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Translation in Mongolia 101 – Mongolian Translation Challenges Addressed

August 14, 2009

When it comes to Mongolian translation, people typically have five main questions.

The  questions are: how do I find a reliable translator; how much should I pay; how do I know my translation is accurate; how can I get an official translation; and do I have to execute my business documents in Mongolian language?

Mongolian translation overview

Translation is much more of an art that an exact science.  Put ten translators in a room and each one will have a different take on how something should be worded.  All translations are definitely not created equal; they drastically differ in quality depending on the translator’s skills, experience and knowledge of the particular topic of translation.   What should you or your business be on the lookout for when looking for a translator?  Listed below are the top five things people typically want to know about Mongolian translation.

1.  How do I find a reliable Mongolian translator?

This is perhaps the biggest issue many people face when needing to have something translated, especially if it is an important document like a contract or agreement.  There is, unfortunately, no sure-fire way of knowing if a translator is going to suit your needs.  It takes time to find a good, reliable translator who you can count on to do a good job every time.  Word-of-mouth referrals and suggestions from others are obviously good start in finding a translator.  Once several prospective translators have been found it would be a wise to ask for a list of past clients and samples of translations.  It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a couple of translators translate the same document and compare the translations.  This is a search into which it is worth putting some time and effort.

Of course translators can be found through your favorite search engine, but for local Mongolian translators this probably will not lead to very many solid results.  Translation companies can also be found scattered throughout the city, with several located on Peace Avenue, near the State Department Store.

2.  How much should I pay?

This question is probably not far behind question one.  Rates vary depending on how quickly one needs the translation, the subject matter, and whether it is general translation or technical translation and quality, in addition to other factors.

It is difficult to give a definitive answer for this question.  As in all things in life, you get what you pay for.  General translation will probably range from USD15-30 per page.  Technical and subject-specific translations will be more expensive, probably in the $25-$40 range, as will expedited translations.   For oral translation expect to pay more than $50 per hour.  In the end, it is certainly worth paying a bit more for a translation well-done.

3.  How do I know if my translation is accurate?

As I mentioned at the beginning, if you ask ten Mongolians about a translation you will probably get as many different answers.  Again, some trial and error will go into finding a translator you find “accurate.”  A good way to gauge accuracy is to have a Mongolian you trust, fluent in the language of the translation, review it.  It is obviously best to have the same person review all of the potential translations for consistency.  If you have several different people review the translations you will have as many opinions, thus making your task of finding an accurate translator that much more difficult.

If a particular subject matter is involved, I recommend finding a bureau that works closely with someone well-versed in that area.  For example, if you need legal translation perhaps go to a law firm for recommendations or to a translation company that works closely with a law firm.  For legal translations it is important to have an attorney review the translation and a translation company that has close ties with a law firm is more likely to be able to provide that level of service.

4.  How can I get an “official” translation?

There really is no such thing as an “official” translation.  If a translation company tells you they provide official translation they are trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

Translations are official in the sense that a company will most likely have a “translation bureau” stamp with which they will stamp the translation, but this is by no means official in any other way.  This stamp simply means the company has had the stamp made.  Some stamp makers will make any stamp anyone requests without proof of actual translation proficiency, so again, it is important to research your translator.

People often ask for official translations of Mongolian laws but these do not really exist.  Occasionally the Government of Mongolia will issue a translated law and this would really constitute the most official translation.  In the case of laws, it can take years of parsing words to come up with a proper final English translation, for example, usually the result of countless hours of English-speaking attorneys and Mongolian attorneys battling over the true meaning of the law.

5. Do I have to execute my business documents in the Mongolian language?

According to the Mongolian Civil Code parties may conclude any contract as long as it is within the legal framework of Mongolia and are free to define the contents of those contracts or agreements.  Individuals or businesses are therefore free to conclude contracts in any language they like.

If Government agencies become involved in any way this changes.  If, for example, you are forming a new company or buying an existing company, all the documents can be executed in English, but for purposes of registration these documents must be translated into Mongolian.  The agencies will want to see the translation as well as the original document from which it has been translated.  In this case all translations must also be notarized in Mongolia before being submitted to the relevant agency.

While there is freedom of contract in Mongolia and companies may execute contracts in English, Russian or Swahili, but if any type of registration is needed for any reason with Government agency a notarized Mongolian translation will be necessary.

Still Have Questions?

I have tried to answer a few of the more common questions regarding translation in Mongolia.  Obviously there is much that has been left unsaid.  If you would like information on questions not in this blog or would like clarification on answers here please feel free to leave a comment.  If I get enough questions I’ll simply write a part II to the blog.

For those who may be interested in translation services, please feel free to take a look at our Mongolian translation services page.

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