National Insurance Issues

Heaven knows that translating Bureaucratese is among the most onerous and thankless tasks. So I promise to be very gentle with the translation of our (Israel's) National Insurance Institute website into English. After all, I'm sure one of my colleagues did the translation, and I'm not sure I would have liked to be in his or her shoes. A sneak peek, however, already revealed some unexpected choices. (E.g. "Eligibility for most National Insurance benefits is conditional on payment of National Insurance contributions.")

Says my friend M.L.: "Believe it or not, the UK pension booklet does talk about contributions, meaning the payments you’ve made in order to ‘contribute’ to your pension."

I am also pretty sure that whoever translated the website is not the same person who translated the awful e-mail message telling The World about the new website. Sorry I can't find said e-mail – which is a sure sign that I put it away "in a safe place".

One of the most difficult bureaucratic terms to translate is the ubiquitous "ishur". Once, when I had to translate "ishur me'harofeh", my Canadian family, some of whom are physicians, said it's simply a doctor's note, or a note from the doctor.

The NII website calls ishurim "authorizations", which is really not appropriate. The ishurim in question do not authorize you to do anything; they just confirm that you are entitled to certain benefits. The e-mail did much worse and called them "approvals". Pardon??? So we're still stuck with finding a good name for them. "Confirmation" is getting close, but still sounds wrong. Letter of Benefits? Statement of Rights? Confirmation of Eligibility? – All these are long, I concede, but at least achieve some clarity of description. Suggestions welcome. Why don't we make a list of some good suggestions and send them to the NII, on behalf of all English speakers who care… Better still, why don't we send those suggestions to as many institutions as issue the darn things, and get them all to use them…

Did I hear someone snickering "Dona Quixote"?...


Perry said...

Wouldn't "doctor's certificate" be suitable?

Marion Claire said...

As an American, the translations for 'ishur' are really mind-stumping. When referring to eligibility, I suppose an "ishur' of eligibility would be a verification, which may or may not be an actual certificate or piece of paper of any kind. It might just be a notation in a computer. Then again, they usually do send a letter stating that you are or are not eligible. So the 'verification' of eligibility might be a 'letter' of eligibility... or to get really complicated, a 'letter of verification' of eligibility, which makes 'ishur' look much simpler, even if the exact meaning is ambiguous.

Out here in Lalaland, we refer to "contributions" to insurance, pension funds, etc., which I guess is a derivation from the British.

Nina Rimon Davis said...

Googling "doctor's certificate" indicates that it's quite a good option! I have no idea how common it is in real life as opposed to the cyberspace reflection of real life.
That solves one problem, so now we can concentrate on finding solutions for other types of "ishurim". Nowhere does it say we must use the same word for all uses.

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