A guide on how to translate Personal and Legal Documents

At Bromberg, personal or legal documents such as driver’s licenses or college diplomas are some of the most common translation requests we receive. It is generally easy to complete for our clients, quickly and efficiently however our Project Managers do occasionally run into challenges translating these documents; challenges that can generally be easily avoided.

We have available an Online Document Translation Portal for these type of translation inquiries.

Here are a few of the most common issues with personal or legal document translation requests and tips on how to avoid them:

  1. Be Prepared

You’d think that it is a simple prerequisite, but many people don’t take the time to check with Social Security Office, Secretary of State or DMV, school or college admission office on which documents must be submitted. As a result, wrong documents might be translated and you’d have to spend more time and money to get this step completed.

  1. Illegible content

Your personal or legal documents include sensitive information that is unique to you, including ID numbers, maiden names, nicknames, locations and more. Getting that information translated correctly is essential, so it is important that the translator is able to clearly read the information on the documents you submit. If there are particular sections of the documents that seem especially difficult to read, consider providing the original document or making sure your faxed-in or scanned-in copy is fully legible. Our translators are great at deciphering handwritten text and content, covered in part by stamps and seals or hidden by worn out creases of an older document.

  1. Clear Guide for Spelling

There are deviations in even spelling simple names in any alphabet. Needless to say that if your birth certificate or marriage license is written in languages like Bengali, Chinese, or Russian, which use a different alphabet than English, be sure to indicate if there is any particular way that names, addresses, or other proper nouns need to be spelled in English.

Take the common Indian last name “Chowdhury”, for example. Different translators might write it as “Chowdhury,” “Chaudhary,” “Choudhuri,” “Chowdary,” or any number of other variations. Only one of them will match your official registration with the state or federal government, however. To avoid a case of mistaken identity, make sure you indicate which spelling is the right one for you. The rule of thumb here is to use the same spelling as in your passport, your official identity document.

  1. Should You Certify or Notarize Your Documents?

When you submit a document for translation, take a step back to look at what kind of document it is and what you will be doing with the translation. Most personal or legal documents including transcripts, medical records, passports, visas, recommendation letters, diplomas, etc. need to be certified by the translator and notarized. This is crucial for the document to be properly used for its intended purpose. Having a certified notary is important when translating documents, since it can mean the difference between the document being accepted or rejected.

  1. Spelling and Grammatical Errors in Your Original Document

Any source document, whether business, legal, or personal should be correct and accurate. The language company’s job is to translate the document from the source language into the target language without making any changes to the original content. Giving a document full of errors to a translation agency isn’t a good idea.  Any errors, big or small, can cause the document to be translated erroneously. So make sure that all spelling of proper nouns across all your documents is consistent. Check the dates for consistency as well. Only once you are sure that your original documents are correct, you should submit them for translation.

  1. Using Google Translate

We often receive document translation requests that read something like this:

“I already put my driver’s license through Google Translate, and I’d just like for you to proofread it and make sure everything looks alright.”

Usually, the document attached to that sort of request tends to be so poorly translated that our translators can’t realistically proofread it. This is because while Google translate is a great tool to spot translate (the translation of individual words or short simple phases) it won’t provide you with an accurate translation of an entire document.

While it might be tempting to use Google Translate, simple-to-use translation tool, it’s better to follow the old adage that says: you get what you paid for. Even if it’s easy to use, Google Translate can just as easily lead to translation issues.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) reviewed Google Translate’s ability to perform language translations and determined Google’s accuracy of translating medical documents to be less than 58% with some errors being potentially life threatening. With less than a 58% accuracy rate, you might want to reconsider using an online translator for anything, let alone your important documents that may impact your future.

  1. Have Realistic Expectations

If you need your translation done right, allocate time to get it done that way! It’s a good rule to allow at least 2 business days to get your documents translated. So don’t make a mistake of walking into a language company’s office at 4:55 pm on a Friday afternoon and anticipating your 5 different documents to be done on the spot.

In review, to make translating personal or legal documents a smooth and quick process, be sure to prepare your documents beforehand. This includes not only proofreading and using proper grammar but  also making sure you have the correct information needed for a proper submission which means making sure they are notarized if needed.

**We would love to hear from you with your  questions and comments so be sure to reach out to us  or submit your translation needs via our Online Translation Portal. Also, be sure to check out our previous blog entry on common issues when using an automatic machine translator.