I am frequently asked how it is that I go about translating a document. That obviously depends on a range of different variables, such as how long it is, how technical it is, how much vocabulary I will have to look up and many other factors. For current purposes, I will assume that we are referring to a simple certificate.

There is a great need for translating documents such as birth and marriage certificates, all the more so in these days of flexible and mobile labour markets. Firstly, you create a template which can be used for future certificates, as there will be similar certificates. Secondly, you check whether there are official translations for certain terms (for example, the German “Führungszeugnis” is referred to as a “Certificate of Good Conduct”, even if the person in question has a police record extending several pages.)

Then there is the document itself. Most of these certificates are fairly straightforward – either a person was born on 01/01/01, or (s)he wasn’t. There is no grey area with room for interpretation. Then all the relevant details must be checked, such as reference numbers and telephone numbers. This all being done, the document is e-mailed to the client. This, again, is usually quite straightforward. There might be slight changes of spelling in names and places if the original document was written with a different alphabet, but these rarely take long to correct.

Finally, a printed copy is made and stamped, a certifying letter is written and the letter goes in the post. The client then has a legally usable translation of their original for whatever uses that they need it.

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