False Translations on the Rise: Lawyer Beware

by Professor Sheila Danzig, EdD and Professor John Kersey, EdD, PhD

Translation firms are specialists in translation, not educational evaluation of foreign credentials.

Some translation firms have started to advertise educational evaluation services. The public should be careful about engaging such firms. Sheila Danzig, EdD., said, "We have been seeing more dubious translations recently. While an expert in these matters can easily spot them, an employer or other receiving party might be misled. The complex nature of international credentials, and the use of similar terms to mean quite different things, gives rise to the possibility that this confusion might be exploited to inflate the worth of a credential. While there are often specialist strategies that can be legitimately employed by experts to ensure that clients receive fair treatment for their achievements, these operate within an ethical standard that presumes expertise in the field in the first place, and are always supported by appropriate research and third-party resources."

Educational evaluation is a highly specialized process that requires skill, judgment and integrity. It is customarily performed by individuals who are qualified to graduate level in international education, or who have significant experience in dealing with international credentials through service in university admissions and similar environments. In a large firm, the work of junior evaluators is supervised by senior staff to ensure accuracy and appropriate outcomes.

Although it is possible to purchase access to databases with educational equivalencies for foreign credentials, the content and judgments contained in those databases is neither uncontroversial nor applicable in all situations. In particular, the database tends to represent the most conservative evaluation possible for a given credential. Where a firm represents that it is undertaking "evaluation" but in practice is simply reading off a result from a database, it is misleading the public because the expertise in question rests with the authors of the database - not with the firm. In practice, evaluation often requires detailed analysis, research and expertise, which must be specific to each client and situation - the opposite of a "cookie-cutter" approach.

Some translators interject an evaluation in translating a foreign educational document. An experienced evaluation service will reject such evaluations - and they are worthless as educational documents. Dr. John Kersey agrees. He said, "In international education, the same term may mean entirely different things. Most bachelor's degrees in Pakistan, for example, are only two years long and are comparable to a United States associate's degree, not a bachelor's degree which requires three to four years of study. The European Master degree typically represents four years of postsecondary education, and is thus comparable to a United States bachelor's degree, rather than a master's degree, which requires five to six years of postsecondary study." The best practice during translation is to render any educational term in a strictly literal fashion, and not to express any actual or implied judgment on equivalency.

Be wary of any firm that will not, upon request, discuss the credentials, expertise and experience of those undertaking evaluation, or one that requires payment of a substantial upfront fee before being willing to discuss your case. Look for evaluators who hold, at a minimum, a degree in education including significant study in international education systems, or who have significant expertise in university admissions. Ask about the evaluation policies of the firm to establish that you will receive a service tailored to your needs and situation. Avoid any evaluator that simply rubber-stamps the equivalency that the client asks for - this is an "evaluation mill".

Although many firms advertise membership in trade associations and other professional bodies, such membership is not a requirement for evaluators and may not be meaningful in assessing the quality of their product. Look for firms that consider each client's case individually, that are prepared to offer after-sales support, and that are experienced in preparing evaluations for the purpose you seek.

About The Authors

Sheila Danzig is the director of Career Consulting International at the www.TheDegreePeople.com, a foreign credential evaluation agency. She offers free review of I140 education based Denials, RFE's and NOIDs at www.cciFree.com. For more information or to sign the petition to support this proposal, go to http://www.thedegreepeople.com/eb-petition.html.

John Kersey became President of EAU in 2007, having been involved with the EAU project from its inception in 2003. His prior experience in education includes managerial, administrative and teaching posts within state and private institutions in the United Kingdom and continental Europe. An experienced consultant on international education matters, he has worked extensively as a senior evaluator of foreign credentials for clients in the United States. At EAU, he has been responsible for the dynamic expansion of its campus and online programs to realise the vision of a ground-breaking global federal university connected by online technology. That vision is uniquely based on transformative, individualised pedagogies with the student at their heart, rather than prevailing models of mass education provision along corporate lines. The specialised nature of this outreach has meant that EAU has succeeded in reaching a highly select body of current and future leaders within and beyond Africa and Asia, and stands as an increasingly respected alternative to mainstream provision. Professor Kersey is an interdisciplinary historian whose work spans historical aspects of music, education and theology. Educated at the Royal College of Music (where he is a former Junior Fellow and earned bachelor’s (with first class honours) and master’s degrees) and the University of Cambridge in the UK, as well as at institutions in continental Europe, Africa and Central America, he holds doctorates in education (specializing in higher education) (Universidad Internacional, Panama) and divinity (St Ephrem’s Institute of Eastern Church Studies, Scandinavia/USA), as well as an MBA and PhD (in history) from the Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.