In September 2007, Princeton University launched what it hailed as “the largest, most extensive effort in the country to educate students about the important role that translation plays across academic fields and in cultural understanding.” We check it out.

By Stafford Hemmer

Officially, as News at Princeton reports, the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication seeks to “allow students to develop skills in language use and in the understanding of cultural and disciplinary difference. Translation across languages allows access to issues of intercultural differences, and the program will encourage its students to think about the complexity of communicating across cultures, nations, and linguistic borders.”

Certificate, certified—and totally certifiable

In the blush of its novelty, Sandra Bermann, chair of Princeton’s Comparative Literature department and a member of the program’s Executive Committee, eagerly elucidates that “words like democracy or constitution mean different things in different parts of the world,” reflecting the optimism of yet another translation certificate program to arise in American academia. “Certificate” and “Certified” also mean different things in different parts of the world, too. 

In order to call oneself a “translator” in a country like Germany, for example, one is required to study the discipline at a University and/or pass certification examinations administered by the state or federal government. In the USA, by contrast, no such government-sanctioned qualifying body can recognize a “certified translator” who can offer “certified translations.” It falls upon many US-based translators to educate clients about what constitutes certification, and even then, fellow translators have still had to ask each other—more than once on the NCTA list, for example—”How do I certify a translation?” A not-insignificant concern when dealing with clients who need transcripts, diplomas, immigration documents, divorce decrees translated … you get the picture.

Certainly the ATA imprimatur is a powerful endorsement, despite the deserved criticisms about the quality, nature, and prevarication of its testing practices. Still, ATA is merely a private, non-profit organization, acting on its own interests and on behalf of its members. A truly objective, government-run certifying body, administering U.S., or better yet, international, standards, is woefully absent in this country.

What about that Berkeley program?

To those of us NCTA members who graduated from the now defunct Certificate in Translation and Interpretation Studies Program offered by the University of California at Berkeley (through its Extension campus), whether as students, instructors, administrators, or conspirators, the philosophy, approach, structure—and optimism—behind the new Princeton program is hauntingly familiar. Princeton’s curriculum lends itself to ready comparison with that of Berkeley/Extension. For Princeton undergraduates already proficient in at least one foreign language, the newly christened “Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication” brings the art of translation to the plethora of disciplines represented by the 17 departments involved in the program. Berkeley’s students, who demonstrated their language proficiency upon application, benefitted from a program structured by professionals in the fields of both translation and interpretation, along with a renowned university’s staff and administration representing diverse fields of study.

Like Berkeley, Princeton offers a two-year program which began this fall with one of two core courses entitled “Thinking Translation: Language Transfer and Cultural Communication” (also called “Issues in Translation”), followed, in the succeeding semester, by the collective “Senior Seminar in Translation and Intercultural Communications.” Berkeley’s infamous first semester “Survey of Linguistics” managed to weed out just under a third of the first cohort’s initial 66 participants. The seemingly directionless second-semester course did little for student retention. This drop-out rate is unlikely to happen at Princeton, because that program is not designed for adults seeking continuing education credentials on top of their busy home and work lives, but instead for current undergraduates (mostly juniors and seniors) who are complementing their degrees in the humanities, sciences, or engineering.

The rest of the program also resembles Berkeley’s program structure: in the second year, the Princeton students gradually refine their course of study first by selecting from a menu of courses in “Translation Practice”—such as “Cultures and Critical Translation”—followed by a final semester of additional, pre-approved electives that are likely to be language- and discipline-specific. And, just as with the Berkeley program, the Princeton undergrads complete the program after submitting a “Senior Thesis.” One other requirement of the Princeton program is that participants must spend between six weeks to one year abroad, whereas most of Berkeley’s enrollees had already studied abroad when they themselves were undergraduates, or lived abroad when they were being raised.

So what happened?

There are important differences between both Princeton and Berkeley that augur well for Princeton’s future. The reasons for Berkeley’s past are too complex to cover here. Princeton runs an executive committee of department members or chairs. Berkeley’s program was ultimately controlled by the Board of Regents for the University of California—making it virtually impossible for administrators to respond to important program changes or student demands, simply because they could get not get on the Regents’ quarterly meeting agenda.

The Princeton program also offers the structured environment of an undergraduate setting, with students eager to succeed, whereas the Berkeley program had to be fit in with the responsibilities of work, family, and the rest of everyday post-graduate, real-world living. It was frustrating to see so many Berkeley students who held immense potential to be so discouraged for a number of reasons—whether they had been out of college for too long, whether they had to commute three hours each way for class twice a week, or whether they were simply enraged at the administration’s inability to advocate for the changes the program needed. The program was terminated in 2002, after graduating a mere three cohorts. May Princeton enjoy a greater success.

The Translorial’s Tool Kit

By Jost Zetzsche © 2004 International Writers’ Group, compiled by Yves Avérous

The Tool Kit is an online newsletter that comes to its subscribers’ mailboxes bimonthly. In Translorial, we are offering you a quarterly digest of Jost’s most helpful advice of the past season. If you would like to subscribe to The Tool Kit, visit www.internationalwriters.com/toolkit/ and mention Translorial during subscription, Jost will put your name in a drawing for one free Tool Box book per edition.

THE Solution to Spam

This heading probably got your attention, but I am only half-kidding.

AnchorDesk’s Brian Cooley wrote an interesting article recently in which he compared himself to Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who didn’t get the memo that World War II was over until 1974. Brian feels that he’s in the same situation with instant messaging.

A while back, the same thing happened to me (see the chapter on Collaboration Tools in my Tool Box book, www.internationalwriters.com/toolbox). Instant messaging had been around for several years, but I had filed it away as something that 16-year-olds used to chat about acne and boy/girlfriends. Only when I started to work in a workgroup where instant messenger applications was the preferred form of communication did I start to realize how powerful a tool this can be, and how much more effective it is than email. The fact that you can exchange questions and answers instantaneously with your workmates in virtual workgroups can save you hours over just a few days, especially in situations where communication is essential (and isn’t that what we as translators do?).

Even though many of us work in virtual workgroups for much of our time, very few translators use instant messenger applications as work-related communication tools (I would love to be proved wrong on that!).

Aside from the above-described misconceptions, another barrier to the effective use of instant messaging may be that most messaging networks (AOL, ICQ, Yahoo!, MSN, and many others) are not compatible with one other, so you have to agree on one provider in your group before you can actually communicate.

Fortunately, there are some applications out there that simultaneously support numerous protocols, making it possible to talk to your AOL, Yahoo!, and MSN “buddies” at the same time and from within one application. The one that I have been using is the open-source freeware program Miranda (see www.miranda-im.org). This comes in a bare-bones version when you first install it, but it can be added onto to your heart’s content with some of the hundreds of free plug-ins that are available on its website. Oh, and to come back to the title of this article—there is no spam in instant messenger (if you adjust your settings accordingly)!

Office 2004 for Mac

Office 2004 for Mac was released recently. Though it was praised by most reviewers, I don’t think it’s that much of an improvement over the previous version. Many of the new features are taken over from the Windows versions of Office (such as the review and research features or the smart buttons). There is one thing that most reviewers overlooked but I really like: the Notebook Layout view in Word. I’ve often complained that a Word document doesn’t offer several tabs (like an Excel spreadsheet) so that you can add notes or files to a document without actually inserting them into the text. That is exactly what this feature allows you to do. I don’t care for some of its features (for instance, if you switch to a different view, the tabs aren’t maintained until you switch back to the Notebook view), but this is a great step in the right direction and makes me hopeful for the next Windows release of Office.

Another Mac tool that was recommended by a reader (Greg Hopper Moore, greg_hopper_moore@sil.org) is the time-and job-tracking tool Clock and Track (see http://www.bdnsoftware.com/products/clockandtrack/intro.html). In some ways it is similar to the Windows tool Time Stamp I’ve mentioned before (see www.syntap.com), but it’s significantly more sophisticated (you’re able to track time by preconfigured client and project and to write invoices) and a lot more humorous (you’ll see what I mean when you start playing with the tool). It is available as a shareware download. If I spent more billable time on my Mac, I would certainly want to use it.

Embedding Fonts in Office Documents

Here’s a tip on the portability of fonts: Most of us have been in situations where we receive a well-designed document, but as soon as we open it up on our computers it looks like it was formatted by my four-year-old. Or worse, we spend hours making a document look perfect, proudly send it off, and then receive a screaming e-mail from the client because the document’s a mess at the other end. While there could be a variety of reasons for this, the most common problem is that a font was used which hasn’t been installed on the recipient’s computer. Fortunately, programs such as Word and PowerPoint offer the capability of embedding TrueType fonts (it isn’t possible to embed PostScript fonts), thus making sure that the document or the presentation will look just the same on the recipient’s computer.

In Word, select Tools>Options>Save>Embed TrueType Fonts (thanks to Rebecca Davis, rbcdavis@pacbell.net for this contribution); in PowerPoint, select File>Save As>Tools>Save Options>Embed True Type Fonts. The drawback of this method is that you end up with a slightly larger file, but considering the enormous size of files in the latest Office editions, this shouldn’t make such a big difference (unless you’re using an East Asian or a Unicode font).

Give Excel a Break

One of the most coveted keyboard shortcuts in Excel must be Alt+Enter. Anyone who has ever tried to add a line break into an Excel cell (i.e., force text to the next line within a cell) knows that the “normal” shortcuts such as the Enter key (for a new paragraph or “hard return”) or the combination of Shift+Enter (for a line break within a paragraph or “soft return”) does nothing but select the next cell (Enter) or the current cell (Shift+Enter).

As you will by now have already guessed, the magic bullet is Alt+Enter, which will break the text to the next line while still staying within the current cell.

For users of OpenOffice.org’s Chart program (the Excel equivalent), the shortcuts are a little different: Enter to select the next cell, Alt+Enter to reselect the current cell, and Ctrl+Enter to add a line break with a cell.

Office 2003 and the New Outlook

In my Tool Box book, I make a strong case for why it doesn’t really pay to update to Office 2003, with the possible exception of Outlook 2003 (if you choose to use Outlook as your email client). I’ve rarely been as happy with a program as I am with Outlook 2003, especially because of its outstanding junk mail filter.

Outlook users will also be pleased to find out about the sharpest little Outlook add-on that I’ve ever seen, pointed out by Ariella Germinario-Lingenthal (ariella.it@aliceposta.it): Lookout (see www.lookoutsoft.com), a search tool that makes your searches through your Outlook files (including attachments) and any other files on your computer lightning fast. It achieves this through a comprehensive indexing of all content in the files that you are searching.

Apparently, even Microsoft was impressed by this tool, because it recently purchased Lookout Software. What this probably means is that the next version of Outlook (and Windows) will have this as a standard feature. Until then, however, you can download it for free!

Microsoft Glossaries and Trados Databases

A few readers asked me again about the URL of the Microsoft glossaries in the last few weeks. It is ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/developr/msdn/newup/Glossary/. Unfortunately, the glossary site has been very unstable during the last few weeks, so if it gives you an error message when you try to log on, try, try again….

I recently talked to the person at Microsoft who is responsible for the Microsoft glossaries. She is presently in the process of rethinking and possibly redoing the way the glossaries are being published. One possibility would be to not wait a few months before publishing new glossaries but instead to publish a new glossary for a new product as it appears.

She is very eager to get some feedback. If you care to contribute some feedback, you can either write to termhelp@microsoft.com, or you can write to me and I can compile and forward the responses.

Trados expert Tuomas Kostiainen (EN>FI, tuomas@jps.net) reports on a freeware tool that allows for the conversion of the Microsoft glossaries (to be found at ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/developr/msdn/newup/Glossary/). It’s called MSGloss2TWB (see http://www.globalready.net/downloads.html) and, according to Tuomas, it’s very easy to use.

Downloadable Glossary of the EU

Walter Weyne of e-globalcom.net (see www.e-globalcom.net – a great company to work with!) recommended the downloadable Eurovoc glossary: http://europa.eu.int/celex/eurovoc/.

The Eurovoc covers the fields in which the European Communities are active. It exists in the 11 official languages of the European Union (Spanish, Danish, German, Greek, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Finnish, and Swedish) and has also been translated by the parliaments of Albania, Croatia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

There are literally thousands of glossaries available on the Internet, but the majority is not downloadable. For me it makes a huge difference whether I can integrate a glossary into my existing terminology database that I use with my computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool or whether I have to go somewhere and make a special effort to look for a term. The more I use CAT tools, the more I believe in the incredible power of well-kept terminology databases. Since I imported the 7,000+ terms of that glossary into my 100,000+ term main terminology database three or four days ago, I’ve already had five or six occasions where a new term was suggested to me that I may not have thought of otherwise.

CAT-Proofing Your Computer

If all this talk about CAT tools just doesn’t resonate with you, here is a tool that you might like: http://www.bitboost.com/pawsense/index.html. Have fun!

Educational Documents: Translation or Evaluation?

by George Fletcher

Globe Language Services. Inc. of which I am a co-owner, is a translation and evaluation company in New York City. We specialize in both translation and evaluation of foreign educational credentials. I used to teach foreign languages in grade school and high school, and later In college, and then I worked in the international office of Oklahoma State University for many years, which is where I learned there was a difference between translation and evaluation. This article describes a specialized area within the field of translation: educational documents.

The first thing we have to realize is the importance of translations of this type, because how you translate the document may determine whether or not that person gets a degree or a job Just imagine going to another country with your bachelor’s degree and having it translated there as an associate’s degree. That could affect you drastically in the job market. This is the first point, then: the importance of your work to your client. It’s probably as important as any translation you do in terms of helping people.

When we translate an educational document such as a diploma, our first question is: “Should I analyze it, or should I just describe what is in the document?” In his Introduction to Spanish Translation, Jack Child presents a scale that goes from the lowest level of translation-word for word, i.e., where the overall meaning is less important to the highest level- where the translator reads the document, assimilates it into his or her own thinking, analyzes it, and then reproduces it creatively in his or her native language. Of course, there are levels in between. When the document in question is an educational document, what should we do? Should we sit down and analyze it? What is it? Is it a baccalauréat from France? Should I tell people exactly what that is in the United States? As a translator, is that my job? In my view, we don t have to analyze the document or assimilate a diploma and then recreate it. We only need to describe what’s in that document. If we analyze the document and try to recreate it in English at the educational level that it represents in the United States, what we are doing is called evaluation. There is an entire profession out there consisting of evaluators who are going to do the evaluation. That’s their job. What we need to do is simply to translate the document, describe it, and then let the evaluators analyze it. In a way, this makes it easier for us as translators.

What is an evaluator? What do they do?

An evaluator researches foreign educational documents and recommends the closest US equivalents of those documents. Evaluations are required by US schools, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, licensing boards, and numerous federal, state, city and private employers. The United States is very generous in accepting educational experience in other countries; basically, if any education is accredited in another country, it is accepted at face value in the United States. Someone, however, must scrutinize the foreign documents to determine their eligibility for acceptance and thereafter establish their US equivalents. Of course, documents not in English must be translated. This poses a special challenge to the translator. What, specifically, does the evaluator need from the translator?

The first question a translator should ask is, “Who is going to receive my translation?” The translation may be good or bad, but it’s only as good as the level of understanding of the person receiving or utilizing it. As a practical matter, the translator has to please the client. If the client has certain requirements, the translator must consider those requirements. As a rule, when translators translate transcripts and diplomas, the people who will ultimately receive and work with them are evaluators.

What do we do when the client is an individual who requests an analytical or evaluative translation?

That’s exactly what you don t want to do. Ultimately, your translation of any educational document will go to an evaluator. You can rest assured that eventually someone who knows the system of education you are translating will receive your translation. They will know the grade scales and the names of the diplomas. You don’t have to worry about that.

Admission officers at institutions of higher education are trained to be evaluators. And if the translation is sent for state licensing, such as to engineering boards, boards of education, etc., there are evaluators there.

Now, if you want your translation to be rejected by an evaluator, the best thing you can do is try to analyze and evaluate that diploma and tell the evaluator what it is. What the translator needs to determine is what the evaluator needs. The first thing is the name of the university on the foreign diploma. If you translate the name of the university, which translators tend to do, that’s okay. However, there is a book that has the official translations of the names of foreign schools: The International Handbook of Universities and Other Institutions of Higher Education. If you’re inventing your own translations, yours may be better, but they’re not “official.” If you use a translation that’s not in that book, you will make it harder for your client, the student, because the evaluator/admission officer is going to say that the school is not accredited. The student will come back to you and say, “Look, they’re not accepting my application because of your translation. They claim my school’s not accredited.” lf you’re going to translate the name of the school, consult the Handbook and use that translation.

The next point is always to add the name of the school in parentheses in the source language. Even if you are going to take it upon yourself to translate the name, albeit correctly for you, your transmission might be considered incorrect by the evaluator. Then the evaluator can at least look it up in the source language in the Handbook. As long as the evaluator can find the school listed there, the student is safe. In my opinion, it is not a good idea to translate the name of the school unless you use the names given in this book. This publication also has a breakdown of the schools (faculties) within the institutions, including majors offered and so on.

What about non-Latin-script languages?

My suggestion in these cases is to transliterate the words in parentheses into Latin script. I would transliterate whatever words are part of the name of the university. In these languages you will need to translate the names of the universities, which is why the Handbook is so important to you. You can also get lists of schools with translations of their names from consulates and embassies. At any rate, official translations already exist.

The most difficult part of a translation, however, is the name of the degree itself, the diploma or title. That is the part that will be evaluated for US equivalency. For example, you see baccalauréat. Is the translation “bachelor’s degree”? Definitely not. The minute an evaluator sees that type of translation, the translator is out. That’s why most schools, at least in the New York metropolitan area, have a list of translators or translation agencies they will use. The schools communicate with them, and the translators know what the schools want. lf you want to build your client base, work with the admissions officers of your local colleges and universities, and they will recommend you to their international applicants. It also helps school officials to have someone who understands what they need. It causes trouble for them to receive translations that say, for example, bachelor’s degree for a secondary school diploma. And many mistakes have been made along these lines, e.g., high school graduates being admitted as graduate students. It’s a disaster for the evaluators, who can lose their jobs, not to mention the harm done to the student.

Whom do we address at the schools?

The Admissions Office. Call the school and ask for the person in charge of foreign applications. We’ve done this with all the local schools in our area, and they’re quite happy to find someone who’s aware of what they need.

What about the Abitur diploma from Germany?

From the evaluator’s point of view the Abitur generally represents completion of high school and up to one year of college credit. You, as the translator. do not want to shortchange the student by evaluating the certificate as a US high school diploma. That is not fair to the student, because it represents more than that. So, what is a translator to do?

There are benchmarks common to most education systems throughout the world. First comes primary school, followed by secondary, followed by undergraduate education, graduate education, and upper graduate education, such as the doctorate. When we translate a secondary school diploma, such as a bachillerato from Colombia, we will put ”secondary school diploma.” This is the benchmark for Colombia, representing a combined total of 11 years of primary and secondary education. We are not saying it’s a high school diploma in the United States; it’s a secondary school diploma from that country. Of course, always put the word in the source language in italics. That’s what the evaluator is going to look at; he or she will want to know what the original says. For an evaluator, therefore, the Abitur represents a high school diploma plus up to one year of undergraduate credit. This is the secondary school benchmark in Germany, but it represents more than that in the United States.

What about the other information on the document?

The rest of the information does not have to be in the original language in the translation (but it can be; see more on this below). All the other information is very important and needs to be in English, because the evaluator must know such things as the date of birth, dates of enrollment, graduation, and so on. The date of birth can be very important if it appears on the document. The diploma may indicate a master’s degree and the person’s age as l4 years when completed. Much of the information that appears on a diploma is needed by the evaluator as verification for cross reference purposes in the evaluation. This is especially true in languages with non Latin scripts, such as Russian, Chinese, and Thai. I think we can safely assume that there are not very many admission officers who read all of these languages, which is why school personnel are very dependent on the translator. This is another reason why it’s extremely important for you to earn the trust of school officials. Yes, in French, Spanish, or other Western European  languages, it is easier for them to verify words, dates, and general information in the originals, but I don’t think you can expect them to be totally fluent in all the languages with Latin script either.

What about the authenticity of each document?

That’s not specifically the translator’s job. Legally speaking, people can bring us a hand-written message on a napkin, and we can translate it. But, when you realize the evaluators are responsible for ascertaining authenticity, what do you do when you receive the same diploma every day with the name whited out and a new name written in? Legally, you can translate that diploma and certify the translation. However, the evaluator is going to catch on sooner rather than later. So if you can be aware of forgeries and reject them, it’s better to lose one client than to lose the university that’s sending you clients every day, notwithstanding morality and our society. In New York, there are companies that duplicate university seals, not to mention diplomas and transcripts. And guess who’s selling these forgeries on the open market? Translation agencies.

How does one translate grades?

This is another red-flag area for translators. My suggestion is, don’t interpret the grades since that’s the evaluator’s job. There are publications that list foreign grades and give equivalents in terms of the US grading scale of A, B, C, D and F. The evaluator does not want you to do this because you are going to do it incorrectly. It will be more difficult for them to deal with your translation, and they will want to get rid of you. What I would recommend is that you contact the Association of International Educators (NAFSA) at www.nafsa.org and obtain a list of country-specific books that contain information about each country’s educational system, including the translations of grades accepted in the field and bilingual glossaries.

Do evaluators appreciate it if you put the words for foreign language grades in the original language in italics, along with the English translation?

They will love you if you do this. That would be fantastic, because the evaluators are trained to know the grades, the diplomas and the schools for the countries they deal with. Those are the three things we can assume they know in the foreign language, at least in most languages. In the books and charts evaluators use, the foreign language and the English are given. So if you write them both, even if the translation is off, they can go back to the original language. When in doubt about any point of information, it does not hurt to put the foreign language words in parentheses and italics along with the translated words.

My specific question regards the translations of the French grades Très bien, Bien, Assez bien, Passable, and Ajourné.

The reference book on France that all evaluators use translates French grades as follows:

 Très bien –  Very Good
 Bien  – Good
 Assez bien  –  Good enouqh
 Passable  –   Satisfactory
 Ajourné  –  Failed

Evaluators appreciate such direct translations. It is when the translator evaluates the grades and translates them as A B. C. D or F, for example, that the line is crossed between translation and evaluation.

Do we have to explain what a baccalauréat is in our translation?

No. No footnotes, no translator opinion or interpretation-that is precisely what is not wanted. Just describe what you have in your hands. This actually makes it easier for you. Most NAFSA books also contain the translations that all evaluators use for the different degrees and diplomas. If you use these, then its fine to translate these terms, always remembering to put the original in italics. The evaluator will not have any problem with this. Considering the French baccalauréat, there is no translation. You can use baccalauréat as long as you put it in italics; it is not a bachelor’s degree. In the reference book on French education, the word baccalauréat is used throughout; however, it is translated in one place as a “secondary-school-leaving examination.”

lf I’m translating for a resume, shouldn’t I add footnotes about the education?

There are two mistakes here. First, you’re making a mistake worrying about this, because it’s not your job. You don’t have to do that. Second, somebody, someplace, even if it’s the employer, is going to have to evaluate the educational document itself. And if they don’t have the good sense to call a professional evaluation service, the employer is making a big mistake. As a favor to your client, you could give them the name of an evaluation association and tell them that, if they need an evaluation of their documents, they can go to that organization. This would be best both for that person and for the employer. You may want to refer your client to the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) at www.aice-eval.org for a list of reputable evaluation services.

Should we add a footnote stating that the document needs to be professionally evaluated?

No, I wouldn’t put any footnotes.

lf an individual doesn’t say what the translation will be used for, what do we do?

Eventually an evaluator is going to look at it, even if it’s the employer.

What if the client insists that we put in the explanation of what the degree is?

I wouldn’t do it. Every person educated in another country will assert that ”education is different in my country.” That is the first thing you will hear “In our country we study six days per week all day and we know a lot more than Americans, because I’ve talked to American students and they know nothing; American education stinks, basically, and you should really award me a doctorate here although it says bachillerato.” That’s a normal response, and if I were to go to another country, I’m sure I would do the same (“Hey, don’t underestimate my education, this is my life!”).

Isn’t there a possible liability involved if the translator adds information to a  translation?

Exactly. On the one hand, an evaluation always contains a disclaimer: “These are recommendations only, we are not responsible….” An evaluator can only recommend. A translator, on the other hand, does not have this freedom – we’re supposed to be translating. A certified and notarized translation becomes a legal document; it must be faithful to the original. So, assume that a translator is more liable than an evaluator.

What about transcripts?

It would probably help you to request some college catalogs with the names of courses in US schools. For example, in mechanical engineering, the courses may be very similar in the foreign country. This could help you as translator. If not, a literal translation of the names of the courses is preferred. Evaluators are going to know what the courses are; seeing a transcript in mechanical engineering will not be new to them. On the other hand, you may be asked to translate a course in mechanical engineering from the home country as civil, mechanical and electronic engineering all rolled into one, because this is going to meet a specific requirement in one of those areas at the US school. The translator needs to be careful. Evaluators will also certainly question translations that exactly match their own curricula. I think it bears repeating: you don t need  to evaluate.

Would a document in a language such as German need to be translated?

Yes, it would. There is a good chance the evaluator is not totally fluent in German. It is possible to know the German system of education and not be fluent in German. This is a subject for debate within the evaluation field. Therefore, the evaluator may not be able to read the other data in a foreign language document, but he or she must make sure all the information in that document fits for validation and authentication purposes.

In conclusion, I would say, take it easy on yourself-give a description. It’s not our job to evaluate these documents in order to translate them. If a student insists on evaluation, don’t translate this type of document for that client. Lose one customer, but please the school, because the school is going to be sending you clients all the time. If one person wants a doctorate for a high school diploma, lose that person. The evaluator is going to give credit where it’s due. The translator is the one who stands to lose.

1. Child, Jack. Introduction to Spanish Translation. Maryland: University Press of America, 1992.
2. Taylor, Ann [ed]. International Handbook of Universities and Other Institutions of Higher Education. 12th  ed.
New York: Stockton Press, 1991.


George Fletcher, Ed.D., is president of the International Education Credential Evaluation Division of Globe Language Services, Inc., in New York. He is an adjunct assistant professor of translation at New York University, current chair person of American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers’ International Education Research Committee, and charter member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE). He is an ATA-accredited Spanish/English translator, and author of The Complete Handbook and GIossary of Soviet Education (1992) and Chile: A Comparative Education Study (2000, with Spanish/ English glossary). He can be reached at george@globelanguage.com.
This article is based on a presentation at the 1999 ATA conference in St. Louis, Missouri. It has previously appeared in Gotham Translator (February 2000) and the ATA Chronicle (March 2000) and is reprinted here with permission.