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Client request to change a word (is it reasonable?)
Thread poster: Anne Bitton
Anne Bitton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
French to English
+ ...
Jan 14, 2015

Hello,

I have only been translating for about 4 years (ex MFL teacher!). I recently translated a birth certificate which was issued by the Belgian Embassy. On the original (in French) it said: "Place of birth: Taiwan, Taiwan". I thought it looked odd at the time, but faithfully translated as "Taiwan, Taiwan" in English.
The client has reappeared requesting a change to "Taiwan, China", as it was an error on the part of the embassy, and the Chinese Embassy will not accept the translation.
I have responded that, as far as I am concerned, I cannot add details not present on the original, or in this case replace with a word that does not feature on the original. I believe this to be the correct stance, even though it is quite obvious that there was an error on the original document. Am I right? I would consider adding a note to the effect that "the client has alerted me to the fact that there may be an error on the original", etc. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I am trying to balance being obstructive and unhelpful in order to remain professional with helping the client to some degree! At the end of the day, he should have ensured that the original was error free of course.

Thanks,

Anne


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Rebecca Hendry  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I agree with you Jan 14, 2015

Hi Anne,

It's not your fault that the original contains an error. If the Chinese embassy won't accept the document and the accurate translation that you provided, then I think the client will need to ask the Belgian embassy to reissue the certificate.

Stay firm! You could offer a speedy/discounted translation of the new certificate once it's been issued to help ease the client's pain...

Becky.


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Anne Bitton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jan 14, 2015

Thanks Becky, I know you are right. I will stick to my guns.

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Agree Jan 14, 2015

I agree. Although the Chinese People's Republic considers Taiwan to be part of their territory, others do not share this view. Most notably, the government of Taiwan, which issues the certificate. Whether or not the translator agrees or disagrees with a text, their task is to faithfully translate what they find. Perhaps you should explain this to your client.

[Edited at 2015-01-14 13:45 GMT]


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Anne Bitton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting... Jan 14, 2015

Ah, so there is a political dimension..?

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Yes Jan 14, 2015

Anne Bitton wrote:

Ah, so there is a political dimension..?


Yes, I'm afraid there is.


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DLyons  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 07:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
There is a massive political dimension. Jan 14, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

Anne Bitton wrote:

Ah, so there is a political dimension..?


Yes, I'm afraid there is.


Common escape terms are Taiwan, RoC or Taiwan, Republic of China.


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raptisi  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:49
English to Greek
+ ...
Political dimension Jan 14, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

Anne Bitton wrote:

Ah, so there is a political dimension..?


Yes, I'm afraid there is.



Yes, even in the UN there are two Chinas, the People's Republic of China and The Republic of China (Taiwan)


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
French to English
+ ...
Things that are apparently wrong can be acknowledged, but not changed willy-nilly Jan 14, 2015

Anne Bitton wrote:
said: "Place of birth: Taiwan, Taiwan". I thought it looked odd at the time, but faithfully translated as "Taiwan, Taiwan" in English.


What you can do in this case is put the apparently wrong item in square brackets, optionally corrected with a "translator's note" as a footnote. The thing not to do is actually change the content without acknowledging it in some way.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 15:49
Chinese to English
Reason for "Taiwan, Taiwan" Jan 15, 2015

Taiwan is both the name of a country and the name of an island. "Taiwan, Taiwan" means that the person was born on the island of Taiwan, in the country Taiwan.

Taiwan is an informal name for the country, but is often used because the country's formal name, "Republic of China" is absurd. In theory, Taiwan claims sovereignty over all of China and Mongolia. But no-one in the world recognises that claim, and even Taiwan doesn't really think it can or should rule that entire area. So most people refer to the country as Taiwan, because it is mostly made up of Taiwan island (there are some other small islands like Penghu and Kinmen).

I imagine that the client is a Belgian citizen who was born in Taiwan? Belgium recognises Taiwan (or at least recognises that it's not part of China), so they wouldn't put "China" on the birth certificate. But if you want to do anything with any official Chinese organ, their policy is that all documents mentioning Taiwan must say "Taiwan, China". Basically, your client is stuffed. They might be able to get the Belgian authorities to issue a new birth certificate tactfully sidestepping the issue, or they might not. But they are always going to have problems with this because the Chinese government is deluded about the issue.

It's not your problem, but on the other hand... is this a "sworn translation"? If it is, then you have to insist on translating it as is. If the translation is not "sworn", then I would change it. On many issues, I say it's the client's money, and they can have it how they like it. But sworn translations are a different matter, because there's a legal obligation on us to be accurate.


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Anne Bitton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
French to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jan 15, 2015

Thanks everyone, very interesting. I think that the client is Belgian, but that his daughter was born in Taiwan (possibly married over there?). For some reason, the birth certificate was issued by the Belgian Embassy. Yes, you are right that the embassy is refusing to re-issue it. No, it's not a sworn translation, but I am conscious that I am a member of CIOL and would prefer not to take any risks. I could probably have added a footnote, but in the end decided to tell the client I couldn't help, which he appears to have accepted.

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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:49
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
I don't understand the issue: Why didn't the client change it by himself? Jan 15, 2015

Anne Bitton wrote:

Thanks everyone, very interesting. I think that the client is Belgian, but that his daughter was born in Taiwan (possibly married over there?). For some reason, the birth certificate was issued by the Belgian Embassy. Yes, you are right that the embassy is refusing to re-issue it. No, it's not a sworn translation, but I am conscious that I am a member of CIOL and would prefer not to take any risks. I could probably have added a footnote, but in the end decided to tell the client I couldn't help, which he appears to have accepted.


instead of pushing you to do it?


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Anne Bitton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Certified translation Jan 15, 2015

Because it was a "certified" translation, i.e. I translated as a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, signed, dated, applied my company stamp and enclosed a statement attesting to accuracy. So it was not "sworn", which means that I would have taken the translation subsequently to a notary or solicitor to sign, attesting to my identity, but it was still a lot more "official" than something just "knocked up" by the client.

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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:49
Dutch to English
+ ...
For all intents and purposes Jan 15, 2015

it was a sworn translation then.

There was a discussion on Proz a while ago saying that 'certified' is a translation whose translator officially states that the contents therein is right. 'Notarised' is a translation whose translator is identified before a notary as being the one who made the translation. So 'notarised', according to that discussion, would only certify the identity of the translator and not the quality of it.
But indeed, if you put a stamp on it and say that the contents is fully accurate, you can't start changing a country... Even if it is for political reasons. Your client is indeed stuffed.
Shame on the Belgian embassy that they don't try and circumvent the issue, merely because of their diplomatic stance.

But then they've never been very flexible in such matters.

If your client is a Belgian citizen, then he could try and call people at the appropriate Ministry to try and change his country of birth. Unless he cares, obviously.


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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:49
Dutch to English
+ ...
Apparently Belgium does not recognise Taiwan as a country Jan 15, 2015

Maybe they used to, but anyway in 2003 the president of Taiwan was refused a visa, because the country is not recognised by the EU and this was officially stated to the EU Parliament by Louis Michel, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time.

So I think there might be hope for your client, because his birthplace should then be recorded as some form of China, since Taiwan doesn't exist. Either the Belgian embassy or the civil registry made a mistake.


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