When you need to present a translated document to a government agency, or any other official or administrative body, you will typically be required to present a certified translation.
For people of different nationalities, the concept of a "certified translation" often leads to confusion, as different countries adhere to different understandings of the term. Indeed, there are many ways to certify a translation, such as "notarized translation," "sworn translation," or "official translation," though some people use these terms interchangeably.
The word "certified" refers to the most basic and general understanding of the word. It can be interpreted as meaning a certain type of translation, depending on the authority requiring the translation. Because of this, it's important to always seek clarification of the kind of certification required for a specific translation. Despite some authorities keeping their own rules on what constitutes a certified translation, in essence, the nation where the translation will be received determines the kind of certification needed.
Many public authorities and organizations, such as universities, usually accept a translation that is accompanied by a signed declaration by the translator. This typically confirms his or her qualifications and that the translation is an accurate work performed to the best of the translator's ability. Though many countries don't maintain specific rules on "official translators," many qualified translators are members of professional institutes representing translation services professionals, such as the American Translators Association.
Some official authorities ask that you only work with translators who are members of these translator associations, or are otherwise qualified, such as being registered with a translators entity in another country. However, many of these professional translation associations are private organizations, not government entities.
Certain countries have adopted a system whereby the government authorizes certain translators as official providers of the service. In such countries, only documents prepared by these translators are deemed official. Depending on the country, different terms exist to identify government-appointed translators such as "public translators" and "sworn translators".
In Spain, for example, the Foreign Affairs Ministry authorizes "sworn translators" to be the only ones officially capable of certifying translations in a specific language pair, with a seal granted to the translator by the government. When a Spanish authority requests a "sworn translation," "official translation" or "certified translation," the work is usually undertaken by a translator who is on the official list of sworn translators.
Confusion on what constitutes an officially translated document often arises when a translation prepared in one country is presented to the authority of another country. In such cases, a simple translator's certificate may not suffice. The foreign authority may expect the translation to be certified by either a notary public or a sworn translator, if the latter exists in the country.
A notary can certify a translated document in two ways: if the notary understands the language pair involved, he or she can directly vouch for and certify the translation's accuracy. If the notary does not understand the language combination, then he or she will usually certify the translator's declaration and signature.
Additional measures may be undertaken in certain cases. A certificate prepared by a British notary public is often required to be legalized by the Foreign Office before it can be received abroad. Certain countries may also require a consular legalization in addition to the Foreign Office certification.
A number of foreign consulates or representatives keep to a specific system of translation legalization or certification. For example, when a UK translation needs to be presented to an official entity of the Dominican Republic, each translation must be processed by the Dominican embassy in London before it is sent to the Caribbean country.
Glossary of Certified Translation Terms:
- Certified Translation: A translation that must be wholly or partly certified. This may encompass a translation certified by a professional translator, a notary or sworn translator. If you're not certain as to what is required, contact the requesting authority to find out the kind of certification needed.
- Professional Translation: A translation undertaken by a professional translator. In theory, this terms only refers to the fact that the translation was performed by a professional rather than by an amateur. Still, it is standard practice that the translation be certified by the translator when it is requested by an official entity.
- Official Translation: A translation prepared for official purposes. This typically entails having the translation be undertaken by a sworn translator, in nations where these exist, or is otherwise certified in an accepted manner by the country of the organization requesting the translation. In many cases, this refers to a certification by notary.
- Sworn Translation: When a sworn translator certifies the translation. A "sworn translator" is one appointed to the role by a government authority in a nation that keeps to a system of officially appointed translators.
- Public Translation: An alternate name for the term "sworn translation" in a number of countries, such as Argentina.
- Notarized translation: A translation certified by a public notary.
- Apostilled Translation: A notarized translation that must be certified by the emitting country's Foreign Office. The latter usually attaches an apostille the carries the notary's seal and signature.
- Legalized Translation: A translation that has typically been notarized that is sent to either the Foreign Office, or relevant consulate, or both, for apostille or stamped certification.
- Legal Translation: The translation of a document of a legal wording, such as legislation, court documents, contracts, etc. This term refers only to the translation of a document within the specialized legal field. Legal translations may or may not be certified.