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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a standard line?

You are a translator, aren’t you? Why don’t you translate at conferences?

Can you make certified copies of my original documents?

Why does the name in a translation of a public document from Russian contain such strange characters?

Why is there more than one correct spelling of proper names of persons in translations of public documents from Russian to German? After all, it’s unambiguous for translations from English to German.

What do you need additional information for? After all, you are only supposed to translate what is written.

Here are the answers to frequently asked questions.

What is a standard line?

A standard line is a unit for measuring text length commonly used in Germany. One standard line equals 55 keystrokes. The price of a translation is usually calculated based on the number of standard lines in the target text.

In other countries, such as Britain and the USA, text length is usually measured based on the number of words rather than standard lines.

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You are a translator, aren’t you? Why don’t you translate at conferences?

Rendering speech, e.g. at presentations or conferences, in another language is done by interpreting rather than translation. I do not offer interpreting services myself. However, if you need such services, I will be pleased to recommend professional interpreters to you.

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Can you make certified copies of my original documents?

No, I can’t. However, I can execute more than one copy of a certified translation prepared by me.

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Why does the name in a translation of a public document from Russian contain such strange characters?

As a general rule, proper names of persons in translations of public documents from Russian are transliterated in accordance with ISO 9:1995, that is, each letter of the Cyrillic characters is replaced by the Latin character defined by the standard in order to ensure that any back-transliteration into Russian will be unambiguous. Some letters (those representing sibilants, for example) are marked by diacritics for this purpose.

If you need the spelling of a name in a translation of a public document to be different from the one according to the standard referred to above, you will have to provide adequate documentary evidence. For example, a person’s first name and surname are entered in the passport of the Russian Federation in a transcribed spelling. If the latter is to be used in a certified translation, send me a certified copy of the passport concerned, which I will return to you along with the completed translation. The name concerned will then appear in the translation precisely as entered in the passport.

TIP: If the required spelling of the name differs from ISO 9:1995, ALWAYS provide the appropriate documentary evidence (passport) when placing an order for a translation.

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Why is there more than one correct spelling of proper names of persons in translations of public documents from Russian to German? After all, it’s unambiguous for translations from English to German.

Russian to German translation differs from English to German translation in that names stated using one alphabet (Cyrillic) have to be rendered using another one (Latin). This may be done using different transliteration or transcription systems, each of which may lead to a different result. This step is not necessary for English to German translation, of course.

There is no more than one correct spelling of proper names of persons for translations from Russian if specific requirements are made regarding the standard to be observed or a reference document containing an authoritative spelling. If the customer requires the first name and surname to be spelled as entered in the passport presented, then that will be the single correct spelling. Otherwise, transliteration in accordance with the ISO standard will be used for translations of public documents if no other requirement is made by the customer. If provided with the note "in accordance with ISO 9:1995", the result will be just as unambiguous and correct.

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What do you need additional information for? After all, you are only supposed to translate what is written.

Additional information is necessary to enable the translator to prepare a correct target text. Not every source text contains all the information necessary for rendering it correctly in another language.

What follows is a fairly simple example: In a short source text in English which doesn’t clearly show where it was written, a date is given as follows: "02/08/20XX". An English to German translator who fails to inquire about the origin of the text or the convention used for giving dates (thus failing to obtain necessary additional information) cannot assume that he or she will produce an adequate target text by writing down, without further comment, the variant which he or she believes to be correct. By the way, not in all cases will it be an adequate solution to add a footnote explaining that either August 2 or February 8 might be meant depending on the convention used for dates.

The example given above should make it clear that, in order to produce a correct translation, it may be essential to know where a source text was written. Here are just a few other external factors for which the same holds true:

  • Who/which company is the author of the source text?

  • When was it written?

  • By what means of communication was it or will it be sent (e.g. for business correspondence)?

  • Who is the source/target text addressed to?

Examples which illustrate that a translator has to thoroughly analyse both external factors and "what is written", adapting the target text to the conventions of the target language, are available as a PDF file here (in German only).

Customers can expect a professional translator to research and use industry-specific terminology. However, many companies also use in-house terminology and abbreviations which will be either unknown or ambiguous to the translator unless he or she is given additional information. To ensure that an adequate target text is produced, it is therefore important for the customer to provide the translator with any available glossaries, lists of abbreviations, relevant background texts, etc., from the outset. By the way, although a customer may require a specific abbreviation to be treated as a "black box", and thus left unchanged, in English to German translation, it is often essential for the translator to know its long form in order to produce a correct target text. For example, this may be necessary to ensure that the abbreviation is used in the correct gender (and consequently with the correct article because articles in German are not invariable).

In summary: An essential quality feature of a translator’s work is the manner in which he or she deals with additional information. A prerequisite for high translation quality consists in the customer providing relevant additional information, which may vary in scope depending on the kind and intended use of the target text.

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