To Translate or Not to Translate: What is the Question?

Larry M. Lynch

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For me - there’s no question.

Sooner or later as teachers of English as a Foreign Language, the question arises; “Do I need to translate my resume into Spanish?" After more than 20 years in the business the question still comes up occasionally even for me. Invariably you’ll need to send a resume or CV and a cover letter to a potential employer, administrator or agency. So what do you do when an ad or job notice states “send resume and cover letter with copies of certificates to: …?" My procedure is simple. I don’t translate. Here’s why:

As a native-speaking English teacher you’re expected to have the highest English language level possible. By sending your documents in English, right away you establish your “credentials" when ALL your correspondence is in excellent English. Which would you rather present – documents in flawless English or questionable Spanish? Yeah, I thought so. Me too.

More than a few educational institutions frown on the use of the student’s first language (in this case Spanish) in the classroom or even on the institution’s premises. So showing that you know (or are not so good at) Spanish, the students’ first language may NOT be a plus.

At the vast majority of institutions the contact person you are responding to is bilingual with English as one of their languages – which is often why they’re the contact person. Besides, besides if it ever becomes necessary to translate your documents you are expected to have it done, not necessarily to do it yourself. You will likely be told by whom, when and where you can have it done. In any case you’ll be advised specifically that “X" document must be translated. In more than 20 years, other than “official government procedures, visas, work permits, etc. I’ve never had to do it.

“But what about upper-level management and personnel administration, don’t they need translated documents?" Well, often no, but if it ever does come up you’ll certainly be provided with some assistance with completing the process.

During those times when I, as an English Department Director, Coordinator or other administrator, needed to interview and hire English language teaching professionals, virtually all those CVs and resumes which landed on my desk in English went immediately to the top of the pile. Although it was expected that English teacher applicants would send in their packages in English, it was the exception to receive resumes in English rather than the rule. Make yourself stand out. Provide your cover letter and resume or CV in English.

Finally, you should absolutely do your best work in preparing your cover letter and resume or CV (called “hoja de vida" in Spanish). By all means, put your best foot forward and send initial paperwork in English. Don’t worry, it WILL get read and quickly acted upon. So, start polishing up your presentation materials in your native tongue ASAP.

Other English language learning and teaching articles available in this series include:

“Learning a Language: 6 Effective Ways to Use the Internet"

"Six Quick Tricks for Learning a Language"

"What’s the Strangest Thing you’ve Ever Eaten?"

"What Makes a Person Intelligent?"

Teach English in Colombia: Grappling with Grammar, Gold, Guns, and Guayaba

Try This for Perfecting Past Tense Pronunciation Practice

7 Steps to Better Business English: Choosing a Business English Training Program

English Only in the EFL Classroom: Worth the Hassle?

Grammar Teaching: Implicit or Explicit?

Prof. Larry M. Lynch has taught EFL, published ELT articles as an expert author, presented at numerous TESOL conferences and trained teachers in the USA, Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador, Panama and Spain. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape from America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. At present he teaches at the Universidad Santiago de Cali in Cali, Colombia. To get original, exclusive articles and content for your newsletter, blog or website or information on TEFL presentations, specialized teacher training programs or conference speaking engagements contact him at:


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