Translations for U.S. Immigration Done Right

Whether you are an individual applying for a family-based visa or an employee bringing over foreign-born workers, you will need some official documents translated into English for the immigration petition.  The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) requires that you provide a “certified translation” of important Spanish documents.  This Transpanish post talks more about what exactly a certified translation is.

The paperwork you need to fill out when petitioning for a visa for a loved one or worker can be overwhelming and seemingly endless.  But having a translation agency translate your documents from Spanish to English can take some of the pressure off.

Here is a list of some documents USCIS may ask for that you will need to have translated:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce decree
  • Police records
  • Diplomas
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Change of name documents

You will need to include a copy of the Spanish language original, the English translation, and a separate page certifying that the translation was done by someone proficient in both Spanish and English.  While you may speak some Spanish, if it’s not your native language, having a professional translation agency take care of translating these critical documents will ease your mind.  A good translation agency will be able to provide an English translation of your Spanish documents that uses accurate terminology.  And spending a little extra money for your translations will save you the stress of fiddling with document formatting.

Putting together a packet for an immigrant petition is a headache in and of itself.  By contracting out your Spanish to English translations, you can concentrate on making sure that the rest of your paperwork is perfect and accurate. Professional translators will ensure that your Spanish to English immigration translations are accurate.  They take pride in knowing that their translations will be a perfect addition to your immigration petition. Let your translation agency help you make sure that your loved one or potential employee has the best chance possible for being granted a visa.

Nearing Election Day, Latino Vote Becomes Critical

In the spring and summer of 2007, organizations working with immigrants made a huge campaign to encourage people to apply for citizenship for two reason: to beat the monumental fee increase in the end of July 2007 and to get America’s newest citizens ready in time for November 4th.  More than a million applied for naturalization in 2007 and another 480,000 in 2008 (Source: Cox News Service), making this the most multicultural election in history.

And despite the English Only proponents, states are beefing up the ranks of poll workers with language skills because of the Voting Rights Act.  This act requires that certain states and jurisdictions translate ballot materials into other languages and provide interpretation services in some cases.

Latinos typically lean toward blue, and judging from a survey by El Tiempo Latino, this year will be no different.  The survey found that of the 502 interviewed, 85.2% said they’d vote for Obama and the remaining 14.8% for McCain (Source in Spanish: El Tiempo Latino).  The National Post also found that Latinos are overwhelmingly in support of Obama, but with a ratio of 2 to 1. This article also states that Latinos have an affinity for Obama because his top three issues are those most important to Hispanics: the economy, the war in Iraq, and immigration reform.

But many asked after the debates: where is the dialogue on immigration?  Why aren’t they talking about it since it’s such a hot issue for those across the spectrum, especially when the Latino vote is so critical?

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, the candidates indeed are talking about immigration.  Just not in English.  Both candidates have been airing Spanish-language ads speaking to the immigration issue so as to gain the crucial Latino vote without alienating the general public (i.e. non-Spanish speakers) about this highly contested topic.  While the article has a decidedly McCain slant to it, the overall question of why both candidates remain tight-lipped about immigration in English but are spending campaign ad dollars to sway the Latino vote is an interesting one.

Latinos and Real Estate

As people in the United States of all socio-economic classes worry about financial problems, Latinos are disproportionately getting hit with foreclosures on their properties.  Why are Latinos losing their homes to foreclosure at a faster rate than other demographics?  The upsurge in subprime mortgages (mortgages with high interest rates and tenuous ethics meant specifically for those with bad credit history) is the main reason that Latinos are increasingly facing the threat of foreclosure. Whereas once Latinos with bad credit would have the option to either come up with cash or not purchase a property, subprime lenders began to target minorities with bad credit, knowing full-well that their customers would barely be able to make the payments.  Consumers, never thinking that they would be able to own a home, were lulled by the promises of these lenders.  A report by United for a Fair Economy called State of the Dream 2008: Foreclosed offers reasons for the damage, and suggestions for moving forward.    Why are Latinos so affected by the fallout from this lending nightmare?  Some of the reasons are: 

  • Lack of understanding about the process to become a homeowner (nearly 4 in 5 are first-time homebuyers and don’t have the collective wisdom of family and friends to guide them).
  • The tendency to go with people they know for assistance and if a predatory lender is the only one in the neighborhood, that’s the only recommendation they can get.
  • The only choice often is to go with a subprime mortgage or not to buy at all.
  • The lack of alternative measures of financial responsibility, such as wiring money to home countries monthly or lengthy histories of rental payments.
  • Not having financial information explained in Spanish and not having real estate documents translated into Spanish.

By providing real estate consultations and financial advice in Spanish, real estate agencies and lenders can work to help Latinos avoid foreclosure in the future.   

Transpanish offers 10% discount in Real Estate Translations.

British English vs. American English

British and American English are the two major forms of English in the world, and the Canadian and Australian dialects follow behind in number of native speakers.  While native English speakers generally have no problem understanding the English of those from other English-speaking countries, there are some difference between the written and oral forms of American and British English, the most easily recognizable being the following: vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation.  There are also some grammatical differences which might not be as readily apparent if one is not paying close attention.

Below is a brief description of the major ways in which British and American English differ:


There are entire dictionaries devoted to the differences in vocabulary between British and American English, and many dictionaries list whether a term is used in Britain or America.  A few examples are:

American English   |   British English

Apartment                        flat

Elevator                            lift

Trunk                               boot

Vacation                           holiday

Click here for a fun tool to show you some of the vocabulary differences.


The spelling differences fall into a couple of major categories: miscellaneous spelling differences for some words, differences in spellings of words derived from Latin and Greek, and words with difference spellings and different connotations.

The spelling differences that many are most familiar with are those that come from the differences in words derived from Latin or Greek, such as color in American English and colour in British and realize in American and realise in British.

For a comprehensive breakdown of the various spelling differences, peruse Wikipedia’s entry.


The most notable difference between British and American English is that of pronunciation. These fall into two major categories: accent and pronunciation of individual words.  The pronunciation differences can further be broken down into regional differences in America and differences among the countries of Great Britain.

For a list of links to follow to check out the differences between British and American pronunciation, click here.

Implications for Translators

If you translate into Spanish from English, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to work from a document in either American or British English regardless of your country of origin.  However, some clients request that a document be translated from Spanish into either British or American English.  Because of the very subtle grammatical differences, it wouldn’t be wise to translate into an English dialect that you are not intimately familiar with.

If you are a client who needs to have your document translated into a specific dialect of English, make sure that your translator is a native of the country which you will target with your translation.  If this isn’t possible, then make sure that the translator you entrust with your document is either currently living in the country (i.e. an American translator residing in England) or has lived in the country for a substantial amount of time (i.e. a Brit who went to college and worked in the U.S. for several years).

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

We are right in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th to October 15th.  These 31 days are meant to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the U.S.’s largest linguistic and ethnic minority.  The month-long homage to the contributions that Hispanics (those who trace their roots to Spanish-speaking countries) appropriately begins on September 15th, which is Independence Day for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.  Mexico’s Independence Day is September 16th and Chile’s September 18th.

President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed the week that includes September 15th and 16th to be National Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and in 1988, the observance was expanded to an entire month.  Each year there is a theme, and the theme of 2008 is Getting Involved: Our Families, Our Communities, Our Nation, which was chosen from the top five suggested themes.

Local and federal governments, private industry, community organizations, and media all contribute to the offerings throughout this month and the Internet is a great resource to learn about the impact Hispanics have made on this country as well as events that are happening across the country.

The U.S. Census Bureau provides a great set of statistics on Hispanics in the U.S. in honor of this month in such categories as Population, Businesses, Families, and Jobs.  To read the stats and find links to the original sources of information, click here.

The Smithsonian Institute’s list of teaching resources gives a broad set of tools to begin exploring the range of ways that Latinos have contributed to our country.

AOL’s Latino Tu Vida channel is a portal to popular Latino culture with quizzes, info about Latino celebrities, and recipes.  To sample these eclectic, entertaining offerings, start here.

These three links are just the beginning to exploring the rich and diverse culture that Hispanics bring to America.  With two weeks left to the month-long celebration, try to attend one of the many celebrations and educational events happening across the country.

More resources:

Hispanic Community in US

Spanish Language

Serving the Latino Community: Health Care Translations

Many people experience anxiety when dealing with health care and medical situations, and this is especially true when English isn’t the first language of patients and their families.  Treatment plans and other health-related documents can be filled with medical jargon that seems foreign even to native English speakers.

As the population of Spanish-speakers continues to grow in the United States, so has the need to provide Hispanics with accurate information that can be readily comprehended.  This often means providing Spanish-speakers with health care information that has been translated into Spanish.

Below is a list of some of the documents that health care providers should provide to patients and their families in Spanish:

Instructions for taking prescription medicines

  • Materials with information about health and wellness issues
  • Simple explanations of diseases and sicknesses and how to avoid them
  • Medical releases and consent forms
  • Hospital and insurance reports
  • Brochures about services provided
  • Information about patients’ rights and responsibilities

Not only will providing Spanish translations of documents that directly affect the health of patients allow you to provide better and more comprehensive care to a growing demographic, but it will also protect you from any ramifications arising from misunderstandings due to language barriers.  By using a reputable translation agency that is able to translate your materials into the language your patients understand best, you will be giving peace of mind to both those you serve and your health care facility. 

Your chosen translation agency should be able to render a Spanish translation that is accessible to the target population.  Two of the most important things the agency should do for you is make the translation understandable to people with a low literacy level and use language that a layperson can understand. 

A Client’s Guide to Making Translations Go Smoothly

When choosing a translator or translation agency to work with, you’re essentially starting a relationship with a business partner.  If your company launches itself into the international market or has constituents who don’t speak English, the quality of translations your business disseminates could make or break your business.  Below are some tips to get you started thinking about how to make your relationship with your translator more fluid and productive.

Determine Why You Need a Translation

Do you need a translation for information purposes or for publication purposes?  Have a conversation with your translator about why you need the translation: is it to sell your product abroad to millions or to inform 5 staff people in a foreign office of a policy change?  Of course, a great translator will make sure that any translation is suitable for its audience, but for-publication translations demand only the highest level of polish and accuracy while for-information translations transmit information.

Pay Attention to the Details in the Source Document

Make sure that your source document is clearly written and finalized before passing it along to your translator.  This will save both you and the translator time as she/he won’t need to contact you repeatedly for clarification of the message or wording of what you provided.  Also, be careful to send only source documents that are ready to be disseminated or published as sending draft copies will hold up translation of the document.  If there are significant changes to the source document that the translator already worked on, you might be asked to pay extra fees for the extra work. 

Keep in mind the cultural references and linguistic choices that you make in the source document, as they might not translate well into the target language.  Also, be aware of the target audience for your translation and make sure that your translator knows what you expect.  This will head off any misunderstanding that might occur if the translator wasn’t sure whether the document was meant for all of Latin America or only one country. 

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Most misunderstandings between client and translator can be avoided if the client is forthcoming about the project and the translator asks questions when necessary.  It’s important to remember that some translations are more time intensive than others and that you need to communicate the details of a project ahead of time so that the translator can return quality work to you by the established deadline. 

For more tips, please read A Primer for Translation Buyers: Part One and A Primer for Translation Buyers: Part Two

A Primer for Translation Buyers: Part Two

Last week, Transpanish offered tips to understand the difference between interpretation and translation and a guide to pricing.  This week, we will focus on how to choose the best translator for your needs.

Here are some key questions to ask as you start the process of choosing a translation agency or freelance translator:

1.    Does the translator only translate into her native language?

As a general rule, translators should only translate from their non-native language and into their native language.  This is mainly because, no matter how proficient someone is in speaking and writing in a second language, there will always be nuances and phrasing that only native speakers can get right.  Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, as there are translators out there who have spent so much time writing and reading in their non-native language that they are just a step away from being a native speaker.

2.    Do I just need translation services or are there other add-ons that I will need?

If you need services such as desktop publishing, graphic design, or project management, you may want to go with a larger translation agency which can provide the highest quality for these value-added services.  If you prefer to stick with a freelance translator, make sure that the translator has extensive experience in these additional services.

3.    Does the agency or translator have glowing recommendations?

Ask for references from the agency or translator and check into them.  Ask what their experience was like, the quality of the work, and if they’d recommend the service to others.

4.    Do you want someone local for face-to-face meetings?

If you think it’s important to have face-to-face time with your agency or freelancer, your choices will be much more limited.  But if you’re willing to work with someone available via email, chat, and phone, you can choose the best freelancer or agency independent of their location.

5.    Are you willing to pay for quality?

There is a big difference between economical translation services and those that are downright cheap.  Be wary of bargain basement translations, as this might be a sign that the freelancer or agency doesn’t provide the highest quality translations.  On the other hand, just because a translator has low prices doesn’t mean that they will give you a shoddy translation.  It may just mean that they are starting out and don’t have the years of experience that allow them to command higher prices.

Just as with any other service, you will need to shop around, ask questions, and go with your gut.  If you choose wrong the first time and end up unhappy with the service, there are thousands of high-quality, well-priced agencies and freelancers that would be thrilled to have your business.

A Primer for Translation Buyers: Part One

As a potential translation buyer, you have probably already decided that you need some of your materials translated into one or more foreign languages.  Your company may also do business internationally so you need correspondence or business plans translated for your partners and clients abroad.  This two-part article will guide you through the nuts and bolts of working with translators so that you end up with the best finished product possible.

Interpretation vs. Translation

Most laypeople use the words interpretation and translation interchangeably when in fact they are very different and practitioners of each use different skill-sets.  Of course, both interpretation and translation deal with language, but the medium of the former is the spoken word and the latter the written word.

Translators work from a written document in the source language to render a document in the target languageInterpreters provide real-time translation of the spoken word, either over the phone, in large meetings or conferences, or in small-group settings.

Your company may need both translation and interpretation services, but don’t assume that your translator will be able to provide both for you.  This is because of the different skill-sets each service requires.  Great translators are exceptionally adept with the written word and interpreters with the spoken word.  While some translators also work as interpreters, this isn’t always the case.  Furthermore, you may be working remotely with a translator and in many instances, you’ll need an interpreter to work with you onsite.

For an excellent description of the differences between translation and interpretation, follow this link to a post on the Brave New World blog.

Understanding Pricing

Your translation agency or independent translator should always provide you with a price quote before beginning the project.

There are a few factors that will determine how much your translation will cost.  First, the length of the document and number of words is taken into account.  Translators can quote a price based on number of words/length of documents in three ways:

  • Number of words in source document
  • Number of words in final translated document (especially if the words in the source document cannot be counted, as in hard copy or scanned documents)
  • Number of pages in the source document

Other pricing considerations include:

  • The complexity or technical nature of the document (i.e. expect to pay more for a legal contract than a brochure describing services).
  • Value-added services such as Desktop Publishing.
  • Turn-around time (you will be charged a flat fee or a percentage of the base quote if you request a rush translation).

Transpanish’s next blog post will offer you tips on choosing the best translator.

Spanglish in the United States

There’s language as it appears in grammar books and there’s language as it’s truly spoken every day. The way that bilingual Spanish and English speakers in the United States combine the two languages is a perfect example of this phenomenon. In every day vernacular, people use the term Spanglish to describe the mixing of the two languages. But from a linguistic perspective, the term Spanglish lumps together several different ways of using the two languages under this umbrella.

Below are brief descriptions of a few terms linguists use to describe the linguistic phenomena many understand to be hallmarks of Spanglish:

1. Code-switching: when bilinguals use elements of both languages in conversation, either between sentences or within a single sentence.
2. Loanword: a word directly taken from another language with little or no translation.
3. Language contact: borrowing vocabulary and other language features from another language.

While Spanglish is not yet considered a separate language as Haitian Creole or Cape Verdean Creole is, scholars are beginning to take its use more seriously as the number of bilingual Latinos in the U.S. grows. Many continue to distrust Spanglish because of its status of not quite English and not quite Spanish.

But Ilan Stevens, author of Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language, speaks to the value of Spanglish:

“Latinos are learning English,” he says. “That doesn’t mean that they should sacrifice their original language or that they should give up this in-betweeness that is Spanglish. Spanglish is a creative way also of saying, ‘I am an American and I have my own style, my own taste, my own tongue.'”
(from: Spanglish, A New American Language : NPR)

For more online resources about Spanglish:

Don Quixote de La Mancha: Spanglish version
NPR interview with Ilan Stevens

Examples of Spanglish

Spanglish Spanish English
breaka frenos brakes
carpeta alfombra carpet
chequear verificar to check
glasso vaso glass
ganga pandilla gang
likear gotear to leak
mailear enviar coreo to mail
marketa mercado market
norsa enfermera nurse
puchar empujar to push
ruffo techo roof
signear firmar to sign