employer asked “do you have a translation of the Latin?” about my diploma

A reader writes:

I’m back from meeting HR for my very first job, and something so absurd happened I had to share it with you. I’m working for city government so there were 100 pages of paperwork for me to fill out before this meeting, and I had to bring originals of certain documents, i.e. social security card, passport, etc. I had the option to bring either my diploma or transcript as proof of education. I hate my school’s registrar’s office, and my diploma hasn’t left its packing tube left so I opted to bring that along. I know it’s silly, but hey, they wanted original proof!

I handed it over (and the woman was amused by my choice), and then she left to copy it. When she came back, she asked if I had a translation of my diploma. I didn’t know what that meant until she said “it’s all in Latin and so-and-so says we need an official translation.” The other HR worker and I shared a look of what the heck and I told her, alas, I do not have a ready Latin translation of my diploma. I ended up requesting transcripts to square this all away, but I think this is probably one of the weirdest things to ever happen in HR. At one point, they were talking about hiring an official translator! For my diploma! In case I forged it! Poetry in motion.

Oh dear. Oh dear.

Oh shall I say, o cara! (I used Google’s English-to-Latin for that.)

Government. (Imperium.)

{ 229 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Laura

    My college provides a translation on their website, I have heard of people running into this problem – I’m not sure if providing the website is enough.

    Reply
        1. Kevin - aka the latin diploma owner

          Funny enough, I went to my school’s website and pulled up a 2004 commencement booklet which has the Latin translation. The HR woman was still a little worried it wouldn’t count as official enough. I asked her if she thought I was playing such a long con that created a fake graduation booklet 12 years ago when I was 10 years old just for this moment. She laughed pretty hard.

          Reply
          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            They are going to have so much fun working with you. I bet they didn’t even advertise for a sense of humor, either.

            Reply
        2. CM

          I think the literal translation is “mother of my soul.” Of course, then they probably would refuse to accept the diploma because it’s from your mother.

          Reply
          1. Jasper

            Actually, it’s the feeding mother. As in Mary with Jesus suckling at the breast. Before Christianity, it was the term for Mother Nature, essentially. So that’s what your school is: your mother, who fed you and taught you everything you know.

            Reply
          2. Student

            It’s usually translated as “nourishing mother”, where the nourishment refers to the education you received, and “mother” refers to the university, in its role in your upbringing/development.

            Reply
      1. Kelly O

        + infinity

        I had someone tell me recently that she could speak Latin because she was from Latin America. Ummm… yeah thanks for playing. That does not make you tri-lingual.

        Reply
    1. Classicsprof

      I teach Classics (Latin/ancient Greek/ancient history) and my graduate department occasionally got calls from people wanting translations of various things either into or out of Latin. If it wasn’t unreasonably long, someone would generally try to oblige. Goodness knows if this company would consider that official enough, though.

      Reply
      1. Kevin - aka the latin diploma owner

        From the way this mysterious third HR person sounded, no, that wouldn’t have counted. Any translator would have to complete their own 100 pages of paperwork and provide their own translated diploma as evidence, hence causing a vicious and endless cycle.

        Reply
        1. AndersonDarling

          It’s recursive occlusion! If I only had an index file, then I could look up “index file” in the index file!

          Reply
      1. Middle Name Jane

        If the translator’s diploma is also in Latin, the reaction of the HR person should be captured on video and uploaded to YouTube.

        Reply
    2. NYC Redhead

      As my high school Latin teacher would say whenever asked a question he didn’t know the answer to: “Go dig up a dead Roman!”

      Reply
    3. GiantPanda

      I’ve just learned that over here (Germany) you can get official / legally valid (beglaubigte) Latin translations from legally sworn (beeidigte) translators. The website of one translator said they do translations of Vatican documents… wow.

      If I remember correctly at my university you could submit a PhD thesis in either German or Latin. Most people used English instead, but this required permission from the PhD committee (which was always granted). Don’t know if anybody ever chose Latin.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        “The website of one translator said they do translations of Vatican documents… wow. ”

        That makes sense. All Vatican documents are initially issued in Latin and then translated into the world’s languages as needed. Beyond the fact that this is the language they used since they were official (Emp. Constantine), it has the added advantage of being a stable language (because no one speaks it), it also gives no one language or group of speakers primacy – everyone is equally disadvantaged because it is nobody’s first language.

        Reply
        1. SusanIvanova

          Not quite equally disadvantaged – Romance language speakers do have an edge. I know someone who speaks Latin but not Italian, and the Latin worked well enough for tourist-level conversations in Italy.

          Reply
          1. Cath in Canada

            Yes, my friend did a pretty decent job of figuring out Italian from her high school Latin education when we went traveling together during university! I was able to help a bit because of the similarities to French. We had to get people to write stuff down though – the spoken form was too different.

            Another friend went to Greece with her family, and she says her Dad was able to find the airport despite only knowing Ancient Greek by asking for “the place where the large silver birds fly”. No idea if that’s true, but it’s a good story!

            Reply
      2. ScarletInTheLibrary

        Many years ago for an internship, I did a lot of original cataloging of 18th theses and dissertations. Almost all were in Latin, which is to be expected since the university that granted these degrees was once within the Holy Roman Empire, and Latin was the official language (too many nationalities and Latin was less political than say Czech or German). The footnotes were mostly in German and names were obvious German.

        Reply
        1. De (Germany)

          Well, yeah, of course that used to be the case. I’m still stunned that the US kept that when the older European universities (mine was founded in the 18th century) don’t do that anymore.

          Reply
        2. De (Germany)

          Um, for some reason I thought you had replied to another comment.

          No commenting before coffee for me on a Saturday! :-)

          Reply
    4. Mephyle

      I know one – he was a PhD in history, but he is a full-time translator now. Mostly in a pair of living languages, but he also knows enough Latin to offer that as a side specialty.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        I had all these YA books from the 1950s and they always had Latin in their classes in high school. There would be scenes like someone helping someone with their Latin homework, or tossing out phrases, etc. I used to wish I had gone to a school where I learned Latin. Where the hell do you even learn it now? I would so learn it.

        Reply
        1. Rana

          I learned it in high school, for some values of “learned.” We didn’t learn it as a living language, but more of a sort of code that we deciphered to translate ancient passages. It was all sort of interesting, but it did very little for me when I went on to try to learn Russian, Japanese, and Spanish. (You’d think that at least the Spanish would be helped by the Latin, but, nope.)

          Reply
    5. Helena

      As a latinist currently making her living by translating medieval Latin texts – a lucky circumstance that is about to dry up due to poor demand – I see a whole new source of steady income opening up! Now where do I get the certification to make my translations count as official?

      Reply
    6. yasmara

      My 10 year old has decided to take Latin in middle school. Husband objected because it’s not a particularly useful language day-to-day. But clearly, 10 year old is on the right track!

      Reply
  2. Kristine

    Shoutout to others who haven’t taken their degrees out of the packing tubes. Mine is stuffed in the back of the closet somewhere. My mother says I should hang it up because it’s the most expensive thing I’ll ever own.

    My husband, on the other hand, has his degree framed on this giant mat that has etchings of different buildings on his campus as well as a big school seal. The entire thing is about 2 feet tall and 3 feet long.

    Reply
    1. Jinx

      I found mine in our document box when I did our taxes – poor thing is just in a folder because I didn’t even bother to buy the flippy case.

      Reply
    2. the gold digger

      I paid good money to frame my very large sheepskin in a frame that has some special sealing capabilities to protect the sheepskin. I used to have it on my office wall at work, but those were back in the days when people actually had offices.

      Now it is in the upstairs closet.

      Reply
    3. ArtsNerd

      I’ve got a beautiful undergrad sheepskin and a perfectly adequate masters diploma hanging out in my closet. My wall space is all claimed by actual art. What on earth shall we do with them?

      Reply
    4. stillLAH

      Mine are out of their tubes and in frames, but haven’t been unpacked (still wrapped in newspaper) from when I moved 3 years ago.

      Reply
    5. Cath in Canada

      Mine are on display in my parents’ house, thousands of miles away! I have copies, but haven’t needed them since I applied for permanent residence (green card equivalent) in 2004.

      A group of us once went to a friend’s apartment and found that he had his degree certificates AND his “best poster” award certificates from a couple of academic conferences framed on his bedroom wall. We gave him a pretty good ribbing about it!

      Reply
    6. MashaKasha

      I lost mine somewhere during the multiple moves. Which really sucks, because it’s a foreign diploma (not from Ancient Rome, either! heh heh) and some places of employment require that the applicant get it evaluated themselves before applying, and send them the official evaluation. I have the transcript, but not the diploma. And, for the evaluation, you need both. I’m not keen on contacting my school overseas to get a copy of my diploma sent to me, for a multitude of reasons. So I guess I’m just going to rule out the employers that have this requirement. Luckily, there are very few of those.

      Reply
      1. Cordelia Longfellow

        My employer recently require proof of our diplomas by showing our supervisor the originals and getting them to “notarize” a photocopy. Luckily, my framed diploma was already hanging in my office!

        Reply
    7. Dr. Doll

      My PhD diploma was such a letdown that I never took it out of its envelope. 8.5 x 11 sheet of cardstock. I was peeved.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        Mine too. None of the universities I went to will provide a duplicate diploma; you get one. They will supply transcripts but only the one diploma.

        Reply
    8. Gillian

      My undergrad institution has oversized diplomas (18 x 23), and I did end up getting mine framed, so I can’t imagine trying to take the whole giant thing to HR to use as proof of attendance.

      It’s also somewhat disappointing as my master’s is a normal size and looks super piddly in comparison.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        “and I did end up getting mine framed, so I can’t imagine trying to take the whole giant thing to HR to use as proof of attendance.”

        When I got mine, I had to immediately send it overseas for a job I had accepted. When I eventually got it back and returned home, I put it and the heartfelt note about not damaging this very expensive piece of paper in the frame my mother insisted on buying at the graduation ceremony. Buying that was the first and only time anyone in family made a big deal about me being the first person to earn that piece of paper.

        Reply
        1. Brooke

          “Buying that was the first and only time anyone in family made a big deal about me being the first person to earn that piece of paper.”

          I feel you on that. Ditto.

          Reply
    9. Adam V

      Mine is in the stiff envelope the school mailed it to me in, sitting in the bottom shelf of a bookcase in my home office. I suppose one day I’ll frame the thing, but at the moment it’s still a symbol to me of how close I came to not graduating at all.

      Reply
      1. Afiendishthingy

        I have no idea where my masters diploma is. My bachelors diploma is tiny, and I think it is in a desk drawer in my spare room. Probably.

        Reply
    10. Elysian

      Every time I get admitted to a new bar they send me a fancy certificate, and I have no idea what to do with all of these. Like, I framed my first state, but now that I’ve been admitted into a laundry list of courts, I really don’t want or need a wall certifying (basically only) that I paid an application fee. I have a pile of these certificates somewhere and no idea what to do with them…

      Reply
    11. Ivy

      Mine is somewhere in the documents folders, but I have the diploma of a friend with whom we graduated together hanging on the wall of our guest room. Just went and checked – it’s in Latin.
      He lived for a bit in our guest room before he moved to Spain and still visits now and then. Why he decided to frame it and post on our wall I have no idea. Even less why I left it there (path of least resistance I guess:-)

      Reply
    12. Honeybee

      I have big plans to frame my PhD diploma but right now it’s in the original envelope because those frames are like $150.

      My mom still has my BA diploma. Don’t know what to do about that. (She also has the only bound copy of my dissertation. She likes stuff like that. Even the library only wanted an electronic version.)

      Reply
    13. Michelenyc

      I lost mine within the first few months of receiving it. My Mom was really upset; she was shocked when I said I didn’t care where it was.

      Reply
    14. ACA

      No idea where mine is. In my parents’ basement, probably. My husband’s is matted, framed, and currently stored under our guest bed.

      Reply
    15. Sascha

      I took mine out of the tube and framed it, but it’s sitting in my closet next to boxes of old clothes and other piles of crap I’ll never use again. The frame was free, by the way.

      Reply
    16. BAS

      I have one of mine framed but I need to order a frame for my British master’s diploma because it is 1. vertical 2. non-US standard paper size to fit into an off-the-shelf frame.

      Reply
    17. Charlotte

      I finally ordered frames for my two diplomas a couple years after my final graduation, brought them to my office, and they’ve been leaning two years against my office wall. Maybe one day they’ll finally go up.

      Reply
    18. Lady Bug

      My law degree and state bar admission are in the tubes. My federal admission is in the back of my husband’s truck under the spare tire, where we put it so it wouldn’t get wrinked when we picked it up. My undergrad is in a closet, or maybe the attic.

      Reply
    19. Cordelia Longfellow

      *high five*

      I do have my BA framed, only because my dad did it. I finished my MA over ten years ago and the diploma is still in its nice packing tube because it’s a fugly piece of paper that looks like it was printed at Kinko’s. My graduation date is listed in “2005-mm-dd” format as a footer like a webpage address (and thus be completely obscured if I did frame it with a mat!).

      I’m currently working on my MSc, so it remains to be seen what this diploma will look like and whether I bother to get it framed. This school is awesome but has a corporate-brand style emblem, so I don’t have high hopes.

      Reply
    20. TL17

      My BS & JD are framed in really pretty curly maple frames. They used to be on my office wall until the office had to be painted. Now they’re under my bed.

      Reply
    21. mander

      Mine are all in cheap frames, which is a shame because my Dad made me a custom frame for my gigantic MA diploma (but I was afraid I’d break it carting it overseas). I had them all on an Ikea picture ledge thingy above my desk but they all got blown down one day when I had the window open, and now they are all propped up on the floor with varying states of broken glass on them.

      Reply
    22. Anna

      They sent ours out in flat cardboard envelopes. I used to know where they were, but not now. And I have no idea where my MA diploma is. I do have my MA transcripts, though!

      Reply
    23. ECH

      I am not sure where my original is but my alumni association (?) gave us wallet-sized laminated diplomas and I carry mine in my credit card pouch.

      Reply
    24. Middle Name Jane

      Mine is still in its protective folder. I spent a boatload of money to get that degree (still another 6 years of student loan payments to go), and my diploma looks like something I could have created on Word on one of the school library’s computers. I was so disappointed when I saw it.

      I want to get it framed, but I’ve never had an office and I would feel silly hanging it up at home.

      Reply
  3. Jen

    So funny. But also, my college does Latin diplomas but gave everyone a translation. Maybe that’s why. Or maybe the grandmas asked. Who knows.

    Reply
  4. LizB

    Have they had a bad experience with someone who “graduated” from Lorem Ipsum university, with a BA in Dolor Sit Amet? That is just utterly bizarre.

    Reply
    1. Sadsack

      So maybe it’s certifying that OP has not completed her coursework and, in general, is a dunce. We’ll never know without that translation!!!

      Reply
      1. Kevin - aka the latin diploma owner

        I joked that if they called a translator they’d find out it said “haha, you fools, you think I graduated from college? what imbeciles!!”

        One of my HR people did exclaim “he’s not the first person from his college to work here! our star intern from last year went there!” I did go to a small college, but it’s not THIS obscure.

        Reply
          1. Lucy Honeychurch

            Haha, I went to Haverford and my degree’s in Classics, so I laughed a lot when they provided a translation of the Latin on my diploma–they needed to translate the document saying I knew how to translate Latin, basically.

            Reply
          2. Dan

            Whoah, class of ’13 here. I think this is more Fords than I’ve seen in one place, digital or real, since graduation.

            Reply
    2. Chickaletta

      Ha ha. I use Lorem Ipsum all the time (as a graphic designer), and I actually had a group of clients one time tell me that the paragraph with “Latin” needed to be changed.

      They were doctors.

      SMH.

      Reply
  5. government librarian

    I work for the government, and they also asked to see my original diploma before I was hired. Of course, at that time I was living 2500 km away from my parents’ house, where my diploma hung on the wall, and 500 km from my future workplace. Not only had my parents just paid to frame my degree, but it was the most massive diploma ever – I have three degrees, and this one was about twice the size of the other two put together.

    Luckily, they accepted a copy of my transcripts. I was surprised that they saw that as a backup option – surely transcripts sent directly from the university are better than a sheet of paper that, in some cases, looks like someone just printed it from a standard office printer? (And which is sometimes written in a foreign language.) ;)

    Reply
    1. HR Recruiter

      When I work in gov’t HR I would let someone photo copy the framed diploma. You could see the frame in the photo copy but no one ever said anything. I really wasn’t a stickler for silly rules.

      Reply
      1. Persephone Mulberry

        I have had people email me a photograph of their framed diploma, still hanging on the wall. As long as it’s high-res enough that it’s legible after I crop out the frame and print it full-page, we’ll take it.

        Reply
    2. Bibliovore

      The best advise I got from HR during the settling the whole hire date/moving expenses phone call was…when you are packing, you will find your diplomas. Bring them with you your first day. You cannot begin work until we see your original diplomas.

      Uh oh. I had no idea where my diplomas were. I had never needed them in over 30 years. Sure enough, as I was packing up my books, there they were, in a manilla envelope, crammed between two oversized volumes.

      Reply
      1. Amy Farrah Fowler

        My mom has both a normal size and a wallet sized copy of her high school diploma. She was thankful she had them because some how her high school lost her records! She is a twin and the school had her sister’s records, but not hers. She is now retired, but had to use her diploma to prove she had graduated at one job (when she was at least 25 years out of high school).

        Reply
        1. Chinook

          Is it weird that I received a certificate of graduation from my school and governor general’s award for being top of my class (sounds impressive until I tell you it was a class of 7) but never received my high school diploma? Luckily no one has asked for it or transcripts because I doubt they would still have them since that school now is K-6.

          Reply
      2. Jetta

        The US Feds want transcripts, ts been a while for me, but I don’t thnk they had to be sent drectly from the school.

        The Northwestern motto is quaecum (sp) sunt vera. know vera is a form of truth (veracity, verify, etc,), used to know the whole translation but forgot. Decades will do that, you know.

        Reply
    3. Winston

      I know someone who had to provide her original PhD diploma to US immigration in support of her visa application and they lost it.

      Reply
      1. Marcela

        Really? We had to send my husband’s for our visa too, and in every single document it said “do not send originals”, so we joked they missed to write “because, although we send you some of these papers some time ago, we’ll lose them!”.

        Reply
      2. Kristin

        Oh god, that’s both horrifying and infuriating. What sort of redress is available in that situation? Is it even possible to get replacement diplomas?

        Reply
    4. ScarletInTheLibrary

      And one would think the employee would like to see what classes one took. A degree in public history at one institution can vary from one at another institution. When I applied for my current job, I had to show I had at least nine credit hours in X thing and three additional hours in Y thing.

      Reply
  6. pomme de terre

    My diploma was also in Latin. I think a little translation might have come in the packing tube. I wonder if we went to the same school if you work in government. Hoya Saxa! ;)

    40+ years ago, my dad had to show his real diploma in order to get a state government job. He left it on a city bus on the way home from an interview and never had it replace.

    Reply
    1. Buffay the Vampire Layer

      Not the OP but Hoya Saxa! When I graduated they handed us a little rolled up piece of printer paper with the English translation of our diploma when we walked across the stage and then we picked up the huge official Latin one later on. I wonder if this HR department would accept that?

      Reply
      1. Development professional

        Hoya Saxa! This is exactly what happened when I graduated. I think I still have that page somewhere too. But it’s true, it was just a plain sheet of paper with the words on it. I don’t know if that would look official enough.

        Reply
        1. Aunt Vixen

          Hoya Saxa!

          I was really disappointed that my subsequent universities didn’t do their diplomas in Latin, actually. When I got my MA I badly wanted a document that said “Magister.” Alas it was not to be.

          Reply
          1. pomme de terre

            I really like that it’s Latin too! My dad didn’t realize until I actually got the document that it was in Latin and he was really impressed. Like, if he was going to drop that much $$$ on my education, the diploma goddamn well should be in a classical language instead of boring old English.

            Unlike a lot of posters on here, my diploma is very nicely framed and lives in my old room at my parents’ house. I do not think they will ever let me have it for myself, which I guess is fair since they paid for most of it.

            Reply
            1. Aunt Vixen

              Mine too. And my MA, just hangin’ up there being in English. Sigh. (My subsequent diplomas have also been written in English, but my last graduation ceremony was in Latin, so that was cool.)

              Reply
      1. Kevin - aka the latin diploma owner

        My mom is/was hoya saxa, and alas my school wasn’t so clever! That said a normal piece of paper probably would’ve been laughed out of the room. If a fancy embossed latin diploma is forgeable, they’d think a piece of paper is basically admitting to fraud.

        Reply
    2. mander

      I’m jealous. My PhD is from one of the UK’s most highly self-regarded universities, but it’s in boring old English. It kind of looks like a corporate achievement award to boot.

      My MA from New Mexico State is much more impressive looking.

      Reply
  7. Cary

    Hoc est rabidus – translation this is crazy. My diploma is in Latin, but the meaning is so freaking obvious. if it isn’t obvious — well that’s why google translate exists.

    Reply
  8. Another Anon

    Wow. Reading this post made me realize…I don’t even know if I know where my diploma is! I hope no employer of mine ever needs a copy of it, I wouldn’t know where to begin looking.

    Reply
  9. HR Recruiter

    This is the difference I learned from going from gov’t to corporate world…

    Government-let’s research translators and make sure we find the best one we can. surely we don’t want to waste tax dollars on a bad translator.

    Corporate World-put it Google Translate and just assume it translates properly, no one will read it anyways.

    Reply
    1. Lily in NYC

      I love this! My govt. office would probably hire an expensive consultant to conduct a study of what makes a good Latin translator!

      Reply
    2. Elizabeth

      Government-let’s research translators and make sure we find the best one we can. surely we don’t want to waste tax dollars on a bad translator.

      And we don’t want a civil rights complaint against us for using a bad or inaccurate translation.

      Reply
  10. CheeryO

    Wow, that’s pretty extreme, even for a government gig.

    I had to provide copies of my diploma and engineer-in-training certificate when I was interviewed for my state job. They didn’t tell me this until the day before the interview, so instead of spending the day preparing, I had to drive to my parents’ house, tear apart my room just to find the damn things, then drive to the closest OfficeMax (which was not very close) and pay for stupid oversized copies, all in a nasty snowstorm. I should have just asked them for an extension, but I really wanted the job and was terrified of knocking myself out of contention.

    Reply
  11. Anon for this

    So, I work for a translation agency, and I can confirm that there is at least one more employer in the world who requires this, because amongst all of the other work we get from this client, there is the occasional recent graduate’s diploma being translated from Latin. At least this employer pays for the candidates’ diplomas to be translated themselves, though (private sector perk?).

    I’m not in charge of finding the translators but I think they tend to be Classics majors/grad students/professors.

    Reply
    1. AGH

      I used to work for a translation agency as well and saw this on more than one occasion. I believe that most of these were for government agencies. The ATA does actually certify people in Latin, and we had more than one Latin translator we worked with (most native English speakers).

      Reply
  12. Bee Eye LL

    I work for a city government and none of this surprises me.

    You know that TV show called Parks & Rec? It’s a lot funnier when you realize how truthful some part of it can be.

    Reply
    1. Kevin - aka the latin diploma owner

      I also worked in Parks and Rec for three summers, and it’s just as wild as the show except a lot of the mayhem came from the public, not the office. It seems this job will internally cause all the hysteria.

      Reply
  13. GraceT

    When I read this headline I thought it was going to be a fellow Classical Studies major. When people find out I studied Latin they’ll ask me to say/write something in Latin. I had no idea colleges wrote in Latin on diplomas. Mine is all English and tucked away in a drawer because I’m still angry it doesn’t say my degree on it. Useless!

    Reply
  14. Small town reporter

    Many years ago, when my husband and I were first dating, he applied for a federal government job, took all the tests, etc., and made it to the point of needing an FBI-level background check. He was asked to provide a bunch of references, but since we’d only been dating a few months when he filled out the paperwork, he didn’t list me. Eventually, the background checker found out about me (as though I was a big secret) and wanted to talk to me, too. When he called, he asked me what I knew about my husband (well, still boyfriend then), where he went to college, etc. I must have said something along the lines of, “Well, he graduated from X College in 1999.” “How do you know that? Have you seen his diploma?” I was sort of flustered for a minute and all I could respond was, “Well, no. I didn’t know him then, but he told me that’s when he graduated and I’ve seen a picture of him wearing a cap and gown, standing next to his parents that I assume wasn’t faked.”
    The position, which would have been working with visa applicants, was defunded or transferred to another state or something and the process just stopped suddenly. But I’ll never forget being asked if I’d seen his diploma. Such a weird thing. But apparently not all that weird, when dealing with government?

    Reply
      1. LQ

        That you’d go to the trouble to fake the cap and gown photo with your parents, but not the diploma? I bet I could get a diploma in 10 minutes or less. But a photo with a cap and gown and my parents would take at the very least an afternoon, and that doesn’t count the drive to see them or talking them into it.

        Reply
    1. INTP

      What, doesn’t everyone ask to see their dates’ college transcripts? I personally require a W2 and proof of citizenship or visa as well.

      Seriously though, I want to know what this guy’s dating life is like if he thinks that’s a normal thing.

      Reply
      1. Small town reporter

        Right? It was bizarre. As an aside, and people actually working in federal offices would know this better, but that background check was intense. He was supposed to list EVERY address he’d ever lived at … and there was one from college that all he could remember was along the lines of in the basement of a lady who rented rooms to college kids, probably on this one street that he maybe had the name of. He was there two months. Five years before applying for the job.

        Reply
        1. Nerdling

          Yes. They want at least seven years or dating back to age 18, whichever is longer. At least. I’ve never been so glad to be a packrat as I was when I realized I still had mail hanging around from my freshman dorm.

          Reply
          1. Buzzword Bingo

            I’ve found my Amazon order history to be a godsend when it comes to previous addresses. And you can log in from anywhere.

            Reply
        2. Lamb

          I had a job where I *might* need to go in to a school sometimes, so they did an additional background check that involved me giving every address I’d had for the last 28 years. I was a little worried they’d take issue with the list I gave them, because I was under 28 at the time.

          Reply
        3. AK

          I was hired at an airline as a customer service agent when I was 18. In order to get my airport badge they needed to do a full ten year background check, no exceptions, so I filled out the form all the way back, ending with “third grade, XYZ elementary school.”

          Reply
      2. Artemesia

        I did have a friend long ago who married a guy whose entire elaborate life history from education to parentage to marrital history to job history was totally fabricated — maybe requiring the diplomas should be a first date thing.

        Reply
        1. MsChandandlerBong

          The same thing happened to my husband’s aunt. She married a guy who supposedly had a PhD in something or other. He was hired by the local university as a professor, and they later found out he’d faked his degrees, references, and employment history.

          Reply
    2. TL -

      I was a reference for a police academy applicant and they asked me if he beat his wife. I laughed really hard and said, no she’d kill him. but then I was like, most people wouldn’t know?

      Reply
  15. LQ

    I had mine stuffed in a box of stuff I’d never look until I started really going through everything to get my shit I owned down to much less. It is in a faux leatherish thing so it stands up on its own. So I stuck it open on my bookshelf because the colors go nice in my apartment and why not, after I was done doing the organizing I’d decide what to do with it.

    Then my mom came over and saw it out and “framed” (not really but it looks nice enough) and broke down into tears because she was so proud of me. (First in family to go to college.) So now I leave it out because it reminds me of how lucky I’ve been, how hard I’ve worked, and how proud of me (most) my family is.

    Reply
  16. Kyprei

    This happened to me…when I was registering for my graduate coursework! The university required an undergrad transcript AND a copy of my diploma, so after prolonged negotiations with them, they agreed that a note on letterhead from my alma mater’s registrar attesting to the validity of my diploma would suffice. How generous.

    Happily, this was not indicative of the overall quality of my graduate institution, but it was definitely a rocky start.

    Reply
  17. Glod Glodsson

    This is funny to me. I work for a certified translation agency and a reasonable part of our work is offering certified translations from Latin diplomas into other languages! So to me, this isn’t weird at all. When people wish study in a foreign country, for example, it’s often required to have diplomas in the language of the country they want to study to.

    Where I live, it’s also very possible to become certified in Latin, as long as you can prove you have had an extensive education in the language.

    Reply
      1. Glod Glodsson

        Yup! There’s only like 4 people in my country who can do it, so they make quite good money from it. We’ve also considered reanimating some ancient Romans but you know how it is with zombies :P

        Reply
      1. Glod Glodsson

        It varies wildly by country. In he US you’d need to get your certification from ATA and I don’t even think they offer Latin certifications. But I live in the Netherlands and here you basically have to hand over your diplomas and such as proof that you studied both the source language and target language you translate in and do some tests. And then they make you go to the Court of Justice and vow you’ll be truthful and stuff because this is serious business!

        Reply
  18. SJ

    At the university where I work, we provide an English translation of the Latin diploma.

    However, I don’t think we always did that, and I heard a tale from before I started working here about an irate mother calling up and demanding to know why her child’s diploma was in Spanish.

    Reply
  19. videogame Princess

    My shining moment has arrived!
    Send it my way–I always knew I’d eventually have a need for all those six years of Latin.

    Reply
  20. Cath in Canada

    I had to provide transcripts and diplomas when I immigrated to Canada, and they did ask for a translation of my PhD diploma, which is in Latin. Luckily, the University has an official translation on their website, so I just printed it out!

    Reply
  21. sam

    I had my diplomas and bar admission framed, but back when I worked at law firms, it was de riguer to have those on your wall. now they are literally stuffed behind my dresser because I have nowhere else to put them.

    But on the other hand, my law school was kind enough to actually give us all translations of our latin diplomas. Which I always kept taped to the back of my framed diploma. I had no idea it served any purpose other than for my own amusement!

    Reply
    1. fposte

      It’s very much A Thing, mostly at older schools in the northeast. It’s a trend that’s declining–I think Harvard caved a few years ago–but there are still holdouts.

      Reply
      1. Cath in Canada

        I did my PhD at a university that was founded in 1451, and some things haven’t changed much since its first year. The entire graduation ceremony is even in Latin! I didn’t go to my own, as I’d already moved to Canada, but I went to my then-boyfriend’s. It was interminable.

        Reply
      2. Laurie

        Ah thank you for explaining. I graduated in California and the most Latin on it was a ‘cum laude’, which I didn’t think would necessitate a translation, so I really wasn’t sure what people were talking about. :)

        Reply
    2. De (Germany)

      Same here… I’m glad someone else said this, I was feeling rather stupid there for a while. When I finally realized what people were laughing about, I was wondering whether this is just another US – Germany divide…

      Mine came in… German. And a translation in English.

      Reply
        1. Student

          You’ll be disappointed. Judging from my Latin classes, it’s either a stanza of an Elvis song, or a raunchy poem, or a debate about who gets to be the Master of Drinking (magister bibendi) at a party.

          Reply
      1. Neeta(RO)

        I initially thought that only part of the diploma was in Latin, i.e. some phrases like “magna cum laudae” or something. Huh, you learn something new every day, I guess.

        Reply
  22. Chinook

    “When she came back, she asked if I had a translation of my diploma. I didn’t know what that meant until she said “it’s all in Latin and so-and-so says we need an official translation.””

    As someone who, when applying to teach in Ontario, was asked to make sure I included a translation of degree from the University of Alberta because it was not an Ontario university, I can feel your pain. I actually had to call the registrar to confirm they set me the correct paperwork and even pointed out that my degree was from a nationally known English university, and their reply is that their standard is to ask for translations of a degrees issued outside of their province. Then again, they also rejected my Bachelor of Education as not being suitable for teaching high school unless I went back to an Ontario university and earned a Bachelor of Education after degree (literally a B.Ed on my B.Ed). Sometimes bureaucracy is just nuts.

    This is also why I started as an office worker.

    Reply
  23. Cathie

    At the university I worked for, we had so many requests from students for English translations of the Latin on their degree that we finally changed the policy and started issuing the degrees in English. Our Registrar’s Office did issue stamped documentation of the translation, so that the students could prove they had not faked it. The requests for translations all came from employers.
    And so now all of this paper sits unread in thousands of HR files, just in case….

    Reply
  24. Stephanie

    I work in HR, and we just verify the degree directly with the university or through NSCH. Collecting something from the applicant that could be faked and that I would have to review sounds like a giant pain.

    Reply
    1. Briefly anon

      I know someone who hired someone and took their physical faked degrees and education proof on the day the new hire came in to do their I-9 and other paperwork. It wasn’t until almost a year later when her manager (she’s in HR) told her to run an internal promotion’s name through NSC to see if they received their masters, that she realized it was a thing! She went back and ran all her previous hires through and all but one was accounted for. This person listed having 2 degrees and came in with framed copies of both. I begged her to email AAM and ask what to do (this person was not having performance issues) but she was so afraid she started job searching, took the first offer she could get and resigned.

      Reply
  25. Bwmn

    While this may sound a little absurd, it’s actually a bit common in the US.

    My diploma is also entirely in Latin – and I received it from a non-US university. Regardless of the fact that the university is in Ireland (an otherwise English speaking country), in order to apply for a wide range of US federal jobs that are interested in my Masters degree I need to have the degree validated in regards to the US and part of that also means having the diploma professionally translated. So for all of the advice around not applying to jobs where you have to pay money, if I wanted to apply to a number of US federal jobs (as a US citizen) – the amount of money that I’d have to spend in advanced just to have my credentials ok’ed (and my Masters is not in something like nursing or accounting where there are accreditation concerns) was going to cost far more money than I felt it was worth.

    Reply
    1. Elsajeni

      Yeah, in a way it makes sense to me, honestly — if you’re going to have a policy that degrees/diplomas not in English must be officially translated, why wouldn’t it apply to Latin? It’s silly, but not really any sillier than requiring an applicant who went to school in France to get their French diploma translated.

      Reply
  26. Isben Takes Tea

    I don’t remember if my diploma has any Latin on it (except for the motto), but I was one of the lucky few thousands who graduated from a California public institution in the aughts who have their diplomas inked by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Reply
  27. Ghost Umbrella

    This reminds me of when I was in the Army and I was trying to get something administrative (I forget what, exactly) pushed through for a soldier. Whatever it was required their birth certificate; as the soldier was from Puerto Rico, the certificate was written in Spanish and English. Both languages said the same thing.

    The guy in our S1 (personnel) shop insisted that they needed to provide a notarized translation of their birth certificate, even though the translation was already on there. It was absolutely inane.

    Reply
    1. Talvi

      I had this happen to me in France. To get my health card, I had to send them a copy of my birth certificate. They sent it back to me, with a request for a French translation – all Alberta birth certificates are issued bilingually in French and English.

      Reply
  28. Jackie

    Please always feel free to call your college’s alumni office-they are there to help! As a former alumni affairs employee, I can tell you that this is quite common (especially in countries outside of the US) to want an English translatin. Doesn’t make the diploma “more real” of course, but universities have a vested interest in having alums who are employed and they are happy to help when it comes to verifications.

    Reply
  29. goodnessgracious

    I HATE these stories. I just started working for the government and I find some of what we do here ridiculous. Hey, if somebody has a college degree, it’s a good bet they graduated from high school, and yet we turned down someone who had a master’s degree but did not indicate that she graduated from high school.
    If you get an official transcript why on EARTH do you need a copy of somebody’s high school diploma? Have we really gotten so risk adverse in how we do business that we can’t use some common sense?

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      Or, what if they didn’t finish high school…but they absolutely did earn a master’s. What would they have NOT learned (from high school) that would still be unlearned today–and would be a problem?

      Reply
  30. NotCanadian

    When I applied for graduate school at an arts college in the US, I had to pay $160 for a degree validation service. The service evaluated each of my classes from my undergraduate degree to ensure that my degree was as valuable as one earned at an American university.

    My undergraduate degree is from McGill University.

    Reply
    1. Chinook

      I don’t know. McGill sounds shady. After all, why would a legit Quebec University have a Scottish name?

      In all seriousness, I have always wondered what language the degree is written in: English, French or Latin?

      Reply
      1. NotCanadian

        Very shady! I’d have to check, but I think the diploma’s in Latin. About 25% or classes were in French though.

        Reply
  31. Alma

    I had to carry in my HUGE, elaborately framed Masters degree diploma – I still don’t have how a halfway decent copy could have been made on the HR copy machine.

    Yes, it is in Latin. And it isn’t the correct document that attests to my credentials for the position. That document is even more elaborately framed. It is in American English though.

    And the Valedictory Address has always been delivered in Latin. Classical Latin, not the kind that would be useful at a fine Italian restaurant. We all took a snooze after the festivities of the previous night.

    Reply
  32. HardwoodFloors

    Numen lumen. (Knowledge is light, I think) My university was very proud of the only Latin phrase on its diploma.

    Reply
  33. Melissa

    Oh my.

    I work for state government and there was less paperwork (like maybe 15 pages tops) and while they asked for transcripts, the digital copy I got from my university was sufficient plus ID+SS card for the I-9 requirement.

    Reply
  34. Milton Waddams

    This isn’t just government, this is part of a larger Cover-Your-A*s culture that is endemic in many HR departments, and at least partially responsible for many hiring bottlenecks — where either the right candidate does not meet CYA requirements despite being otherwise qualified, or where a candidate who does meet CYA requirements gives up in frustration or (occasionally) is snatched away by a more nimble business during the slow and paperwork-driven hiring process.

    Reply
    1. KR

      This is a big culutre in government too because say a new hire eventually makes a mistake that goes public, and it comes out that they faked their graduation papers. People will bleame the government for not having rigid enough
      hiring procedures.

      Reply
  35. Phlox

    The first thing my grandfather did when he saw my BA was check for spelling mistakes – the Latin passed his standards! But my favorite diploma is still my high school one, being international baccalaureate it has a lot of security features, ugly but definitely genuine.

    Reply
  36. Wendy Darling

    This isn’t even that weird to me BECAUSE:

    When he was applying for a US work visa, they asked my SO for his college diploma. It’s in Latin. So they asked for a translation of the Latin. He was like, wtf, but his dad had studied a little bit of Latin so he did a quick translation.

    They rejected this and insisted he go have it translated by a US government approved translator. It was apparently a HUGE fuss and a giant pain in the arse.

    Reply
  37. Former Borders Refugee

    I used to work for a translation company, and one of the project managers (who still works there!) has a Masters in Classics, and she would occasionally be called on to do certified translations of Latin diplomas.

    Seriously. It is a thing.

    Reply
  38. O Deus mea!

    By the way, why are we blaming this one on government? You think there aren’t private employers who have ridiculously pathetic standards?

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Please follow the site's commenting guidelines. You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.

Subscribe to all comments on this post by RSS