Translating Aotearoa


Tip of the month

Macrons, the easy way

Polynesian languages like Māori, Samoan and Niuean use macrons to mark long vowels. There are different ways you can insert macrons when you type on a computer, including through the use of codes such as Alt + 0257 for ā and Alt + 0275 for ē. The easier option, and one that can be used outside of the Microsoft Word environment, is setting up your input language as English (New Zealand) and using the Māori keyboard.

All you need to do then is press the ~ key (top left of the keyboard) followed by the relevant vowel.

plural noun: macrons
  1. a written or printed mark (¯) used to indicate a long vowel in some languages, or a stressed vowel in verse.

Continue reading “Macrons, the easy way”

Oddities of academic document translations

Unlike the specific guidelines we already have in place for selective translations, the Translation Service is currently working on its guidelines for other types of official translations, such as educational documents. That being said, we’ve had a look at how to format full translations, and covered some of our other requirements for official translations in previous posts. Continue reading “Oddities of academic document translations”

Love letters and other poorly written correspondence

Love letters aren’t really your standard fare when working for a language service provider. At the Translation Service however, we often have to translate personal correspondence, in the form of love letters, postcards, online chats, SMS exchanges, or even transcribed phone conversations. The vast majority of these translations are done to provide evidence of a long-standing relationship to New Zealand immigration authorities. At times, translations may be required in the context of a court case or a police investigation. Continue reading “Love letters and other poorly written correspondence”

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.

The return of the square bracket

Image of square bracketsThere may be some confusion as to how to use square brackets for place names. This short article will hopefully clarify our standard practice, which has, as you may have realised, evolved over the years (hence the confusion). Our overarching principle is to be helpful by giving useful information, and careful by avoiding unnecessary risks. Place names are often stated with no mention of their corresponding countries. Does that mean that you should insert the countries in square brackets? Not necessarily.

While the name of the country isn’t stated, it might be obvious that the city is located in a specific country. There might be an emblem, the look and feel of the document may point to specific national practices etc. Only use square brackets if there is room for error or confusion.

For example, a German police clearance certificate might state that the holder was born in Berlin. The document was obviously issued by a German authority, as it bears the national eagle, and it was issued in Bonn. Plus, why would the German Ministry of Justice feel the need to specify that Berlin is in Germany?

Another example is a police clearance issued in Dubai. The holder is born in Paris, but no country is stated. There’s no place with such name in the United Arab Emirates. The holder may be French – her surname sounds French – but we have no certainty of that. There are quite a few places named Paris, the most famous one likely to be Paris, Texas. In this case, square brackets are needed.

What’s in a date?

Many of you are faced with documenting some of the most important dates of a person’s life in the date fields of our selective translation templates. While some dates – such as “Date of birth” – are pretty set in stone, others are a dating minefield! Let’s look at a few dates that commonly trip us up…

Marriage…it’s complicated: There’s the ceremony, the lifelong relationship and the glue that binds it all together, the boring bit – the marriage contract.  On our Marriage Details template we have the field “Date of marriage”, however depending on the country of issuance of the marriage document, the date relating to the marriage may be “Date of marriage”, “Date of registration of marriage” (which may or may not be the same), or the document may simply have “Date of issue”. As always with official document translations, we need to stick to the facts that are presented before us. If it doesn’t actually state “Date of marriage”, we should put “[not stated]”. If a date of registration of marriage is stated – it should be added to the additional notes section.

“Date of issue” – by the time you get to this part of the selective template, you might think the important work is already done, not so…this field appears on ALL of our selective templates and is important information, not so much for the holder of the document, but for the main end users of our selective translations: Immigration New Zealand, Citizenship, NZTA, etc. Again depending on the issuing country/authority there are a few scenarios that you may run into:

  • The date of issue may be clearly stated allowing you to simply fill that field in without a second thought – Hallelujah!
  • There may be no “Date of issue”, in which case you would write “[not stated]” in that field. There is however likely to be a “Date of registration”, which is equally as important and should be added to the additional notes section.
  • There may be both a “Date of issue” and a “Date of registration”. In this case, please add the date of registration to the additional notes field.
  • The document may be a certified copy of the original and may have two dates of issue. In this case, if it’s been issued a second time by the same authority – use the most recent date of issue. If it’s been certified by a different authority – use the original date and issuing authority for the main body of the template and put a note to say: “Translated from a copy certified by [the authority], on [date], at [place].” Depending on the information that’s given.

Happy dating!


The place name conundrum

The topic of geographical names translation is a complicated one. Simply type ‘translating’ and ‘place names’ in your favourite search engine, and you’ll see that translators around the globe keep wondering what to do.

However, rather than exploring the ins and outs of the issue (Gilberto Castañeda-Hernández’s article provides a good starting point for any discussion on the topic), we thought we’d give you some insight into how this issue is dealt with at TTS. Very often, the problem arises when we translate official documents such as birth and marriage certificates into foreign languages.

Let’s take the example of a birth certificate. The person was born at the National Women’s Hospital in Auckland. Translating ‘National Women’s Hospital’ would be quite straight-forward, but does that mean that it should be translated?

When faced with an issue like this, we recommend doing some research to find out whether there is an existing translation that is widely used, or if usage dictates that the name should remain in English. For instance, place names like the Buckingham Palace or the Red Square have existing translations in French (‘le palais de Buckingham’, ‘la place rouge’); on the other hand, Times Square doesn’t and remains in English.

Some marriage certificates will state the place of marriage as being a natural reserve, a national park or a specific beach in the Coromandel. First of all you will need to check if the place indicated is a name per se. If it is, check whether there is an existing translation. As an example, my marriage certificate reads ‘Off Round the Mountain Track, Rangipo Desert, Tongariro National Park’. If we were to translate it into French (which we will have to do at some point), ‘Round the Mountain Track’ would remain in English, but ‘Rangipo Desert’ and ‘Tongariro National Park’ could potentially be translated into French as existing translations are already in use.

There is no straight answer when it comes down to translating place names. Looking back at the birth certificate mentioned earlier, ‘National Women’s Hospital’ is most likely going to remain in English if I had to translate the document into French. That being said, if we had to translate the same birth certificate into German, we may choose to translate ‘National Women’s Hospital’ if that is what German usage dictates.

Following usage in the target language is indeed what TTS recommends as it will enable to explain what led you to choose one option over another, and it will ensure that the translation meets the client’s requirements.


Proofreading a translation in a PDF

Whenever we are dealing with a translation project which involves DTP (desktop publishing), we layout the translation in the original art file (e.g. InDesign or Illustrator) in order to match the layout of the source language; ready for printing.

Sometimes, this can be a long copy/paste process and since our Graphic Designers do not usually understand or read the target language, we ask the translator to proofread the PDF file to check whether the translation has been laid out correctly.

What you need to do is check carefully that the text has been put in place correctly and there are no spelling mistakes or obvious errors.

But how can you mark up and outline the changes on a PDF file? Adobe Acrobat offers different options such as crossing out the text, highlighting, underlining, inserting pop up notes etc.

Although all of the above tools are very helpful, sometimes they can generate confusion. For example, if you cross out a single letter, this can easily be missed. For the sake of consistency, we have come up with few simple guidelines that we would like you to follow whenever you are required to proofread a translation on a PDF file.

First step – Highlighting the text: Select the word or the sentence that you want to change, then right click and choose “Highlight Text” as shown in the below figure:

Screenshot of step one

Second step – Creating a Pop-Up note: Once the word or the sentence is highlighted, right click again and choose “Open Pop-Up Note”

Screenshot of step 2Third step – writing your change or comment: When the Pop-Up Note appears, write in the change you want to make. For example, we want to change the word “Nuovi” into “nuovi” because in this case we don’t want the capital letter. We have re-written the correct word in the Pop-Up note; this way our Graphic Designer will understand that “Nuovi” has to be replaced with “nuovi”.

Screenshot of step 3

We are pretty confident that the above instructions are very easy to follow and that all of you already knew this review process. However, as usual do not hesitate to contact us if you need any further clarification.


How to deal with errors in source documents

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.


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