When an institution or organization asks a potential client for translation certification, a question or two always pops up. Certification, why? Isn’t it enough that I will pay for a translation? Also, isn’t it enough that the translator doing the job is certified? And then, can’t I just get the document notarized?

Well, sometimes, just translating a document is not enough, particularly for government or legal institutions. Often, companies require it too, particularly if a translation involves a binding contract. It is also important to know that translation certification is not the same thing as translator certification. It is also important to know that in many countries these processes differ.

Then, translation certification and notarizing a document are not the same. It can also happen that an organization will require both types of certification. Just to complicate things further, there is also apostille certification that a number of countries require (above).

“When you are requested to provide a professional translation of your document that is not in English, you are oftentimes asked to prove that you used a professional qualified service. This type of proof in translation would be either: a certified translation or a notarized translation. “

translation certification for translators

This would essentially mean that a “translation agency has to provide translation documents along with their attested copy certifying that all detailed statement is true, accurate and complete. Also, that “the person who translated the document is fluent in the language of the document and English” (or in any other language combination). It is the so-called language service provider (LSP) that has to provide an adequate certified translation.

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What does translation certification involve?

A certified translation involves” attaching a certificate to a translation which includes a statement of the translator’s qualifications, a statement affirming the completeness and accuracy of the document, identification of the translated document and language, and the translator’s (or translation company’s) name, signature, and date.”

As the quoted service above notes, the fact that a translation is “certified” does not mean that it is of any higher quality than one that has not been “certified.” With a certificate, it has met a (legal) requirement of the translation’s end-user. It confirms that the translator who did the job is qualified, the translation is accurate to the best of the translator’s ability.

In day to day practice, most of the certified documents are of a legal nature:

  • Birth Certificate Translation,
  • Marriage Certificates,
  • Court Documents,
  • Divorce Certificates,
  • Adoption documents,
  • Police verification and Background checks translations.

In the United States, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends only USICS Certified Translation. This institution only accepts a certified translation. Also in the US, documents of a hearing in a legal procedure and trial and evidence always require a certified translation.

Also, when international business contracts need a translation they very often are in the form of a certified translation. Another set of documents that goes through the process of certification are sensitive medical documents and production process manuals. In the first instance, human lives can depend on a translation. In the latter, a name for a nut or a bolt with an incorrect translation can have a serious effect on the production process.

Who is a certified translator?

Potential clients might often think that if a certified translator has done their translation that would be enough to meet the requirement of a certified translation. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

As Translate Today (above) notes, a certified translator is the one who “has a professional degree from an accredited university with major in translation in applied linguistics and has passed the test of professional certification.”

But she/he can also be an experienced professional who has passed the certified procedure with an accredited institution like The American Translators Association (ATA). Usually, such a certified translator has a degree in a specialized field like engineering, medicine or law and qualified knowledge of one or more foreign languages.

In other countries, France, for example, the practices of certifying translations and certified translators can differ. There, certified translation bears the name of “sworn translation.” Such documents are handled by “ an expert translator, accredited by the Court of Appeals, the Court of Cassation, or the High Court of Paris. A sworn translation is certified to be equivalent to the original source document.”

The author further explains that “sworn translations require a lot of knowledge in linguistics, terminology, and legislation. These translations follow a specific ethical code and precise rules. They use and follow a quality charter for the page formatting of the translated text. Recognized as “expert translators-interpreters”, the translators who handle sworn translations become judicial experts as well, working either in translation agencies or as independents.”

official translation certification

Certification, Notarization, and Apostilles

But what about notarization, and how does it differ from translation certification?

To simplify matters, we can say that a certified translation is akin to quality control. It guarantees that a translator has done the best possible job he is able to do. On the other hand, notarised translation is a form of an official procedure. In the words of Translate Today (above) the notary does not assess the quality and fullness of the work of any given translator. “Notarized Translation includes a notary which includes a government authorized legal stamp that signs the translation.”

Different countries have different norms for “notarized documents’. Notarized documents assure that the certified documents produced are not fraudulent. They usually carry a notary attest certifying the quality, procedure, and document translated are valid and authentic.”

As explained elsewhere, while different countries require different types of certifications within their territory, on an international level they have to abide by certain conventions and protocols. The most applicable of these is The Hague Apostille Convention. It is officially known as The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961, Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents.

U.S. Department of State says that “apostilles authenticate the seals and signatures of officials on public documents such as birth certificates, court orders, or any other document issued by a public authority so that they can be recognized in foreign countries that are members of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty.”

There are instances when certain government bodies require both a certified and notarized translation. For example one of the instances, where the notarized translation is always required, is educational diplomas. This is a requirement in practically any country.

Translation certification – making sure what you need

You may not need translation certification for your document(s) in one instance, but such a possibility can always crop up. When a client opts for a translation agency or a freelance translator, they should always make sure that the certification option is there.

This, of course, means that the translators or a translator have adequate qualifications and experience. Having a certified translator do the job is one such guarantee.

On the other hand, it is essential to know the difference between translation certification and translation notarization. Knowing which one you require and when saves both time money as well as effort on everybody’s part.

The procedure should always begin with a potential client making which certification or certifications she/he needs beforehand. If clients are novices to translation procedure they should make sure the agency or translator they are to engage can provide them with translation certification. Of course, the same applies to those potential clients who currently work with a translator or agency who cannot provide them with a service they need.