Can you refuse a document written in your language, but in a different alphabet?
Thread poster: Gwidon Naskrent

Gwidon Naskrent  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:26
English to Polish
+ ...
Nov 24, 2006

An interesting discussion arose on a local translation forum, namely whether a Romanian translator can refuse translating a document in Moldovan (which is Romanian as used in the Republic of Moldova), written in the Cyrillic alphabet? Moldova (then part of USSR) used Cyrillic until 1989 (?), so there are still many documents in circulation such as birth certificates etc.

By extension, therefore:
- can a Belarussian translator refuse to handle Belarussian written in the Latin script (lacinka?)
- can a Marathi translator refuse to handle the Modi script, as Marathi is usually written in Devanagari?
- can a Korean translator refuse to handle Chinese characters used to write Korean?

etc. etc.

How is this question dealt with in your country? Are public translators/notaries examined on all the relevant scripts, or can they choose which one will they use?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-11-24 15:58]


Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:26
English to German
+ ...
Of course you can refuse Nov 24, 2006

You can and should always refuse doing something you are not able to. And you can refuse work you do not wish to do if you work freelance. That way you do not get the money, but that is what the part "free" in freelance is all about.

Or am I missing something?



Gwidon Naskrent  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:26
English to Polish
+ ...
Yes, you are Nov 24, 2006

I suppose I did not make it clear: of course you can and should refuse if you are "just a freelancer", but what if you are a public translator/notary (depending on country), and you have no other excuses (if excuses are allowed at all)?


Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:26
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Legal issue. See a lawyer Nov 24, 2006

The laws concerning what a sworn translator may and may not do differ from one country to another. And legislators/regulatory bodies can change their minds and issue superseding laws/regulations without getting permission from professional associations (or even consulting them). So if there's a question concerning a specific potential job, I recommend consulting an attorney and asking about it.


Andrei Albu  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:26
Member (2002)
English to Romanian
+ ...
You can refuse, of course Nov 24, 2006

I am not aware of the particular case under discussion. However, I am definitely certain that a Romanian translator can - and should - refuse to perform a translation written in the Cyrillic alphabet, if he or she does not have the necessary knowledge and qualification in this area. Romania uses the Latin alphabet and no one is compelled to be able to read the Cyrillic alphabet.


Nizamettin Yigit  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:26
Dutch to Turkish
+ ...
Specialization Nov 24, 2006


As we accept 'translation is a professional job' and 'one may have expertise in one field or another', than, we naturally should allow a sworn translator to refuse to translate any text or interpret any speech that he/she thinks that it is beyond his/her expertise/ability.

This should be so, even if the text is in the same alphabet, in his/her mother tongue but in another field that he/she thinks he/she has no and/or limited knowledge of.


N. Yigit


Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:56
English to Tamil
+ ...
Situation in India Nov 25, 2006

Urdu can be written in Devanagari as well as Persian script. The first is read from left to right and the second right to left. But according to the Government of India rules for the Union Public Service Commission exams, only the Persian script is permitted.

In that manner Punjabi has to be written in Gurmukhi, though I don't know the situation in Pakistan. All the official languages of India have their own scripts, except Marathi, which uses Devanagari script.

Needless to say, Hindi is to be written in Devanagari script only.



esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:26
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
Of course, you can. but… Nov 27, 2006

As said, above, you don't have to accept a job that you cannot perform at all or cannot perform efficiently. However, you describe a bit different situation:
1. While Cyrillic is no longer used in Moldova, it's still the official script for Moldovan in Transnistria. So, if you claim to be able to translate Moldovan, you're supposed to know Cyrillic, I think.
2. Lacinka has never had any official status for the modern Belarusian. So, you won't find any official document in Lacinka and, respectively, you can't have any official translation into Belarusian in Lacinka. But if you ask for translating from Belarusian in Lacinka, this depends. I would not refuse, but would charge a bit extra, if it's a substantial volume of text, since it's harder to read in Lacinka (generally, Latin scripts are inferior to Cyrilic in clarity and intellegibility).


Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:26
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Old manuscripts Jul 8, 2007

Hi Gwidon:
There is the well-known precedent of translating old personal letters.
Which means interpreting manuscripts - and also long-gone scripts.
Take the example of German texts from before WWII...


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