Dealing with a partly illegible document
Thread poster: Enrique Chi

Enrique Chi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:53
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jul 23

Greetings, colleagues:

I have dealt with documents with illegible portions before, but this is a situation I haven't encountered before and I'd like your input as to how to proceed. This is Spanish to English, by the way.

I have 2 docs, which were prepared by the same Notary, for the same purpose (Charter of a Limited Company) some years apart. The documents obviously differ in the names and dates, but also in content, so they are not identical in their structure, or ev
... See more
Greetings, colleagues:

I have dealt with documents with illegible portions before, but this is a situation I haven't encountered before and I'd like your input as to how to proceed. This is Spanish to English, by the way.

I have 2 docs, which were prepared by the same Notary, for the same purpose (Charter of a Limited Company) some years apart. The documents obviously differ in the names and dates, but also in content, so they are not identical in their structure, or even in their wording. One of the docs is very legible, the other is mostly illegible. I added a couple of screenshots below so you can see what I'm dealing with.

Here is a portion of the mostly illegible document:
Doc 1 Illegible portion

This is a portion of the legible document that somewhat matches the portion above.
Doc 2 legible portion

So the documents are not so alike that I can cut and paste from one to the other, but they are similar enough to piece together some of the illegible parts. That is my question: I'm sure it is okay to use the more legible document as a source to "guess" on some of the illegible parts of the other document, but is there a way to notate that? Do I even have to notate that? Is it better to avoid it and simply put "[Illegible]" in large portions of the document?

Please share your thoughts.

Regards,
Enrique
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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:53
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Get in touch with the client Jul 23

If you cannot read the document, you cannot translate it.

Where it is just a signature, stamp or a single word, I write [illegible], [stamp illegible] or something like that, and do my best with the rest.

The top line of your scan is impossible, and you should not guess unless you agree with the client and they confirm that it will be acceptable.

They may be able to tell you what the text says, if you are lucky. I have sometimes found a text on the Internet
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If you cannot read the document, you cannot translate it.

Where it is just a signature, stamp or a single word, I write [illegible], [stamp illegible] or something like that, and do my best with the rest.

The top line of your scan is impossible, and you should not guess unless you agree with the client and they confirm that it will be acceptable.

They may be able to tell you what the text says, if you are lucky. I have sometimes found a text on the Internet, if it is an official document with standard wording, or on the client's website, but this one does not look like that kind of text.

I once spent time - and charged my regular hourly rate - with a client on the phone, because I could not read his handwriting, so he dictated the text to me and explained his own personal terminology...
We are translators, not mind readers!

You need to cover your back, so that the client cannot complain!
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Thomas T. Frost
IanDhu
Kevin Fulton
Teresa Borges
Josephine Cassar
Sabrina Bruna
Hedwig Spitzer Cáceres
 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:53
German to English
Client's responsibility to provide a legible document Jul 23

Sometimes an end client will have a reasonably legible document, but doesn't realize that successive generations of scans or faxes severely degrade the appearance of the text after transmission to an agency or translator. Let the client know that you cannot read the document in order to provide an adequate translation.

Side note: years ago I toyed with the idea of creating a font "Tms Rmn (illegible)" so that I could return a translation with the identical appearance as the document
... See more
Sometimes an end client will have a reasonably legible document, but doesn't realize that successive generations of scans or faxes severely degrade the appearance of the text after transmission to an agency or translator. Let the client know that you cannot read the document in order to provide an adequate translation.

Side note: years ago I toyed with the idea of creating a font "Tms Rmn (illegible)" so that I could return a translation with the identical appearance as the document I received. This was before I developed the self confidence to tell a client I needed an acceptably legible document or I couldn't complete the job.
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Christine Andersen
Kay Denney
 

Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:53
German to English
+ ...
talk to client Jul 24

In such cases I always tell the client that the document is largely illegible and I need a better copy. In some rare cases, the client's copy is itself poor quality. In that case we agree that the word "[illegible]" will be put in those sections. This is also in the client's best interest, since you don't want to give them a mistranslation. If work must be done with hard to read material, I think an extra charge should apply.

Christine Andersen
 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:53
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Sometimes Jul 24

Sometimes, when you do point out that the text is a poor copy and that you cannot translate it, the client comes up with a better copy of the text, so it's worthwhile asking the client. Maybe the client does not realise that we cannot work with a poor copy or that it is a poor copy but it is still worthwhile asking. As others said before me, make sure you point it out to the client and don't just assume names, places, dates, text, etc.

 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 22:53
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Ask for scan Jul 24

Ask the client for a clear scan of the original document, not a fax, photograph, or photocopy. Clients sometimes don't know the difference.

 


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