This series follows on from our previous article about Civil Registries and their records (‘Birth, Death and Marriage’). Back then we looked at the kind of information that registries can hold, and what the documents issued by them – e.g, birth certificates – mean and contain.
Naturally, not every registry has to be ‘civil’: many institutions (such as universities) can have their own registries and registrars too, and all can issue and receive official documents in their designated capacity. So this time we will look at some general points about getting official documents translated, and what those ‘original’ documents and their translations signify.
Translator declarations and certifications
As explained elsewhere on the MYL site, a translation can be presented in complete form (replicating layout and all content) or as an extract that presents the most significant details in a standardised way (‘proforma’). Just what is considered significant can vary from one beholder to another, so although extract translations are generally accepted in Australia, there are situations when only a full translation will do. Usually, the official bodies in question will indicate when this is so, with greater or lesser degrees of precision about their requirements.
In Australia, translators with NAATI accreditation can issue authoritative translations by signing and stamping them with their official NAATI stamp. Given that the NAATI system was originally devised by the Australian Government, translations that bear the stamp and signature of a NAATI-accredited translator are considered reliable within Australian territory.
However, it must be stressed that when you submit something for translation, all the translator does is render the information into the required target language. S/he attests to the faithfulness of the translation, but makes no warrant about the source document itself.
Often these days a streamlined digitised process works without problems. You scan your documents and email them to the translator, who returns the stamped translations by post. In some urgent instances the stamped translations can themselves be scanned and emailed back, with the printed versions arriving later by envelope.
Many translators (I among them) like to accompany certified translations with a stamped and signed printout of the source document. This allows reviewing officials to see for themselves what has actually been received and translated. Full translations with replicated layouts are especially good for this purpose.
Regardless of the type of translation involved (full or extract), the only thing that a translator can declare is that s/he has faithfully translated the source document supplied by the client (or translation agency if applicable). Translators can indicate what they have done by appropriate stamping and marking, but there is nothing to state how reliable the source material may or may not be. That is what we will look at in the following instalment.