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Should translators be pedantic and professional or just technical? It could be open to an individual interpretation or a debate if it wasn't important for the ramifications it has in terms of hidden risks that fraudulent documents may become legalised in the process of translation. This is how:
1. A translated document becomes an official document that will be used in place of the one in its original language. It is assumed that a translation would be a translation of an original document. The 'original' becomes a synonym for a legal document. It may not be legal.
2. A Justice of the Peace certifies 'to the best of his/her knowledge' (which may be insufficient) that a certain document is an original document. But is it a valid, legalised document? Different countries have different legalisation procedures.
3. An original seal or a seal that looks original may not be a sufficient guarantee that a document is legal. There are still cases where some people used their influence, connections or paid to obtain documents that would inflate their qualifications and experience.
My recent assignments have prompted me to research this matter and establish the most professional and appropriate action a translator can take to maintain a good standing of its profession and his/her professional reputation.
About the assignments in brief:
1. Documents had only one seal from a particular issuing institution and a signature of a secretary rather than a director, manager, a dean or a president of that institution. Legalisation seals were missing.
2. Documents had dates that were inconsistent: the date of enrolment was a year after the date of the client's first exam for example. A degree that is alternately referred to as a Master degree and a specialisation diploma in the same document. The two are completely different of course.
3. The format of the document was inconsistent with the original format that such institution normally uses. Most translators may not have this knowledge unless they had personal encounters, experience or education from such institution.
4. Documents that show degrees awarded by research institutions or military academies, which cannot legally award degrees but rather assist by lending their facilities and staff to local faculties for academic purposes.
The legalisation certification provides a two-fold protection: one for the issuing country protecting the credibility of its complete system (i.e. educational, legal, economic and political), and another one, preventing the fraud and manipulation of the system in the receiving country.
So, it might be wise to consider including the legalisation certification in addition to the ethics section in accreditation examinations.
What are the other valuable ways of addressing this issue?
Tramslator directories could create a web page that would explain the legalisation certification (i.e. definition, purpose, procedure, countries in which it is a requirement) and include links to websites where translators can inform themselves about the requirements specific to the country of their source language. Then, there may be additional information such as a sample disclaimer that translators can download and include where uncertain of the legality of a particular document, to indicate that the certification pertains to the accuracy and the authenticity of translation only.
The web page could also include a link for interested institutions, such as universities, governmental agencies, etc., so that they can be informed of what are the legalisation requirements for documents from specific countries. There could also be a link to a page explaining how to 'read' the signs of fraud such as inconsistencies in dates, titles, names, places, formats, styles, digital imaging powers in creating documents that look like originals, etc.
To help with establishing the best ways in addressing this problem I have included the information that I can help with.
In most newly established countries once member states of former Yugoslavia, all documents issued for purposes of overseas study and employment must be fully legalised. They must have the seals from:
- The issuing organization
- The Municipal Court
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (sometimes referred to as The Federal Secretariat for Foreign Affairs).
They also must have the relevant signatures from respective presidents or directors.
Seals from independent lawyers, agencies, or specialised institutions are not accepted.
A disclaimer that I use when in doubt as an unavoidable precaution:
Translation certification pertains to the authenticity and accuracy of translation.
I, _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _, hereby certify that this is a true and accurate translation of the document composed in _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ language.
The authenticity and accuracy of the original document is subject to the legalisation certification of the issuing country.
A fairly comprehensive page with links to individual countries where translators can find out which institutions are responsible for legalisation certification:
1. HAGUE CONVENTION ABOLISHING THE REQUIREMENT OF LEGALISATION FOR FOREIGN PUBLIC DOCUMENTS available from: This WEB-site.
By Jana Paripovich,
Professional Editor and Translator for NMBooks Australia