Victor Hertz, President and Chief Executive Officer of University Language Services
OK. You caught us.
Really there is only one rule!
Translations of academic transcripts and course descriptions must be accurate.
All the guidelines we have pinpointed in more than 25 years of doing translation simply facilitate accuracy. Among those guidelines, we have five rules that will help not only in translating academic transcripts, but also in translating personal documents used for legal purposes.
1. A translation is not an explanation: It should not editorialize
Clients often mistake the purpose of a translation. A translation is not an explanation of a document, rather it is an accurate rendering, into a different language, of what the document actually says.
Editorial comments are antithetical to accuracy, no matter how well intentioned. A translation of an academic transcript should be a word-for-word rendering of the document from one language into another.
A translation is distinct from a credential evaluation. An evaluation explains the meaning of the transcript. Specifically, it explains a student’s academic performance in terms of an education system and grading system other than the one where he or she originally went to school.
Those seeking an evaluation of academic records that are transcribed in a language other than English must first have those documents translated by a professional and impartial translator.
2. Good translation costs money: Translate only what is required
Before submitting documents for translation, clients should understand which documents need to be translated.
Our staff continually finds that individuals over-request translation. We make a strenuous effort to save our clients money (and us time) by helping them weed out unnecessary documents.
Be aware that colleges, universities and credential evaluation agencies have widely differing requirements. Clients need to determine in advance which types of academic documents they need: diplomas, certificates, exam results, course records, transcripts or course descriptions.
When in doubt, of course, it is better to err on the side of translating too much rather than too little. Clients should be prepared to spend their money on what is really important: A good, accurate translation that honestly renders academic achievement from one language into another.
3. Linguists translate only what’s there: Supply clear, readable documents
Sometimes the stamp on an academic transcript is extremely faint, or a signature is nearly illegible. Our translators, however, make every effort to distinguish the text of the documents they work with.
But a linguist can translate only the text that appears on the documents provided. If a smudge or mark renders a word, phrase, stamp or even a grade unclear, then the translation (and thus, the evaluation) may be missing vital information.
We can advise clients if they should consider requesting cleaner copies or better reproductions of their originals; however, we cannot read minds or see what is not there.
No matter what, however, copies of documents should never be written on or marked up.
White-out and/or ink marks can render a document suspect and void a translation.
4. Translators can get stumped too: Provide reference materials
Translators of academic transcripts and course descriptions are professionals. They are conversant in academic terminology, phrases and educational jargon. Occasionally, however, a word or acronym used exclusively in a certain school or specific course can puzzle a translator.
Providing the translator with documentation about the meaning of uncommon words or phrases will result in the most accurate translation possible.
Reference materials are not personal notes on how you want the translation to read, but objective third-party sources such as published dictionaries, glossaries or an academic institution’s published course catalog.
5. Schools, government agencies and credential evaluators demand impartiality: Use an independent, professional translation company for best results
When amateurs or bilingual friends translate academic documents, one runs the risk of receiving a translation with minor (or even major) mistakes that could adversely affect the credential evaluation.
Those who consider themselves qualified to perform their own translation risk seriously damaging the credibility of their documents. Credential evaluators will rightly question the objectivity a translation done by the document holder.
Only translations from independent and professional translation companies meet the highest standards of impartiality that schools, credential evaluators and government agencies demand. When we certify translations of academic documents, we are guaranteeing that we stand behind the accuracy of the translation.
For more than 25 years, our certified document translations have been recognized and accepted by virtually every U.S. college, university and federal, state and local government agency. We look forward to assisting you whenever you need a reliable, accurate translation.
Since 1983, ULS has provided tens of thousands of students from around the world with certified translations of academic transcripts, course descriptions and other documents. ULS translates more than 150 languages from its international headquarters in New York City and affiliated offices around the world.
The ULS website  provides assistance to international students in the United States as well as American students who wish to study abroad.