Translating Aotearoa


April 2015

Facing up to the realities of a multilingual, multicultural society

Word cloudOver the past two decades New Zealand has become home to over 160 different languages, making it one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse countries in the world (Spoonley & Bedford 2012), and that superdiversity is forecasted to increase even further (Statistic New Zealand 2013). And yet, little has been done at a national level to engage with the opportunities, and challenges, such linguistic diversity presents. The recent Lining up Language: Navigating Policy and Programmes conference organised by the Office of Ethnic Communities, and the current development of a Regional Languages Strategy by COMET Auckland may be signs that things are starting to change.

Hailed as the precursor to a national languages policy, Aoteareo: Speaking for Ourselves, a report published by the Ministry of Education in 1992, made the case for the implementation of a national decision-making system in the area of language issues, within a bicultural framework, by exploring ‘the benefits of adopting a policy to maintain, enrich and expand the diversity of languages used by New Zealanders’. Such a policy never came to fruition, and all language stakeholders – te reo Māori speakers and Māori communities, migrant communities, schoolchildren, adult learners, language service providers including translation and interpreting agencies, and their clients, central and local government, civil society organisations etc. – have operated in a vacuum, with patchy support and patchy results.

Table showing the ethnic make-up of Auckland
Auckland is a superdiverse city.

Many interested parties argue that the status quo is not a tenable solution, and that the time is ripe for some political leadership in this area. A number of subsidiary language initiatives have been developed to try and fill the vacuum, and the New Zealand Human Rights Commission published a draft national languages policy in 2010 calling for our political leaders to face up to the realities of our superdiverse society.

It is in this context that COMET Auckland was given the thumbs up by Auckland Council for its regional languages strategy. The draft strategy is available online for consultation, and you can download your submission form here to give your opinion. COMET CEO Susan Warren says that New Zealand urgently needs a national languages policy, and I certainly support efforts in this area. If implemented, the Auckland Languages Strategy might be a first step into that direction, and may potentially lead to a redefinition and a better understanding of the role of translation and interpreting in today’s society.

April 2015 News

This is a brief review of translation and language news from around the world, along with the links to the relevant content. Let us know if you come across interesting online content!

Harvard Magazine’s Spencer Lenfield meets poet and translator David Ferry, who won the US National Book Award for Poetry in 2012 for his collection of original and translated poems Bewilderment. He’s now completing his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, and explains what approach he takes to translating poetry.

Russian news channel RT reports on the fate of an Afghan interpreter who was refused asylum in the United Kingdom. The 26-year-old was shot in the leg during an assassination attempt.

Tess Whitty who owns and maintains Marketing Tips for Translators, recently interviewed translator, former translation company owner, and physicist Kevin Hendzel. Listen to the podcast to find out how to become a wold-class translator.

When thinking about translation in the movie industry, most of us think of subtitling and dubbing. T.J. from Pixar Post talks to localisation artist Laura Meyer and gives us a fascinating insight into the localisation process of animated movies.

Lance Ulanoff from Mashable reports that Skype Translator Preview now supports Mandarin in addition to Italian, Spanish and English. The beta, invite-only, multi-lingual video conferencing tool includes an on-screen translation service which supports 50 different languages.

Got a criminal record… and an Apostille?

Confusion recently arose because of an Apostille: we sent a file for selective translation to one of our regular freelance translators, but it contained two pages – the first page was an Apostille, the second a birth certificate. Since our guidelines for selective translations don’t mention Apostilles, the translator was slightly confused and decided to carry out a time-consuming full translation of the two pages.

To prevent this from happening again, and to kill two birds with one stone, this month’s post on the art of selective translations deals with a certificate of no criminal record attached to an Apostille. You will find out how to fill out our Certificate of No Criminal Record template and what to do if the document you’re translating is attached to an Apostille. Please note that we can only use this template for clean criminal records. If a conviction is listed, a full translation will be required. Click to learn about the selective translation of an Apostilled certificate of no criminal record. Also, if you are confused about the assignment we’ve sent you, please contact us to clarify the situation before undertaking any translation work.

These sample selective translations are here to illustrate our guidelines and help you improve your selective translations. We hope you enjoy these mock translations as much as we enjoy making them.

For more information on Apostilles please read this blog post or go to the Authentication Unit’s website.

Disclaimer: The Ministry of Naughty People and the Centre for Disciplinary Action and Naughtiness Prevention do not exist.

Translation project manager wanted

As mentioned in an earlier post, Lisa is now gone on maternity leave, and we’re looking for a project manager extraordinaire to cover her absence.

Are you a professional translator, or do you have experience with multilingual communications? Do you know what it takes to provide great customer service, and high quality translations? Do you have experience using InDesign for publishing? Do you have an eye for detail? If your answer to all these questions is yes, then we’d love to hear from you.

For more information please visit this page.

Full translations: How to do official translations

When most people talk about translation, they think about what The Translation Service calls ‘full translations’. These consist in the accurate and complete transfer of the content and meaning of an original document from one language to another, and are generally expected to look and feel like the original. Unsurprisingly, TTS offers that service too. However, one of our regular translators recently pointed out to me that we don’t have a set of guidelines for full translations similar to those we have for selective translations. Does that mean that the rules for selective translations apply for full translations too?

Picture of piles of books with the text 'How to'I’m afraid there is no clear cut answer to that question. What we call full translations refer to a number of different types of translations, which all come with different requirements and expectations. Today we’ll have a look at official translations.

This category covers translations that will be printed on our letterhead paper and will be submitted to authorities, either in a foreign country or in New Zealand. The majority of our official translations will be used overseas and may require an Apostille or an authentication. A small proportion is also intended for New Zealand, in such cases where selective translations aren’t appropriate, such as documents to be submitted to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority or the courts.

These translations have a legal weight, and as such they must be a true and full reflection of the original. That means that everything needs to be translated or reproduced, including spelling mistakes to names, errors in numbers or logic etc, which may be signalled by inserting ‘sic’ between square brackets. The only exception to that rule is inconsequential letterhead or footer details which may be ommitted – but a comment should be inserted between square brackets to indicate where these details are missing.

As we don’t have language specific style guides yet, the only other guidelines that we have for official translations relate to formatting:

    • Our preferred font is Arial 11 – that doesn’t mean that you can’t have some sections in a larger or smaller size.
    • All page margins should be set to 2.54cm.
    • All official translations must be preceded by 8 line breaks to accommodate for our letterhead, and the heading:
      Translation <job number>
      Issued in Wellington, New Zealand on <automatically updated date field>
    • The line ‘[Translated from <language>]’ should be inserted at the top of the translation in the appropriate language.
    • Reproduce tables, but no need to copy and paste signatures and reproduce the shapes of stamps and other features. Simply mention them between square brackets, and translate their contents where appropriate, e.g. ‘[signed]’, ‘[logo]’, ‘[coat of arms]’ and ‘[stamp: The Translation Service]’.
    • For educational documents translated into English, please keep the names of the institution and course, degree or diploma in the original language followed by their translations between square brackets, e.g. ‘Université de Montpellier [Montpellier University]’.
    • You’ll find more answers to the square bracket conundrum here and here.

Feel free to comment this post or send us an email if you have questions. And please look out for the next blog post of this how-to series.

Be privacy safe

Comic strip showing a cahsier asking a client: 'Can I have your address, phone number, email, your mother's maiden name, a sample of your DNA, your date of birth and...' The customer replies 'But I'm just trying to buy a pack of gum!'

In the lead-up to Privacy Week in May, Susan Allen, Principal Advisor Privacy at the Department of Internal Affairs, recently visited The Translation Service and the Authentication Unit to discuss privacy issues. She kindly agreed to answer a few questions for Translating Aotearoa.

Q.: Susan, first of all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Ever since the privacy breaches at the Earthquake Commission and the Accident Compensation Corporation that made the headlines, privacy has become a major topic of discussion within government agencies in New Zealand, as the recent creation of a Government Chief Privacy Office shows. How is that relevant to our translators and revisers?

A.: You’re right – privacy has become a major topic within government, and for good reason. To conduct our business government agencies are entrusted with personal information from the public, who expect that we will safeguard it. It is our duty to ensure that it is kept safe, and that it is managed well.

Q.: But our linguists aren’t government agencies…

A.: No, that’s true. But they work for The Translation Service, which as you know, is a government agency. And given the nature of the work they do, they are entrusted with a vast quantity of personal information. Most translations that they carry out contain personal details, which under the Privacy Act 1993 must be treated in confidence.

Q.: What exactly is personal information? A person’s name and date of birth, their bank details and address, probably qualify as personal information. Is there anything else?

A.: Well, any information about an identifiable person counts as personal. That does include someone’s name, address, date of birth, and bank details, but that’s not all – far from it. Their financial records, health history, call log, are all personal information. The person’s name doesn’t even have to be mentioned to make the information personal. The question is whether they could be identified from the information.

Q.: So what do you recommend our linguists do?

A.: What I’d really like is for them to be simply aware of privacy issues, and apply some basic principles when working with personal information. They should only use the information they’re given for the purpose it was collected for, i.e. carry out a translation or a revision. They should keep it safe and only share it with those who need to see it to complete the job. And once the translation is completed, they should dispose of it.

Q.: So in other words, when we send a translation job to one of our linguists, they need to save the files somewhere where they can’t be accessed by anyone who doesn’t need to see them, be mindful of sharing the personal information if they need assistance from someone else, complete the work, send the translation to TTS via email double-checking that they are really sending it to us, and then delete all information relating to the said job. Is that correct?

A.: Yes, that’s right. Once the job is completed, they need to delete the original and the translation. Our aim isn’t to create paranoid translators and revisers, but to raise awareness about why it’s good to keep information safe, and how privacy issues relate to translation. My best piece of advice is: Be privacy safe! Ultimately, your linguists need to look after the information they’re given to protect our customers and to protect themselves.

Buck, celebrations and new adventures

It’s been a while since our last round of office news… and so much has happened – or is about to happen!

‘Wee Buck’ is coming!

Picture of Lisa holding a potted plant
Lisa is expecting ‘wee Buck’

Yesterday was Lisa’s last day before going on maternity leave. As some of you already know Lisa is now heavily pregnant, and should give birth to ‘wee Buck’ (as she calls the baby) pretty soon. We’ll keep you updated on the latest developments, and on the baby’s name too.

Amy, Jing and Linh organised a little baby shower last week to celebrate Lisa’s and Aaron’s new adventure. Current and former team members were among us, and everyone was made to sing a lullaby – thankfully no one recorded the event.

As you can imagine, Lisa’s departure will leave a big – temporary – gap to fill. The plan so far is for her to return to the office in 2016. In the meantime we will be looking at recruiting someone to cover for this period. You should find out more soon.

Picture of Quintin holding his rabbit
Quintin brought Bunny to work

Closed for Easter

Today is our last day before Easter weekend. The office will be closed tomorrow Friday 3 April and will reopen on Tuesday 7 April. To celebrate the upcoming long weekend, our manager Quintin brought in one of his rabbits for some bunny cuteness and morning tea. The event was very popular with everyone in the building.


We’ve now starting using XTM and some of you have already created accounts and logged into the system. One thing we discovered is that you didn’t get access to the job information that we added to each project. For now, we’ve decided to add this information in a separate reference file. Please make sure you open it as it will include specific instructions and job details.

We’re also interested in hearing your thoughts, so feel free to send us feedback.

We’re moving (again)

Our office will soon move again to a more central location in Wellington. We will let you know when that happens, and where we’re moving to. Feel free to come and visit us in our current office!

Blog at

Up ↑