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Sworn/certified translation a guide

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What is a sworn/official/legal/certified translation really? It may seem like a simple question, but due to differences in legislation between countries and even rules in different organisations, it is impossible to give one simple answer.

The purpose of this guide is to give you an idea of what is a certified, also known sometimes as sworn or official, translation in different countries.

Certified translations are a way of guaranteeing that translations can be trusted and don’t say something that the original document doesn’t. I know of cases where a client has requested that a translator translate something that doesn’t appear in the original or alters what the original says. For example, that the person in question is receiving a grant, when they aren’t; that they got a higher mark than they actually did in a degree, etc. The need for trustworthy translations is paramount for government and organisations.

So far, I have talked about certified, sworn, official and even legal translations, so let’s try to differentiate them:

Certified translations:
Certified translation, the translation certified by a professional translator.

In English-speaking countries (common law countries usually), when talking about these types of translations, this is the name that is mostly used.

The idea is that the translator certifies that the translation is an accurate, true, faithful, etc. translation of a document written in another language. Pretty simple.

Sworn translations:
Sworn translation, translations translated by a sworn translator certified by a government body.

The term “sworn translations” is usually used in non-English-speaking countries. In this case, the translator uses the term “swear” instead of “certify”, but it is essentially the same thing.

Official translations:
Official translation, a translation made official by a government.

If a translation can be called an “official translationdepends a lot on the country. In countries like the UK or US, “official translationisn’t a synonym for “certified translation” as they are not endorsed by the government.

However, in certain countries, like Spain, certified or sworn translation done by translators recognised by the government can be considered to be “official”.

Legal translations:
Legal translation, the translation of legal texts for contracts, rulings and other legal texts.

This is the term that I have used less for one simple reason, because it does not actually mean certified or sworn translations. Legal translations are translations of legal texts. Not certified translations. You will, however, see them used sometimes as a synonym online, but it isn’t the same. We even have our own separate section for these translations on our website.

So, we have now explained some of the different terms used.

But who can produce a certified translation and what does a certified translation need?

It all depends. As I said, each government regulates certified translations in their own way. However, there are always exceptions and some organisations or public bodies may ask for additional things. The only way to know for sure is to ask the organisation or body you need the translation for.

In this blog we are going to be publishing a series of articles that try to cover a variety of countries so that you have a better idea of what to expect when needing a sworn or certified translation.

To read the articles on certified translation in different countries, just press on the links in the table below as they come out:


If you have any questions about this or any of the articles, or need a certified translation, feel free to contact us via our contact page.

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