Your Questions

Before deciding to hire me, you’ll probably have a few questions. You’ll find my answers to some frequent questions on this page. But if there’s anything else you’d like to know, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me.

What’s the correct term for “deciphering old script”?

The actual term would be “transliteration”. But most people have never heard that word before, and that’s why I don’t use it much.

Why are you offering summaries in English, but no word-for-word translations?

My native language is German, and professional translators usually translate into their native languages. This is because, no matter how hard you’ve studied a foreign language, you won’t be perfect at it. Therefore, I would rather give you a summary of your documents’ contents. Only for simpler documents, such as birth certificates, I do word-for-word translations.

Do you make any changes to words and sentences while transliterating old script?

As a basic rule, I don’t change anything, but only transliterate word by word, and letter by letter. Even if there are spelling and grammar mistakes in the original text, I will transliterate them exactly as they are and not “correct” anything, because that might have a distorting effect.

In some cases, spelling mistakes might even play an important role – e.g. if the spelling of surnames changed over time because someone spelled it wrong on an official document. In other cases, the original writing style just gives you a better picture of the writer. When I look at the mistakes my great-great-grandfather made when he wrote a letter, it helps me see him as a real person.

Can you really read everything? What happens when there’s something you can’t read? 

Despite a lot of practice, there are some handwritings even I can’t read. I’m glad this only happens rarely. A more common problem is when there are a few words or abbreviations in an otherwise legible text that I can’t decipher. In that case I will mark these words in my transliteration.

How do you calculate the price for a transliteration?

The price is simply based on the number of handwritten words (or, for longer documents, pages) in the original document. My basic price is 0,12 € per word for only transliteration, and 0,16 € per word for transliteration plus English translation, but I reserve the right to set a higher price for especially complicated, difficult-to-read documents. On the other hand, I’ll happily give discount for simple or long texts. Especially for longer documents, like diaries or collections of letters, I prefer setting an individual price per page – usually between 7 € and 12 €. For further clarification, just send me a message with a sample page and I’ll name a binding price for your documents.