I'm planning to study at the US and I found a sentence which I can't not sure about.

Educational credentials in a language other than English must be accompanied by an official word-for-word translation on business letterhead

Does it mean that I should get an official translation on my transcript? What does it refer by on business letterhead?

Please Help!


1 Answer 1


Yes, they want an English translation of your transcript/certificate/degree. "On business letterhead" means they don't want the translation written on a plain piece of paper, but expect the paper to be pre-printed with the (in this case) school's name and address (in other words, what a genuine letter from the school would look like). The "official" part means they also expect this translation to be provided by the school (or at least certified to be correct by the school).

  • But word-for-word translation seems strange. Anybody who's done any translating knows that word-for-word translations are very often wrong. Words aren't used in the same way between languages. People who want to understand what's been said would not want a word-for-word translation. Instead, they'd want an appropriately semantic translation. Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 16:12
  • @JasonBassford You expect people in admissions offices or HR departments to know something about translating from foreign languages? Probably what was intended was "accurate, complete, and official translation," but employment in a bureaucracy generally requires a certificate of linguistic incompetence. Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 17:12
  • @JeffMorrow Ha! That reminds me of an episode of MASH where ice cream was procured by filling out a certain form, crossing out machine gun turret (if I recall correctly), and writing in ice cream. Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 17:26
  • Generally, when most people use "word-for-word" they don't literally mean "do a simple Google translate substitution". They mean "don't attempt to change cultural references or interpret idioms". So in this case, if your school calls a course, say, "Rock Chemistry", don't translate it to the more US typical "Inorganic Chemistry". Or say your "O for Outstanding" is equivalent to the US "A".
    – pboss3010
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 17:29
  • @pboss3010 Just my point. Bureaucrats cannot be bothered to find precise language. "Sort of close" and " but I knew what I meant" are their idea of writing. Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 17:53

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