top of page

Official Documents: Don't make them too official

Clients almost like the translated document to look similar or identical to the source. It is standard practice for translators to keep the same number of pages as the original document, insert the same tables, font, and formatting. Sometimes the translator is requested to "cut out" the images and paste them into the translation. All of this may be a little extra work, but the outcome satisfies the client.

When it comes to official documents (birth, death, and marriage certificates, and notarial documents) submitted for legal translation, however, images such as coats of arms, stamps, and seals should not be cut out and pasted as the translation is not a clone or substitute for the original certificate. Below is an explanation why by leading attorney, translator, and terminologist, Thomas West III:


The correction: In the original post I advised translators of official documents to “Use a screenshot or graphics program to enhance your translations.” For example, I have often copied logos, seals, etc. onto the translation as .jpg images. After reading the comments on the original post and talking off-blog to a translator who was accused of fraud for copying images onto translations, I now recommend that translators of official documents do not copy and paste any images that are associated with private or governmental institutions. The arguments against copying and pasting graphics and logos are pretty much summed up in Tom West’s comment on my original post. Tom is an attorney, translation company owner, past President of the ATA and legal dictionary author, so I’m very inclined to trust him! Tom says “I know of an instance where an American judge asked that translators stop scanning in the seals and logos on official documents (birth certificates, marriage certificates) because it could appear as though they were “counterfeit” – in the judge’s view, it should be clear that the translation is a translation and NOT an original document, and the more fancy logos/scans you add, the more it can appear that the English-language document was issued by the officials in the foreign country. My conclusion is that all this fancy scanning is (1) not necessary and (2) dangerous, because it can make the document look forged and (3) therefore should not be done.”


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page