You may sometimes be asked to translate a source file that contains one or several errors. Unfortunately there is no blanket solution that addresses all situations. How to deal with this issue depends entirely on the type of translation you are carrying out. Let’s review three different scenarios.

We ask you to translate a brochure. You notice that the source text says that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1841, instead of 1840. Since you are certain that this is a mistake, you may correct the error in your translation and advise us so that we can let the client know. However, if you don’t notice whatever error the source document contains, you will never be held responsible for not correcting it. It is the client’s responsibility to proofread the documents they provide us with and make sure that they are error-free.

We ask you to do a selective translation of a birth certificate. Since this is an official translation which will be submitted to New Zealand immigration or citizenship authorities, your translation must exactly reflect what the original document states. If it contains an error – the date of birth is later than the date of issue for example – you need to reproduce it, in spite of any information we may have provided you with.

We ask you to translate a marriage certificate issued in New Zealand by Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM). Your translation is probably going to be authenticated or Apostilled to be used overseas. If you notice an error, please let us know. Since BDM is part of the Department of Internal Affairs we can ask them to reissue a certificate. BDM officers have sometimes difficulty in deciphering handwriting, which may lead to erroneous name spellings or addresses. So if you read ‘Cock Beach, Coromandel’ and know that it should probably read ‘Cook Beach, Coromandel’, let us know! And once again, you won’t be held responsible for errors that you didn’t identify.

There are other scenarios possible of course, but the general idea is that your approach to errors should be different for official translations and other types of translations. Clients are always happier when their translations are error-free, and they also tend to be impressed by our ability to notice something they hadn’t noticed themselves. So if you do notice an error, make sure you tell us.

Stefan