I had the same expression as Agent 86 when I read the "Need a one-page translated, cost?" line on an email I received a couple of weeks ago.
Can you guess what crossed my mind when I read it? One word: scam! Depending on my level of paranoia (fed by news and Facebook posts about identity theft) at the moment of receiving emails like that one, I may close my web browser in a panic, or if I am calm because I haven't read many Facebook posts and news about identity theft and scams, I may simply delete the email.
In any event, a request worded in that way raises more suspicion and eye-rolling than an obliged urgency to reply and seek more information from the sender. However, the above example is an extreme case. The majority of inquiries I receive are polite and well-phrased, but sometimes they lack information. In a way it makes sense! Why should someone already know what kind of information the translator needs?
So if you need your personal documents translated, the following is a quick list of five questions that I may certainly ask you if you did not provide enough information on your email.
1. What language pair? Remember to indicate the language combination for your document. Source language is the language in which the document is originally written and target language is the one into which the document is translated. It is possible that you need a language combination that I do not offer; however, I may know someone who can help you.
2. What kind of document? If you need a birth or marriage certificate translated, please do not say "it's only a few words." When translating official documents, every word on the page must be reproduced, including headers and footers, and the layout has to match the original. Believe me, it takes times. A Translator's Declaration is usually attached to the translation of official documents.
3. Do you need a certified translator or not? Some government agencies (like Passport Canada) require that the translation to be done by a certified member of a provincial association of translators. Other organizations may require that the translator belongs to a provincial association of translators, but he or she does not necessarily have to be certified (it means that an associate translator can do the job). Some translators are certified in a specific language combination and they do not feel comfortable translating into their passive language.
4. Do you need the translation notarized? If this is the case, after preparing the translation, I prepare a declaration (affidavit) and make an appointment with a notary. At the notary's office, I swear an oath and sign the affidavit before the notary. The notary simply verifies my identity and affirms that I have given my word that the translation is a true representation of the original. The notarization does not assess the quality of my work.
5. Please email me a scanned copy of the documents. This is not a question but a request, I know, but it is a very important one. Without seeing your documents, it would be very difficult for me to provide you with an accurate quote and turnaround time.
I hope I shed some light on what information to provide me or to another translator when you need a personal document translated.
Patricia B. McGrory
Patricia enjoys reading and sharing articles related to translation, linguistics, interpretation, and anything that may be valuable to her clients and colleagues.