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Birth certificate question: client requests name change in translation
Thread poster: Kathleen Shelly

Kathleen Shelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:23
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
May 10

A client has asked me to translate his American birth certificate from English into Spanish, and change his name from Richard to Ricardo on the translation. I have explained to him that I cannot legally do so, but he is very insistent. Any suggestions as to what else I can say to him?

 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 11:23
German to Serbian
+ ...
Illegal activity. May 10

If he's insisting on this weird requirement, then politely tell Ricardo to find another translator.

 

Paulinho Fonseca  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:23
Member (2011)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No way May 10

Lingua 5B wrote:

If he's insisting on this weird requirement, then politely tell Ricardo to find another translator.


As a general rule, names of people and marks of nobility and titles that are part
of the name (e.g. van, von) should never be translated, but copied in the original
spelling, including diacritic marks. (Some titles, e.g. “Prince”, “King” in Arabic,
may be an exception to this rule and may be translated if they have an
equivalent in the target language, depending on context.) Alternative spellings
without diacritic marks can be added and/or explained in form of a translator’s
note, if the person concerned can produce a person's birth, marriage or death
certificate, passport or driver’s licence issued by Australian regulatory
authorities containing such an alternative spelling. If other official Australian
documents are submitted, the alternative name as given in these documents
may also be added, but a note should be inserted to this effect. In some
languages, (e.g. in Slavonic languages) it may be necessary to indicate the
masculine nominative form of a surname.

https://ausit.org/AUSIT/Documents/Best_Practices_2014.pdf


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 11:23
German to Serbian
+ ...
? May 10

Paulinho Fonseca wrote:

Lingua 5B wrote:

If he's insisting on this weird requirement, then politely tell Ricardo to find another translator.


As a general rule, names of people and marks of nobility and titles that are part
of the name (e.g. van, von) should never be translated, but copied in the original
spelling, including diacritic marks. (Some titles, e.g. “Prince”, “King” in Arabic,
may be an exception to this rule and may be translated if they have an
equivalent in the target language, depending on context.) Alternative spellings
without diacritic marks can be added and/or explained in form of a translator’s
note, if the person concerned can produce a person's birth, marriage or death
certificate, passport or driver’s licence issued by Australian regulatory
authorities containing such an alternative spelling. If other official Australian
documents are submitted, the alternative name as given in these documents
may also be added, but a note should be inserted to this effect. In some
languages, (e.g. in Slavonic languages) it may be necessary to indicate the
masculine nominative form of a surname.

https://ausit.org/AUSIT/Documents/Best_Practices_2014.pdf


No idea how this relates to what I said. She is not in a position to change his name in a legal document and that's what I said. You seem to have misunderstood me.


 

Vladimir Morozov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 12:23
Member
English to Russian
+ ...
Tell your client that May 10

if you comply with his request, this will constitute a violation of law (smth like deliberate distortion of translation of an official document), which will mean for you a large fine at the best or up to 5 years in jail at worst, along with prohibition to practice translation, and ask him if he is prepared to adequately compensate you for this and to maintain you for the rest of your life. Show him an excerpt from the relevant law, if necessary. Always keep this excerpt ready. Usually it has a sobering effect on such clients.icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2018-05-10 15:59 GMT]


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 10:23
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
You have to be faithful to the source document! May 10

A sworn translation has legal, civil and criminal implications. It is therefore obliged to reflect everything exactly as it appears in the original, even if there are grammatical errors, orthographically or interpretative ambiguities.

On the same subject: https://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/262760-spelling_of_names_on_legal_documents-page2.html


 

Philippe SALMON
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:23
Member (2013)
English to French
Illegal request May 10

This type of request has been made to me several times, including one request to change the country of birth. I always reply that the translation of a birth certificate is a legally binding document. You cannot lie on it. You could be in trouble with the authorities if you do so, specially if you are a certified translator for this type of document. Some embassies do follow up on that (especially, the Belgium one) and I consider this to be a good thing.

 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 04:23
German to English
+ ...
What you can say to him... May 10

is no.

 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:23
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Under which law is this request considered illegal? May 10

Lingua 5B wrote:

If he's insisting on this weird requirement, then politely tell Ricardo to find another translator.


In the Chinese to English pair (or maybe in the Korean or Japanese to English pairs, too), the name is almost always transliterated. If you keep the Chinese name in Chinese on the English version of the certificate, nobody in the parts of the world that would use the translation copy would understand it.

[Edited at 2018-05-11 04:06 GMT]


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:23
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
The OP is in the USA May 10

Teresa Borges wrote:

A sworn translation has legal, civil and criminal implications. It is therefore obliged to reflect everything exactly as it appears in the original, even if there are grammatical errors, orthographically or interpretative ambiguities.

On the same subject: https://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/262760-spelling_of_names_on_legal_documents-page2.html


And in the USA, there is no such a thing as "sworn translation".


 

Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 20:23
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
Latin alphabet May 10

Both the original text and your translation are using Latin alphabet so it is certainly not about transcription, as thus you just can't change the name. If your client wants to become Ricardo, he need to contact the respective US authorities and submit a Change of Name request. This is the way to do it.

 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:23
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Translation vs. transliteration/transcription May 11

jyuan_us wrote:

In the Chinese to English pair (or maybe in the Korean or Japanese to English pairs, too), the name is almost always translated.


No, names are not translated, they are transliterated/transcribed, meaning that they are written down using the English alphabet, based on the pronunciation of the name. For example, the Japanese 花子 will be transcribed as Hanako, never translated as "Flower Child".

The OP has to deny the request of changing the name when providing a translation of an official legal document, such as a birth certificate.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:23
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
The issue is if you should leave 花子 in Japanese May 11

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:

jyuan_us wrote:

In the Chinese to English pair (or maybe in the Korean or Japanese to English pairs, too), the name is almost always translated.


No, names are not translated, they are transliterated/transcribed, meaning that they are written down using the English alphabet, based on the pronunciation of the name. For example, the Japanese 花子 will be transcribed as Hanako, never translated as "Flower Child".

The OP has to deny the request of changing the name when providing a translation of an official legal document, such as a birth certificate.


You mentioned that the Japanese 花子 will be transcribed as Hanako. Wy question was if it is OK to leave it as "花子" in Japanese on the translation copy without even having it transliterated. At this point, I was talking about "transliteration". I'm sorry if it was not clear enough.

You agree that names need to be transliterated, don't you? Is there any way to "transliterate" Richard into Spanish?

[Edited at 2018-05-11 10:57 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-05-11 10:58 GMT]


 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:23
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Definition of transliteration May 11

jyuan_us wrote:

You mentioned that the Japanese 花子 will be transcribed as Hanako. Why question was if it is OK to leave it as "花子" in Japanese on the translation copy without even having it transliterated. At this point, I was talking about "transliteration". I'm sorry if it was not clear enough.

I suspected you meant transliteration, but you clearly wrote "translation", so I wanted to clarify the difference.

You agree that names need to be transliterated, don't you?

By definition, transliteration is performed between different scripts (that is, different writing systems, different alphabets). See more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transliteration

Therefore, if the source document uses a different script than the target, then yes, names should be transliterated, as at the end, all (translated and transliterated) content should be in the writing system of the target language.

Is there any way to "transliterate" Rechard (sic!) into Spanish?


As Vanda Nissen already answered above, since both languages use the Latin alphabet, transliteration does not come into play.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:23
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Kathleen May 11

Kathleen Shelly wrote:
A client has asked me to translate his American birth certificate from English into Spanish, and change his name from Richard to Ricardo on the translation. I have explained to him that I cannot legally do so, but he is very insistent. Any suggestions as to what else I can say to him?


When I deliver such translations, I always provide a PDF and a DOC version, because (a) it's useful to the client to have a PDF version that he can use immediately but (b) the client might want to make additional formatting changes to the file or have the file edited by a third party.

Most translator associations' ethics codes prohibit the translator from delivering a translation if he knows or reasonably suspects that the translation will be used to break the law or to commit fraud.

If you are satisfied that you have communicated to the client (and he understood) that it would be illegal for him to change the name, then depending on how you interpret those ethics codes, it may be acceptable for you to provide him with both a PDF version and a TXT version (or a DOC version with all your metadata removed), and impress upon him that he must get legal advice about changing anything on the translation if he intends to change anything (and not forget to warn him that even if he gets legal advice saying it would be okay to do so, he would have to get someone else to make those changes).

All that said, I agree with everyone else here: the simplest option is to just say "no, it's illegal" and refuse to do it. What I would do, is refer him to an online resource where he can find other translators. If enough translators refuse his request, he'll eventually believe that what everyone is telling him, is actually true.


 
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