Translation of diplomas and certificates is a challenge and can vary from the general translation of documents. Accuracy here is very important, and the general rule of translating for meaning cannot be applied to academic transcripts and documents of this kind.  

Even though the volume of such a translation is usually not big, the translation takes a lot of time, since the translator needs to properly research each title or degree awarded, the names of the courses, and the equivalent of the grades. The job is far from easy and requires a lot of concentration and knowledge of the educational systems of both the source and the target languages.  

Below we will have a look at the points a translator needs to consider when translating diplomas and certificates and which rules to follow in addition to the best practices in the industry 

Rules for Translating Diplomas and Certificates

There are several rules that are very important about the translation of diplomas, certificates and academic transcript in general.  

  • Equivalence of qualification and grades  

All countries have a specific authority or institution that deals with providing equivalence of qualifications and grades, comparing and certifying the translation of such documents. There are also many official documents published that present the educational system of different countries and how it compares to that of the country issuing the document. Such materials are invaluable when it comes to translating academic documents. In addition to that, each translating agency maintains its own term database and has terminology management that facilitates the translation and localization of any text.  

The job of the translator is to translate the given diploma, while afterwards the client may request the given institution (in the UK, for example, this is UK NARIC) to compare and confirm the equivalence and the value of a graduate’s qualifications, tertiary education qualifications, vocational qualification etc.  

  • Translation is not explanation 

Translation is not explanation. It is an accurate rendering of the text from one language to another. While it is possible to include an equivalent of a title or a degree in parenthesis, while keeping the original term in the translation, it is not expected to explain in detail what the title or the course means or includes.  

  • Reference materials are useful 

If the client has any reference materials, it will be useful to provide them to the translator as this will facilitate the work, make the process shorter and more accurate. Of particular help is providing the meaning of abbreviations, especially when it comes to course names or specific titles.  

  • Clean, readable copies are preferred 

The translator can translate only what is there. In other words, if the copy is illegible, there is no way to guess what a name or grade should be. In such cases the accuracy of the translation won’t meet the standards. It is required from the customer to request a clean or clearer copy. Copies with white-out and/or ink marks are usually not accepted for translation as they are considered suspicious. 

Taking into account the rules above, let’s have a look at some of the peculiarities of translating diplomas and certificates. 

Translation of Secondary School Certificates

Students leave secondary school with different levels of qualification in the different countries. It is not possible to say that “Abitur” in German is exactly the same as “Baccalauréat” in France or “A Level” in the UK. 

In this case, it is better to translate the qualifications acquired in a descriptive way as Higher Education Entrance Qualifications, for example. This is the common thing between all the certificates issued by different countries and secondary schools – that they allow the person to continue with their tertiary education.  

Translation of College and University Diplomas 

Colleges and universities around the world offer a great variety of courses with different duration – some are three or four years, others are longer. Hence, comes the difficulty in translating university degrees. One of the ways is to keep the original degree and show in parenthesis the equivalent in English in order to avoid misunderstanding. For example, a Doctorandus or drs. in Dutch is more or less an equivalent of a Master’s degree or M.Sc. It is a good idea to keep the original title and give the equivalent because Doctorandus sounds too close to the English “doctor” and may cause confusion. 

In some cases, the university publishes on its website the equivalents of their degrees in English or other languages, so this could be your initial reference. The client may also be able to provide additional information or references, so do not be afraid to ask for such.  

The job of the translator is simply to translate the qualification and not judge its quality. Since the education system changes rapidly, some courses, qualifications or degrees from ten years ago may not be the same as those offered today by the same educational institution.  

Translation of Grades 

Each educational system has a specific way of grading. Some countries use letters, others use figures. In both cases the number of symbols used varies. To make things even more complicated, in some countries six is the highest mark, while in others it is the lowest. Therefore, when translating grades, it is better to keep them in their original format to avoid any confusion if you try to find the equivalent.  

All of the above are just basic guidelines that can facilitate a translator in translating diplomas, certificates or academic transcripts. The challenge is with the first few documents of each kind. Once the translator becomes familiar with the qualifications, course names and types of grading, the translations can become more routine. If you are in doubt about a certain term, jargon or stylistic peculiarity, you can always address peers on social media and ask for help or opinion.  

Share This