Work August 12, 2018

Music to their ears.

Craig Smith
By Craig Smith

The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), based in London, is one of the world’s leading music examination bodies. ABRSM offer their services at an international level, appealing to classical music students who each year apply in large numbers to sit their prestigious exams.


A music certificate from ABRSM is a world-renowned qualification which many musicians aspire to.

Our relationship with ABRSM began in 2007, a time when they were in the early stages of developing a process for having their extensive range of music exam papers translated into a host of foreign languages. It was only a matter time until they needed to find a music specialist translation agency able to help cope with this increase in demand.

Subject specific translation.

The key to providing a quality translation is all about sourcing the right translators for the job. Naturally all our associates are fully qualified, have a vast amount of experience, and of course hold recognised linguistic qualifications. But for unusual texts and niche markets such as classical music, these industry standard quality procedures are still not enough.

The difference is, ABRSM specialist translators also need to be themselves accomplished musicians. They need to be able to understand the complex musical notations and phrases set in the exam papers they are working on. This is no mean feat and requires a great deal more focus on recruitment and testing.

Recruitment of this nature is so important, because how well our translations are received can only be measured by how well the questions were understood by those sitting the exams.

Feedback essential.

To keep the quality consistent ABRSM receives regular feedback from their in-country representatives who are in regular contact with the music students. As you can imagine, the chances of passing or failing an exam may sometimes hang on our ability to provide clear and accurate translations.


“We operate in over 90 countries worldwide and they have always been able to find translators for all the languages required, tailoring the dialects to the country in question whenever necessary. Living Word have been particularly good in sourcing specialist translators who are familiar with the musical vocabulary that we are working with – this is particularly essential for our music theory papers, often used by very young candidates, where an incorrect translation could make the difference between a pass and a fail.

Above all, their staff is always friendly and willing to go the extra mile in order to meet often tight deadlines and provide translations which we can rest assured will be reliable and appropriate to the region and context in which they will be used.” ABRSM