Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Spelling of names on legal documents?
Thread poster: Triston Goodwin

Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 15, 2014

I wanted to get anyone's opinions on a recent event here. My wife and I received a marriage certificate to translate. The client provided a list of the names that appeared on the document, but they did not coincide with the names (or at least the spellings) that appeared on the actual form.

These forms can be hard to read sometimes, so we usually trust what the client provides, but in this case the document was clearly printed and the names were, undoubtedly, spelled differently.

I would like to know what you would do in this situation: change the names as the client indicated or leave them as they appear in the document.

Personally, I wouldn't change the names. I get the feeling that by deliberately changing the names of the individuals in the form would be grounds for legal actions against the translator, especially if they were used in any sort of fraud.


 

Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:00
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
You have to be faithful to the source document Jan 16, 2014

I for one see a lot of mistakes on Arabic-language documents where they add and drop names from one instance to the next. I think that we as translators have no option but to be faithful to the source text. That is our job. At times where a clerk makes a mistake due to their not understanding Western names, I'll put in a TN that the clerk made a mistake based on what they expect from Arabic naming conventions.

Ultimately: fidelity, fidelity, and fidelity to the source document.


 

The Misha
Local time: 13:00
Russian to English
+ ...
You don't have to be squat Jan 16, 2014

Or rather, it depends. If you are a certified or accredited translator, like in some countries outside the US, then you may want to think twice about taking any risk here for fear of losing your license or whatever it is called in your particular case. No one takes any court action against the translator for a slightly different spelling of a name - except, maybe, in North Korea. If you are in a blessedly unregulated country, such as the US, your first and utmost loyalty is to the client that pays you unless some obvious shenanigans are obvious (such as when the name is Smith and he wants it rendered as Jones or some such). The last thing you want to do is inconvenience a perfectly innocent client and lose any future business.

The above is based on my personal experience with thousands upon thousands of Russian vital statistics records, passports and such, generally transliterated into French first, often incorrectly, which oftentimes renders them unrecognizable or at the very least clumsy of mispronounced in English. Moreover, original documents often produced by lawyers in support of arbitration proceedings or other legal action often have the same names spelled every which way creating confusion and unnecessary distractions neither party wants. Having this erroneous spelling officially corrected on personal documents is a major pain in the neck. Getting different spellings of the same name reconciled across multiple languages and time frames with a modicum of official approval is often impossible outright and totally unnecessary. It is also a moot point altogether if your deliverable is a file rather than a certified hard copy. The client will be able to do what he wants with the file anyway.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that you should not be afraid to use your best judgment and accommodate your client as much as you can.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:00
Russian to English
+ ...
You cannot go by what the client tells you Jan 16, 2014

Triston & Gaby wrote:

I wanted to get anyone's opinions on a recent event here. My wife and I received a marriage certificate to translate. The client provided a list of the names that appeared on the document, but they did not coincide with the names (or at least the spellings) that appeared on the actual form.

These forms can be hard to read sometimes, so we usually trust what the client provides, but in this case the document was clearly printed and the names were, undoubtedly, spelled differently.

I would like to know what you would do in this situation: change the names as the client indicated or leave them as they appear in the document.

Personally, I wouldn't change the names. I get the feeling that by deliberately changing the names of the individuals in the form would be grounds for legal actions against the translator, especially if they were used in any sort of fraud.


You should make all the effort to read the document, even if it is almost illegible. You can use different zooms in PDF or even photoshop the document. If you cannot read it at all--you have to reject the job. They have to go to the bureau of vital records, or write to them, so they retrieve the information and issue a legible copy for them.

Yes, you could definitely end up in jail, if such a birth certificates was used to obtain some kind of a visa, or a passport to enter some countries, or to obtain credit cards or get some inheritance. Birth certificates are very serious documents, even if they have a casual look.

[Edited at 2014-01-16 07:23 GMT]


 

Gad Kohenov  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 20:00
English to Hebrew
+ ...
You know better Jan 16, 2014

Don't let the customer or the agency decide for you. When translating documents from Hebrew into English the problem of transliterating names is always there. We have to explain to everyone involved that we can't guess how the name was transliterated into Hebrew in the passport of the customer. All the customer has to do is look in his passport and tell us how his/her name was transliterated into Hebrew. There are names that can be transliterated in more than one way, such as Bercovici or Berkowitz. Am I supposed to guess how the clerk in the Ministry of the Interior decidedd to transliterate it? No!
Before I accept a translation of a birth certificate I ask for the transliteration of the Hebrew names into Hebrew. If they make difficulties and say they don't have a passport (can happen) I tell them to make sure that when the do obtain a passport they must have the clerk type their name the same way as I type them in the translation of the birth certificate (as I decided or as they spelled it for me). Otherwise there will be two different spellings of the name and that will not work! A mistake in an I.D. number disqualifies a translation, let alone a mistake in a name!
Once I had a client who insisted his name should be written Yossi (short for Joseph, ust like Joe and Joseph in English). I told him he should write Joseph because that's his formal name. He disagreed and I made the mistake of doing what he wished.
In Germany the authorities told him you name in your birth certificate appears as Yossi and as Joseph in your passport. You have to correct it. So his family members came to me and I had to correct the name. After that they had to go again to the notary, since here there is no such things as a notary public. Every translation has to be notarized by a notary (very expensive!). The notary does not ask for a fee in order to open the red ribbon and change the old translation by the new one. But the whole process is time consuming.
Since that day if the client or agency don't do exactly what I askthem to I refuse to do the translation. I don't want to do every birth certifcate etc. more than once because the client is too lazy to have a look in his/her passport and see how their name is spelled in English.


 

abufaraz
Pakistan
Local time: 22:00
English to Urdu
+ ...
The spellings in the Source document should be prevalent Jan 16, 2014

The names written in the native script, when written in English, can have different spellings which depends upon how the translator perceives the phonetic expression of the name. This usually happens in case of similar names and may end up in a different name when pronounced by a native.

Sometimes, the clients insist to write the names using the spellings provided by them. This is acceptable, if the phonetic expression supports it but if it is different to an extent that the name becomes altogether a new one, then the translator should not follow their notion.

I agree with Lilian and Tim that a mistake in this respect can raise many legal implications for the translator and require extra care in deciphering the native name(s)


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:00
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Follow the source Jan 16, 2014

I once had a client who wanted me to add a zero to a sum of money she was supposed to be inheriting. She stormed out when I refused. So what? It was only a grubby piece of scribbled note paper too, looked very fishy.

If they can provide proof of their spelling in another document then perhaps you can put "sic" and a Translator's Note.
(Just remembering when French social security just off their own bat changed both my name and DOB and refused to change it back unless I provided a certified translation of my passport and refused to accept the fact that my British passport is in fact BILINGUAL EN+FR.)

[Edited at 2014-01-16 08:33 GMT]


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:00
Russian to English
+ ...
I agree. There might be a problem with the languages that use a different writing system Jan 16, 2014

aburiaz wrote:


The names written in the native script, when written in English, can have different spellings which depends upon how the translator perceives the phonetic expression of the name. This usually happens in case of similar names and may end up in a different name when pronounced by a native.

Sometimes, the clients insist to write the names using the spellings provided by them. This is acceptable, if the phonetic expression supports it but if it is different to an extent that the name becomes altogether a new one, then the translator should not follow their notion.

I agree with Lilian and Tim that a mistake in this respect can raise many legal implications for the translator and require extra care in deciphering the native name(s)


it is not he case with such languages as Polish, Spanish or French when translating into English. You just basically have to skip the diacritical marks, and the rest remains the same. You cannot change ANYTHING. When translating from languages which use different wrting systems than English there might be different spellings of certain names, I agree. But you should still go by whatever the transliteration rules say rather than what the client wants you to do.


 

Helen Johnson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:00
Member (2003)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Source document takes precedence Jan 16, 2014

If ever I have something like a certificate and a name is spelled differently, I always type the name exactly as it is on the source document and write (sic) after that name to show that there appears to be a mistake. In my opinion, a translator should stick to the source text because that is what your job is.
If on the other hand you have (e.g.) a long text documenting discussions in a court dispute and typos occur regularly, I sometimes choose one spelling and write a note to say that the name is spelled differently elsewhere. If, however, such a document were to contain (e.g.) such a certificate, I would type the names exactly as they stood on the certificate.
Best wishes, Helen


 

Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your opinions! Jan 16, 2014

We really appreciate your opinions and commentary.

We did not change the names and the client threw a fit over it. We just wanted to make sure our concerns were well grounded, as this is the first time anyone's ever become so upset over something like this.


 

Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:00
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Was this a certified translation? Jan 16, 2014

If this was a certified translation, i.e., you translated the document and "swore" to the fact that it was a faithful rendition of the original, then of course you have to stick to the original and copy the names word for word. After all you are certifying a translation of a specific document and you have to follow whatever is in that document.

However if this was just a normal translation in which you merely sent the translated document then I see no reason why you couldn't have followed the client’s instructions, if you've been asked by the client to use certain names to replace the names on the original why not do it, after all the client can do it so why not save them the trouble?


 

abufaraz
Pakistan
Local time: 22:00
English to Urdu
+ ...
Only if it is NOT a legal document Jan 17, 2014

Alex Lago wrote:


However if this was just a normal translation in which you merely sent the translated document then I see no reason why you couldn't have followed the client’s instructions, if you've been asked by the client to use certain names to replace the names on the original why not do it, after all the client can do it so why not save them the trouble?


IMO, the Client's instructions regarding the replacement of names/spellings should be followed only if the source document is NOT a legal document like Marriage/Birth/Educational Certificate, Court Papers, Agreements etc.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:00
English to Portuguese
+ ...
This is more complex than it seems Jan 17, 2014

Transliteration is messy every time it is necessary, and it becomes necessary when a legal/official document has to be translated.

Therefore tough decisions is placed in the hands of translators, a decision that will possibly create doubts on family links, or lack thereof.

I only translate between EN-PT. I'm gov't-licensed as a sworn translator in this pair, in both directions.

Does the lack of diacritics in English eliminate half of the trouble? No!

For instance, I see Brazilian families who had children in the USA. Let's say the mother's first name were Conceição. The c-cedilla in PT/FR has the sound of "ss", and the tilde in PT means a nasal sound that is the utmost challenge for foreigners to learn.

So we (BR) pronounce that name something like kon-say-sawn. However the EN char set (on American docs) would turn it into Conceicao, which technically should be pronounced con-say-kow.

Then there are prepositions in BR (PT too) anthroponyms, e.g. former president of Brazil Artur da Costa e Silva. (Note: It is not common to have more than one of them, but this one has two).

I often see US documents uppercasing these prepositions, and some of them omit the space immediately afterwards. So it's common to have cases where, in our example, a Brazilian woman originally named Conceição da Silva appears on her US-born child's docs as Conceicao DaSilva.

Big question... Should I - sworn translator - revert the spelling to its obvious original, upon translating that American document for official purposes in Brazil?

While I stretch my common sense to its best, I still have butterflies in my stomach when I do it. Translator notes may help, however the sworn translation is not the final document: a public servant will be using that translation to actually issue a personal doc, where no "aka" is allowed.

However the above example is pretty simple, as things may be much more complex. Let's say that a Polish guy named Przemysł moves to one The Americas. That's unpronunceable in PT/ES. In Brazil, he could change that name upon naturalization, but not before, since it came already in Latin chars (no transliteration required). In the USA, the immigration officer could ask him... "How do you pronouce that, sir?" and, upon hearing the answer, reply, "Very good, James, welcome to America!".

My ex-wife was born in Israel, and named Shoshana, which means 'rose' in HW. Her family moved to Brazil when she was 2 yo, and she became known here as Suzana from day one. She missed the chance to change it when she filed for her naturalization. As PT doesn't use the "SH" combination, only "CH", she always had to spell it whenever her name had to be written by someone else. One day she had enough of it, so she filed a case for name change. An expert opinion by a sworn HW translator was required, to explain that Shoshana and Susana were written exactly the same way in HW when diacritics were skipped, which is the usual practice. The 'Z' was a common alternate spelling. She eventually got a ministerial decree, that enabled her to have all her Brazilian documents reissued, amended.

In spite of Latin chars, diacritics always mean trouble. I recall my days in elementary school, when the president of Brazil was Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira, with this spelling. It was a major challenge for us - about 8 yo then - to get it right on our tests. One classmate of mine simplified it to the max, he wrote it "Cubex", and the teacher couldn't hold her laughter. All this because JK (the president's nickname) Czech ancestors had got Kubíček transliterated this way upon their arrival.

I know two Arab brothers, their surnames being respectively Aboud and Abbud, both transliterated in the same country by different public officers for their passports, so there are no standard rules. Will it be easy to prove that they are brothers?
Likewise, when I see Arabic surnames like Khoury and Cury (two quite common spellings in Brazil), I wonder if they are the same family or not. Many other similar cases around.

I've seen countless other cases where full transliteration, or partial transliteration (diacritics only) has led to one same surname becoming many. This should be the genealogists' nightmare, so they invented systems to cope with that. However these only serve to get families back together, after the unavoidable 'damage' has been caused by different translators.

My pet example, though fabricated, is one same Russian surname that would probably be transliterated quite differently from one country to another. These are my guesses:
Jacobovitch into PT
Jakóbowicz into PL
Yacoubovich into FR
Jakobowitz into DE
Iacubovici into RO
Jackobowitz into EN

It is easy to see how these would get scattered on an alphabetic list. I have deliberately avoided Far Eastern names, as potential trouble there abounds, and I completely lack any knowledge on that.

Yet there are no rules anywhere. It's up to us, translators, to use the best in our common sense to avoid later trouble, however being aware that there is very little we can do.

[Edited at 2014-01-17 11:14 GMT]


 

Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:00
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Why? Jan 18, 2014

aburiaz wrote:
IMO, the Client's instructions regarding the replacement of names/spellings should be followed only if the source document is NOT a legal document like Marriage/Birth/Educational Certificate, Court Papers, Agreements etc.


Why does that matter, IMO if it is not a sworn/certified translation it doesn't matter what type of document it is. If it is not a sworn translation I really don't see the problem, like I said the client could do it, so why not do it for them?


 

abufaraz
Pakistan
Local time: 22:00
English to Urdu
+ ...
Client is not authorised to make in ny changes in official documents. Jan 18, 2014

Alex Lago wrote:

Why does that matter, IMO if it is not a sworn/certified translation it doesn't matter what type of document it is. If it is not a sworn translation I really don't see the problem, like I said the client could do it, so why not do it for them?



I referred to 'legal' or 'official' documents only (examples given in my last post). IMO, the client (or the translator) has NO authority of making any substantial changes in the spellings of the name(s) mentioned in the official documents regarding any individual (except minor changes in spellings which are not liable to change the name altogether). This is always true, no matter the translator/translations is 'sworn' or 'certified'. The ultimate power of any change in these documents is restricted to the issuing authority only, and that too, should be duly attested by authorized signatures and official stamp/seal etc.

This is what is prevalent in the country where I live. I do not know much about the regulations in other countries.


 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


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


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

Spelling of names on legal documents?

Advanced search







CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »
Protemos translation business management system
Create your account in minutes, and start working! 3-month trial for agencies, and free for freelancers!

The system lets you keep client/vendor database, with contacts and rates, manage projects and assign jobs to vendors, issue invoices, track payments, store and manage project files, generate business reports on turnover profit per client/manager etc.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search