..Any current or potential student who has previously studied in another country needs to submit all their academic records. Of course, all of those have to pass a process of translation. All the elements that are included in the process of translating such documents are called transcript translations.

Accurate Translator, one of the many agencies providing such a service says that “one of the most demanding audiences for translations are those who will ask you for the translation of your academic documents.” No wonder that practically all translation agencies and freelancers who provide such service would agree with this assessment. Why?

As with any other translation, on its surface, the process might seem quite simple. After all, diplomas and academic transcripts are not very long documents. Transcripts themselves usually include subject names, brief descriptions and possibly credits and grades. Simple, right?

Not really. When academic institutions use the term ‘transcripts’, they don’t just mean any actual diplomas and a list of subjects and grades. They mean a complete set of documents that are relevant to somebody’s studies.

JR Language, another service provider notes that “in general, an international student with documents in a foreign language will likely need translated versions of the following academic documents:

  • Diplomas
  • Certificates
  • Exam results
  • Course records
  • Transcripts
  • Certifications
  • Letter of recommendations
  • Syllabus
  • Personal Statement
  • Curriculum Vitae

In essence, all these documents land on a translator’s desk as a package and actually represent a transcripts dossier. Such a dossier is can be quite voluminous itself. But, a number and volume of documents is not a key characteristic of transcript translations.

transcript localization

The first most important elements in transcript translations are a precise and exact translation of the content of original documents. The second is their comparison with the equivalent diplomas, subjects, syllabi in the country where the clients want to certify her/his academic records.

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What do transcript translations involve?

Some translation fields like translating literary works leave some maneuvering space. There, translators can sometimes adapt the original text for the prospective audience in their native language. There, translators themselves have to have some literary skills and inclinations.

Some other fields are very specific and leave very little, or no room for interpretation or maneuver. Transcript translations are just one of those. There, there is no personal interpretation or editing possible.

A translator handling academic transcripts and syllabus descriptions can only make grammatical corrections suited to their native language. Hers/his translations have to precisely reflect the original texts.

Only then can the transcripts dossier be submitted for credential evaluation. This process “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.”

It is often the case though that the translator handling the translation of a transcript dossier makes an initial comparison of the diplomas, transcripts, etc. from one academic system to another. All depending on the country where clients want his documents certified. Of course, a translator does not make the official, final comparison. This is done either by the academic institution and/or specialized government institution. Latter is the case in quite a number of countries.

Almost in all cases of transcript translations, they have to have a certain level of certification. It can be a certified translation, notarization of the certified translation or an Apostille of the translated documents (JR Language).

“Many universities, governments, and employers will require a ‘certified’ translation, which means that the professional translator or translation company must include a signed statement attesting to the completeness and validity of the document, as well as their expertise in translating.”

The process of working on transcript translations

To complete an exact and precise translation, a translator working on a transcript dossier has to have extensive experience in such a specialized field. He has to have a complete command of the necessary terminology in both the original and target language. At the same time, he has extensive knowledge and understanding of the academic systems in at least two countries.

It is also important to note that the demand for precision and exactness in transcript translation is such that any unclear copies and smudges have to be clarified completely. Academic translations do not allow any imprecisions. There, the translators working on an academic dossier should always request completely clear copies of every and all pages they are going to translate.

Very often, she/he has to make “a side-by-side comparison of the original and translated document demonstrating quality and thoroughness.”

Even more importantly, they must make sure that “the translation does not create additional questions through inaccurate interpretations or poorly worded expressions with no cultural equivalent reference.” (Accurate Translator)

When appropriate (and requested) “ supplemental information will be included about the region’s educational system.” (ibid.)

Throughout working on any transcript or accompanying academic document, both the client and the translator has to have one thing in mind. “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. (WENR above)

For their part, the clients have to make sure in advance exactly which documents they need to submit for translation. This is due to the fact that “colleges, universities, and credential evaluation agencies have widely differing requirements.” (WENR) This will not only save time but certainly a solid sum of money.

transcript translation

References and other documents

It is a sure fact that professional academic translators should be fully versed in at least two languages and two academic systems. Still, the need to achieve exactness sometimes places them a roadblock. Like everything else, educational systems in different countries change, or a term or an acronym crops up that is not included in any of their terminology databases.

To avoid such blocks, the potential clients should supply the agency or translator they will work with any potential reference materials to facilitate their job. This will also make sure that they receive as precise and as exact translation they require.

Often, potential clients forget the fact that studying in another country often requires a set of residential permits. In that respect, they would also need to translate documents like birth and (possibly) marriage certificate, passport, driver’s license and other. Of course, they can submit these documents elsewhere for translation, but including them in a transcripts dossier is a time/money-saving device.

Another thing to have in mind is the fact that some potential students are transferring to an academic institution abroad during the school year. In that case, they would also need an in-progress transcript. These would include all the work they have completed up to a certain date. Usually, such a transcript is acceptable in many schools for “admissions evaluating purposes.”

The rules for transcript translators and their clients should always have in mind

So, it turns out the translation of any academic dossier is bound by quite strict rules. These include the fact that all transcript translations have to be exact, precise and complete. This includes all the information in every single document in the dossier. From the letterhead to any official seals, the names and titles of the signatories.

Another rule is that the translation of any document in the dossier hast to be “ in the same format as the original to facilitate comparison with the original.”

Also, the translation itself “must read as closely as possible to verbatim.” Such is the importance of these credentials.

“Many times, a note explaining the grading system in the document can be included to facilitate understanding of the particular grading system, but grades should not be converted on the translated document- unless specified in the requirements. “ (JR Language)

Finally, as mentioned, it is certain that the academic or employment institution a potential student is applying to will require a certain level of certification. Often, that includes that the transcript translations are certified or prepared by a certified translator. All in all, a lot of work for both the translators and their clients.