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How do you translate certificates and passports?
Thread poster: Mark Sanderson

Mark Sanderson  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 17:57
Chinese to English
Feb 27, 2014

Hello,

When I attended my translation course we did some work on translating passports, certificates and other documents. Each student on the course chose to do their translation in a different way and this was accepted by the teacher. However I am wondering if this would really cut the mustard in the real world.

For my own translation I super-imposed the translated text on the white space around a scan of the source document. Other ideas that my classmates had were to digitally cut out the text on the source document and paste it into a table in MS Word with the source image on the left hand side and the translated text on the right.

Which method of presentation is usually preferred by translation agencies?

Thanks


 

Ewa Olszowa  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 05:57
Polish to English
+ ...
Text Feb 27, 2014

If this is supposed to be an official translation (i.e. certified, sworn), I do not think either of this translations you described would be accepted. Translation is merely a text, you translate the words and describe any stamps, marks, security features, signatures, etc. You may attach the copy of the original document to the translation (or you even should if you state that the translation is from a copy not the origin - but I know that this is not the rule for official translators in some countries).

 

Lennart Luhtaru  Identity Verified
United States
Member
English to Estonian
+ ...
Only translation is needed Feb 27, 2014

But to make it easier to comprehend, translation should be formatted similar to original (elements in same order etc.) and you can mark any security features there.

So a made up translation could look something like this:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[logo]

First name: John Last name: Smith Date of birth: 1/1/11



Date: 2/1/11
Signature: [signature] [seal]

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Format Feb 27, 2014

A translator has no obligation to reproduce the format of the original, only to render the text in an understandable manner. Besides, some of that formatting could take a lot of time your client will not wish to pay for.

 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 03:57
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Resembling the original Feb 27, 2014

I don't really know what agencies like. I translate those documents to look as closely as possible like the original, including fonts, font sizes, etc. Tables (with invisible grid) are often a tremendous help to put things in the exact right spot. In my opinion, a simple list of all the information does not give the authorities any basis to compare the translation to the original and be confident that it is indeed an accurate translation.

 

Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 11:57
German to Swedish
+ ...
Just translate and approximate the layout Feb 27, 2014

Translate it in a word processor, approximating the layout.
If you know your application you can do the formatting very quickly as you go.

The point of this is not to make it look exactly like the original, but to help officials who are provided with a certified copy of the original to orient themselves. (Incidentally, it also often looks quite good, even with a small effort.)

As a sworn translator, I'd recoil a bit from a translation that has the original document included. Looks low-rent somehow...

[Bearbeitet am 2014-02-27 17:20 GMT]


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:57
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Original layout Feb 27, 2014

I was taught to respect the original layout during my translation course, including stamps, signatures: you put these in brackets or [ and ]. If there is something that you cannot decipher, either you ask the client/agency or write that the writing was illegible. Definitely, not just a list which makes no sense. Every part has to be reproduced exactly as it appears on the original document, but for official stamps, etc, you put brackets and say what they are- Court stamp/payment stamp and how much if you can read/ X council. However, I certainly do NOT mean the original text, but resembles the original-everything in place. Hope this helps.

[Edited at 2014-02-27 17:11 GMT]


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Feb 27, 2014

I'm glad the consensus is that the layout needs to be approximately the same as the original.

Many clients are more concerned about the appearance of a document than what it actually says. I did a legal document recently, and the customer was furious because I didn't cut-and-paste the logo at the top of the page and I used a different font to the original.


 

Mark Benson (X)  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
One of my experiences as a buyer... Feb 27, 2014

Joakim Braun wrote:

Translate it in a word processor, approximating the layout.
If you know your application you can do the formatting very quickly as you go.

The point of this is not to make it look exactly like the original, but to help officials who are provided with a certified copy of the original to orient themselves. (Incidentally, it also often looks quite good, even with a small effort.)

As a sworn translator, I'd recoil a bit from a translation that has the original document included. Looks low-rent somehow...

[Bearbeitet am 2014-02-27 17:06 GMT]


Just want to say that authorized translator Bo Widegren sold me a translation of a certificate. I gave him the physical certificate. He delivered a PDF file via email and then a hard copy in person. The translation was an exact replica of the source, so fine it almost made weep. His whole package was very professionally presented, with a business card etc. And a very extraordinary language talent to meet.

Don't get me wrong, I understand Joakim's style too here, and this is how I remember translating myself the not so many times I've had this kind of projects. I know that this is right because I have learned it.

I also want to say that I've bought a number of authorized translations in Sweden. This is a qualification that stands for the highest standard possible, no matter who you turn to. Eventual differences aren't important.

Maybe in the end the most important thing is that you include some form of identification of the translator with contact details.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 06:57
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It depends on the destination country Feb 27, 2014

Some countries have laws/regulations on the translation of documents for official purposes, many don't.

I am a sworn translator in Brazil, which has a law on sworn translations issued in 1943, and unamended ever since. The early ones were done with fountain pens and typewriters. Now we use computers, but they are TEXT. Some colleagues do artsy DTP work but, quite honestly, that's gilding the lily for free.

I have done certified translations for the USA. Someone there certified them. These were brilliant masterpieces of DTP art (pardon my lack of modesty), accurate translated replicas of the original documents, with Gothic lettering, blows and whistles.

While Brazilian-style sworn translations are accepted in most (yet not all) places in the USA, US certified translations are not accepted in Brazil.

Each sovereign country is free to rule - or to refrain from ruling - on this matter.


 

Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
I think they're fun... Feb 27, 2014

I personally try to reflect the original as much as possible in the translation. It just makes it easier for the poor guy at the immigration office to find what he needs and compare it to the original.

I personally think it's fun to recreate the entire form, though I try to hold back a little so it doesn't get me in trouble for counterfeiting.icon_smile.gif


 

Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 11:57
German to Swedish
+ ...
The tears Feb 27, 2014

Mark Benson wrote:

The translation was an exact replica of the source, so fine it almost made weep.


As a professional print designer with 18 years' experience of newspapers and magazines, I will deliver that if you want me to. But on an average one- to two-page certificate it would mean another hour on a job with 1-2 hours of translating time. That does cut into the margins. And the document itself is usually archived by some authority or other...

[Bearbeitet am 2014-02-27 19:16 GMT]


 

Hedwig Spitzer Cáceres  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 04:57
French to Spanish
+ ...
Text format, always Feb 27, 2014

I am sorry to differ with most of you. Such documents have legal value or represent legal and faithful information to a person.

In some countries when you copy the exact format of the original it could be seen as a forgery. This could lead to legal prosecutions against translators. One must be very careful with that. It is really dangerous, we are not supposed to "make" or "fake" a new original document.

IMHO it is a translation, that is all, indicating all the content in another language, with no omissions but without reflecting or reproducing the exact layout.


 

Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 11:57
German to Swedish
+ ...
Well... Feb 27, 2014

Hedwig Lugaro wrote:

I am sorry to differ with most of you. Such documents have legal value or represent legal and faithful information to a person.


If they have a legal value, it is because they are sworn translations.
If they are sworn translations, this is indicated on the document (with full translator details).
Problem solved.


 

Mark Benson (X)  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
Then I have to clarify something Feb 27, 2014

Joakim Braun wrote:

Mark Benson wrote:

The translation was an exact replica of the source, so fine it almost made weep.


As a professional print designer with 18 years' experience of newspapers and magazines, I will deliver that if you want me to. But on an average one- to two-page certificate it would mean another hour on a job with 1-2 hours of translating time. That does cut into the margins. And the document itself is usually archived by some authority or other...

[Bearbeitet am 2014-02-27 19:16 GMT]


I wept because of an illusion. I felt for him and what I thought was extra work, as you describe the situation. But it wasn't that difficult. Now that I know a bit more than I did then about software etc., I know that he just scanned the document, then Abbyy'd it and as I know now, taking it from there is fairly easy if the document isn't too crammed with text.

That's why I think of it as an equivalent alternative to simply structuring a Word document as you go, which I would have been more than happy to receive as well. And like I said, all the authorized translators I have bought translations from have had great solutions to the necessary correspondence with the source document.

In all normal cases, there's only one or very few items of information that are relevant to the reader in these documents. Once the reader has established that those items are present, the document is due for archiving. I suppose that the only thing that would make one translation better than another is if the reader finds the relevant info quicker in it.

And sure, let's face it. Ever so often the orderer is a student or someone else who doesn't have translations and language services at the top of their wish-list. So you're limited in what you can charge before the clients start complaining. I know that many authorized translators are used to this and have standard fees for certain documents. I think that the per word standard fee can be too expensive for many students, who on the other hand are good marketers. But when you have other engagements, it's understandable if these jobs don't get hours and hours.

So in other words, the graphical part probably wasn't such a big job after all, but it seemed like it at the time.

[Edited at 2014-02-27 20:58 GMT]


 
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