Guest blog post: Last-minute solutions in official translations Reply

As an assistant professor and ProZ.com professional trainer, Jasmina Djordjevic has sought to share the knowledge that she’s gained over her 17 year career as a language professional with others. Jasmina has a PhD in Applied Linguistics, is an appointed and sworn translator, and has published numerous articles and books on the study of translation. 

In this guest post, Jasmina shares some tips and advice on the translation of official documents.


926659_r4b29510c59f40The translation of official and court documents, such as decrees, judgments, certificates, authorisations, Powers of Attorney, Powers of Authority, last wills, Retention-of-Title clauses, etc. belong to a separate field within the translation industry. As such documents are either crucial pieces of evidence in a legal process or the product of some procedures, official and court documents depend on accuracy and precision. Therefore, they adhere to a separate set of rules when it comes to solving specific issues, such as signatures, stamps, illegible text, errors, typos, etc. Although these rather small issues might seem insignificant to some translators, when not handled correctly, an illegible signature or stamp might be the cause of serious consequences related not only to the accuracy and authenticity of an official document, but also to an entire procedure where the document might be a piece of crucial evidence or otherwise important information.

proz-101-eventsMany translators with little experience in the area of translation related to official and legal documents, resort to different solutions when faced with things they do not know what to do with. Unfortunately, such solutions are mainly incorrect. The list provided here should be regarded only as an attempt to identify the most common problems a translator is faced with, offer some solutions how to resolve them and thus provide a comprehensive review of suggestions related to some of the afore-mentioned issues, such as illegible text, handwritten insertions, errors, typos, stamps, signatures, etc. The list is actually a compilation of instructions derived from various translation instructions and style guides included in so-called Purchase Orders (PO) that agencies supply translators with when assigning translation jobs to them. Hopefully, the translation business will find a way to standardise problematic areas in translations, thus transform these last-minute solutions into standard techniques to be used by all professionals in the business.

1. Illegibility
Illegible sections in the source text should be marked in the target text with the equivalent of the word “illegible” in the target language put in square brackets. For instance, in German that would be “unleserlich”. Yet, all pieces of text and all numbers that are legible, even if only part of a sentence, should be translated or reproduced whereas the illegible part should be put in square brackets and identified as illegible.

e.g.
Target language = English
… the form of [Text illegible] is quite common…
28 [Number illegible] million Dollars

Target language = German
… die Form des [Text unleserlich] ist sehr verbreitet…
28 [Zahl unleserlich] Millionen Dollar

2. Omissions and errors in the source text
Any omission or error in the ST should be marked in the TT by writing the equivalent of “error in the original” or “omission in the original” in the TL in square brackets.

e.g.
Target language = English
[Error in the original: … the text identified as an error in the original in the source language …]
Target language = German
[Fehler im Original: … der Text, der als Fehler erkannt wurde in der Ausgangassprache…]

An alternative would be to include a translator’s note, which should be kept to a minimum and be as concise as possible.
Notes should be presented as follows (using the equivalent phrasing in the target language):

e.g.
Target language = English
[Translator’s note: … the text of the note kept to a minimum…]
Target language = German
[Anmerkung des Übersetzers: … der Text der Anmerkung, so kurz wie möglich…]

If the note is short it may be included in the main body of the text, but added in square brackets as indicated above. Longer notes should appear as a footnote or marked with an asterisk * (which may be numbered (*1) if there is more than one footnote). If the source language text contains its own footnotes, the remarks made by the translator have to be marked in a different way (for instance, by adding square brackets) and clearly indicated at the bottom of the page.

3. Stamps/seals, logos and signatures
The procedure with stamps and signature should be as follows:
The location of the respective stamp, logo or signature should be the same as in the ST. This will be achieved by typing the target text in square brackets into the area of the document approximately coinciding with the area of the original stamp, logo or signature. The type of the particular insertion has to be identified in the target language and all text appearing in the original stamp, logo or signature has to be translated and included in the square brackets inserted into the translation.

e.g.
Target language = English:
[Stamp/logo: … translation of the text appearing in the original…]
Target language = German
[Stempel/Logo: …. Übersetzung des Texts im Original…]

Target language = English
[Signature: John Smith]
Target language = German
[Unterschrift: John Smith]

If the signature is illegible, the equivalent of “illegible” in the target language should be added in square brackets, if it is written in a different alphabet, it should be identified:

e.g.
Target language = English
[Signature: illegible]
[Signature in Cyrillic: John Smith]
[Signature in Cyrillic: illegible]
Target language = German
[Unterschrift: unleserlich]
[Unterschrift in Kyrillisch: John Smith]
[Unterschrift in Kyrillisch: unleserlich]

4. Handwritten text
The procedure with stamps and signature should be as follows:
The location of the respective handwritten text should be the same as in the ST. This will be achieved by typing the target text in square brackets into the area of the document approximately coinciding with the area of the handwritten text. The exact wording of the particular piece of handwritten text has to be translated into the target language and included in the square brackets inserted into the translation.

e.g.
Target language = English
[Handwritten text: … translation of text…]
Target language = German
[In Handschrift: … Übersetzung des Texts…]

If the text is illegible, it should be stated as explained above.

5. Abbreviations
Comprehensibility should be the main consideration of a translator working with official texts. When a foreign abbreviation unfamiliar to readers occurs for the first time, it is usually best to write out the full term followed by an appropriate abbreviation in the target language in round brackets.

Thus two things may be considered crucial:
a) Standard equivalent abbreviations in the target language should be used if they exist.
b) If no standard equivalent abbreviation exists, a translation of the term in full should be written out each time rather than improvising an abbreviation in the target language.


calendar-tileThanks to Jasmina for sharing this information with us!

If you enjoyed this guest blog post, be sure to check out Jasmina’s upcoming and on-demand training sessions on note-taking, oral interpreting, and the translation of official documents here: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/trainers/946/courses

As always, feedback and comments can be submitted below or via Twitter @ProZcom

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