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.