Welsh

Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:54
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Apr 18, 2009

When translating certificates, is it preferable to stick as closely as possible to the original legal document of the source language, or to express things as they normally would be in the target language?

The case in point here is word order for names. Russian legal documents write:
Surname Name Patronymic (middle name)

Whereas English would normally write:
Name Middle Surname
or, in some cases:
Surname, Name Middle

If you write the Russian name in Latin letters, but leave the word order and punctuation as per the Russian custom, then a non-Russian-speaking reader might be confused about which is indeed the surname. So I would say it's best to change it to English form. But since it's a legal document, is that a problem?

Thanks for any advice.


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Oleg Osipov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 13:54
English to Russian
+ ...
T... Apr 18, 2009

Susan Welsh wrote:

Surname, Name Middle



That's the way to do it.
Not a problem.


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Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 12:54
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
ALWAYS ask the client Apr 18, 2009

When translating certificates between languages not sharing the same alphabet, it is vital to ask the client for their choice of spelling of the name. If the agency doesn't know and can't find out, that is fine. However, in many cases, such as in immigration and study documents, variations in spelling can be extremely problematical. Make it standard procedure to ask.

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Oleg Osipov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 13:54
English to Russian
+ ...
B... Apr 18, 2009

rifkind wrote:

However, in many cases, such as in immigration and study documents, variations in spelling can be extremely problematical. Make it standard procedure to ask.


Absolutely. Basically, spelling based on the travel document, or else.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:54
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Follow the source document strictly Apr 18, 2009

I have been doing a course on legal translation over the last month and a half and my teacher, a known legal translator and also a PhD teaching legal and financial translation at several Spanish universities, told us that the best approach is to follow the source document exactly, also in terms of names. The reason is that the translated legal document should be easy to match in its different parts to the source document.

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Mark Cole  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:54
Polish to English
+ ...
Stick to the original Apr 18, 2009

Usually, certificates also include instructions in small type (which the translator should reproduce), usually underneath the space to be filled in. If so, as Tomas says, it's best to keep to the original document.

I only "switch" the order of names in things like business correspondence to "first name / surname" to avoid any confusion on the part of the (English speaking) end user. But it's best to ask the client if in doubt.


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Sushan Harshe
India
Local time: 16:24
English to Hindi
+ ...
Stick to source Apr 18, 2009

When translating certificates, is it preferable to stick as closely as possible to the original legal document of the source language, or to express things as they normally would be in the target language?


In my opinion, for this context, there is no meaning for "In my opinion!".

I shall advise you that;

Legal document like certificate, translation should be an exact mirror of source document!

I think this explanation should stand sufficient.


[Edited at 2009-04-18 22:46 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:54
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Stick to original, but put in comment if applicable Apr 18, 2009

Susan Welsh wrote:
When translating certificates, is it preferable to stick as closely as possible to the original legal document of the source language, or to express things as they normally would be in the target language?


Stick to the original. However, since it is normal to add explanatory notes to certificate translations, you might as well add a note if you know that the target reader of the certificate is unlikely to know how to read the name.

For example, if I translate a certificate with a date in it, and the date is something like 10-9-1978, then I add a note that if this is a date, it probably means 10 September. I don't write that it *certainly, undoubtedly does* mean 10 September, because I can't know for certain (for all I know it could be a product serial number that only looks like a date) , but in my role as a cultural expert of the source text it is my educated opinion that it would probably mean 10 September. So I write it, in brackets.

The same approach can be applied to names. So you'd translate "Surname Name Middlename" as "Surname Name Middlename [if a person's name, it probably means Name Middlename Surname]".

rifkind wrote:
Always ask the client...


In my experience, the client often does not know and expects you to know.

[Edited at 2009-04-18 21:37 GMT]


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Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:54
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks to all Apr 18, 2009

I think I got the message!

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