You might think translating birth certificates and police clearances is one of the most boring desk jobs, but it’s amazing what you can learn about the world from these certificates. They form an important part of our translation work for migration purposes.
Translating from coloniser languages like French and Spanish, one gets to travel the length and width of Latin America and the Caribbean as well as parts of Africa, Europe and Canada.
Morocco can provide documents in both Arabic and French, Belgium in French or Dutch (Flemish), Switzerland produces them in German, in French, or mostly, in three official languages.
Documents from the former Soviet Republics can be in Russian as well as Kazakh, Uzbek, Latvian and so on. In Arabic, documents can come from more than 25 countries.
The translation agency needs the English spelling of names written in other alphabets, as transliteration can be different according to varying pronunciations. And it’s best that our spelling coincides with spelling as per passports, to avoid bureaucratic problems for our visa-seeking clients.
At Language Professionals we have always marvelled that translators of documents from the People’s Republic of China can correctly transfer Chinese names into English, while in the case of Taiwan, the translators ask for the spelling. Apparently, in Taiwan two different transliteration systems are used, while for the PRC, translators refer to a universal phonetic spelling system. Furthermore, Family Books from Taiwan show ancestral lineage.
For that matter, birth and marriage certificates from Brazil and Mexico will often include the names of grandparents.
Some countries present documents where information is filled in by hand. These can be very challenging. Often one has to guess, and thank our lucky stars we have the Internet and can search for unknown towns and provinces.
Project managers are often guided by national crests or watermarks on documents in Cyrillic and Arabic alphabets and other writing systems. They might help us distinguish between a marriage certificate from the Ukraine and one from Russia. Documents from India are a particular challenge for our Latin script-reading staff, as we cannot easily distinguish between Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi, and the national crest, if present, will be the same.
Documents from Iran and Afghanistan will be in Farsi and Dari respectively, languages that look very much alike to the untrained eye. While many of our Farsi and Dari translators speak and read both of these languages, they may not be accredited in both, so Language Professionals has to make sure the document is translated by the correctly accredited translator.
We rely a lot, of course, on our NAATI accredited translators to help us identify languages and types of documents. They very generously provide us with their advice.
If you would like to know more about Writing Systems of the World Today, have a look at the map above!!