Should I localize school grades or translate them?
Thread poster: Sara Massons

Sara Massons  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:32
Member (2016)
English to French
+ ...
Jan 16

Hello,

I am translating letters that are sent to school kids French speaking parents in an English speaking country. One of them talks about the kids school grade and I'm wondering wether I should translate them into French or localize them with the French equivalent grade.
I think parents leaving in a foreign country would be aware of school grades in this country and would not care of their equivalent in France, however, it is also possible that some parents are new to this country and would be happy to have the equivalent written.
I'd like to have your opinion.
Thank you in advance.

Sara


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:32
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I would do whatever you feel will be most helpful Jan 16

You need to be very careful as things between France, Canada and Switzerland etc can be very different. Baccalaureat, for example, can be from a French lycée or a Canadian university. So describing A-levels as the baccalaureat can be a bad idea for more than one reason! You also need to be careful with literal translations. It may well be that both countries have what sounds like a vocational certificate in computing, for example, but one might be at Bac level and the other might be a Bac+2.

So what I'm saying is that you really need to treat individual cases on their merits. Choosing the most helpful term (source term vs target translation vs source term plus some sort of description in the target language) trumps handling terms consistently in this particular case, IMHO. I don't believe there are any rules in this type of text, so just go with whatever seems most useful to the reader.

Sorry, I just realised I've been talking about qualifications while you'd asked about grades icon_frown.gif. But the same applies there too. I've edited heaven only knows how many CVs for French people and they so often contain totally useless and potentially damaging literal translations, such as a degree that's graded as "quite good" icon_rolleyes.gif!


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 12:32
German to Serbian
+ ...
Depends. Jan 16

I would use both versions with the French one between the brackets, however in your specific case the target form is enough, as they live in that country and are familiar (or should become familiar) with the grade system of that country. If they are newcomers and not yet familiar, give them an opportunity to learn as the kids will continue attending that school right?

 

Nizamettin Yigit  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 13:32
Dutch to Turkish
+ ...
informal or official Jan 16

Hi Sara,

If it is a sworn translation, you may not change, or insert any other thing which does not exist in the source document. Necessary explanation should have been made available on the source document itself.

For informal translation the rule is to make your customer happy. I would write an extra comment text at the end of translation.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 12:32
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Don't underestimate your readers Jan 17

I would not change anything. I would assume in your case that the parents knew what their own children were doing at school, or could ask them.

If I had been asked to translate equivalent information into English for parents who don't speak Danish, I would not attempt to localize the Danish grading system. However, I would probably attach the official English explanation of how it works.
There are seven possible grades, and this is the university version, but the same principles are applied in schools if grades are given at all.

Possible pass grades are 12, 10, 7, 4, 02.
00 and -3 are fail grades.

______________________________________________________
12
For an excellent performance displaying a high level of command of all aspects of the relevant material, with no or only a few minor weaknesses. ECTS Grade A

10
For a very good performance displaying a high level of command of most aspects of the relevant material, with only minor weaknesses. ECTS Grade B

7
For a good performance displaying good command of the relevant material but also some weaknesses.
ECTS Grade C

4
For a fair performance displaying some command of the relevant material but also some major weaknesses. ECTS Grade D

02
For a performance meeting only the minimum requirements for acceptance. ECTS Grade E

00
For a performance which does not meet the minimum requirements for acceptance. ECTS Grade Fx

-3
For a performance which is unacceptable in all respects. ECTS Grade F
__________________________________________________________

It is quite controversial, even in Denmark, and I thank my lucky stars that all my exam certificates were graded with the older 10-point scale going from 0 to 13
(Pass grades 13, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6
Fail grades 5, 3 and 0 )
That was quite weird enough for most people!


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:32
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Translate literally Jan 17

Sara Massons wrote:
I think parents leaving in a foreign country would be aware of school grades in this country and would not care of their equivalent in France, however, it is also possible that some parents are new to this country and would be happy to have the equivalent written.


I assume the letters are from an English school, translated into French (you're not clear on that point). In that case, I would translate the grade names literally, and put the original English in brackets.

If there is a 1:1 match between the grade systems of the two countries, then I might consider adding the foreign equivalent in brackets. If you do this, however, make sure that you are very certain that this is indeed so. If there is no 1:1 match, I would not attempt to include any kind of additional helpful notes unless the client asked for it: it is up to the parents to figure out what they know and what they don't know, and act accordingly.

There is a danger that if you create the impression in parents' minds that they understand, the parents will not realise that they actually do not understand, and owing to the "helpful" over-translation will make no further attempt to do so. Sometimes it's better to leave the reader puzzled.


That said, one can't overestimate the intelligence of parents. In the first year or two of my residence in the Netherlands, I had a hard time figuring out the grades and names. If at that time I were to receive a letter from my son's school (a Dutch letter translated to English), and it had said that my son's performance had "deteriorated from ZG to RV", I would have been quite concerned, but I would not have known exactly how concerned I was supposed to be. Any Dutch speaking parent knows what ZG and RV means. Had the South African English equivalents been given, I would have known to be less worried: "from ZG (90%) to RV (70%)". In this example, even if the full forms were given and even if they were translated, it would not have been helpful to me: "from ZG (zeer goed, i.e. very good) to RV (ruim voldoende, i.e. very sufficient)". In addition, if I had learnt that my son scored "7" in an exam, I would have been quite upset with him, but only because to me as a South African "7" means 7/100, but all Dutch parents know that "7" means 7/10.


 

Haneder  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 12:32
German to French
+ ...
Academic grades Jan 17

In a further training as a court translator here we were told not to translate academic grades. There was a list of terms that had been published and recognized that the ministry for education could use but that was not our job as a translator to decide on the equivalent in the country of a foreign grade and all that this could imply.

[Edited at 2018-01-17 13:28 GMT]


 

Sara Massons  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:32
Member (2016)
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jan 17

Thank you all for the answers. I decided to just translate the source and assume parents would understand or ask the school as it is offered in the letter.

 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:32
French to English
Late arrival Jan 18

I'm coming late to this one, but my automatic reaction would be to leave as is.

By way of example, at one point in England, A-levels were not marked pass or fail, but grade to from A to E. Theoretically, it was possible to say you had passed with an E-grade. There are not many places that would consider an E a pass; the general principle was a grade C or above to pass.

The standard rule in France, in schools and in higher education, is that you need half marks to pass. With everything in France being marked out of 20, that means 10/20 or more is considered a pass. There are higher education establishments in the UK for which 45% is a pass mark.

There are sometimes regional variations too.

I think that converting units of measurement of weight, height, length, etc. makes sense, but that converting marks and grades is not something translators should do. In official contexts, this is the job of equivalence commissions.
In the case of official/sworn/certified translations, it would be a big no-no.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:32
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
note Jan 18

I know French grading is much harsher than English. I was helping my son with dictation and told him he'd done well, I would have given him 17/20. He then showed me that for the mistakes I'd counted a half or single point for, his teacher would knock two points off, and as a result his mark would have been 9/20.

So I would leave it as is, and perhaps just add a note to explain that the English grades didn't show that the child was a genius, just that English teachers are more generous.

I remember for my Canadian nephew, who studied at a French lycée, the headmaster gave them all a note to include in applications to Canadian universities, to explain that their marks would have been far higher had they attended a Canadian school.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:32
French to English
Change nothing Feb 18

You cannot stand in the shoes of an equivalence commission. I do not think you should even add a note. You can only copy the marks that are given on the original. How they might compare to a system in another country is not the job of a translator. Period.

 

Mair A-W (PhD)
Germany
Local time: 12:32
Member (2016)
German to English
+ ...
A-levels Feb 19

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:
By way of example, at one point in England, A-levels were not marked pass or fail, but grade to from A to E. Theoretically, it was possible to say you had passed with an E-grade. There are not many places that would consider an E a pass; the general principle was a grade C or above to pass.


I was about to reply that when I did A-levels, A-E was most certainly a pass, and some of my class mates were accepted to further education institutions based on e.g. 2 Es. There were also fail grades: N and U.

However, I then realised that was in the last century, however much it feels like "only yesterday" to me, and probably not relevant to a modern certificate...


 


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