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Certified Translations, Q&A

Everyone knows what a certified translation / sworn translation is, but when it actually comes down to getting one, that is when the questions start rolling in. There is a reason for this. Laws and regulations concerning certified translations vary from country to country and from organization to organization. Here is a list of the general questions that arise:

  1. What is a certified translation and how is it different from a normal translation?

With regard to documents, a normal translation requires a person with adequate language knowledge to use his/her skills to the best of their ability to reproduce the same document in another language.

A certified or sworn translation is also written by a translator, but the translator is required to in some way attest to the correctness of the translation in a legally binding manner.  How this is done depends on the country you are in and the laws that apply there.

What are certified translations for?

Certified translations are done to make normal translations into documents that are deemed legally/officially binding and can be used for legal /official purposes. This is similar to a notarization performed by a qualified professional, but in this case not a notary public, but a qualified translator or one that has been officially appointed to carry out this service.

When do you need a certified translation?

Typically, certified translations are used whenever the translation is provided as proof of something. This may included submitting the translation of a passport to a state official, translated finance documents to financial institution, or even sending in the translation of official transcripts to a university.

In the case of governmental bodies, when submitting translated documents, certified translations are normally required. In the case of various official organizations, the necessity of submitting certified translations depends on the rules and regulations of the organization in question. In case of doubt, the best thing to do is to simply ask the organization in question if a certified translation is necessary.

Are certified translations valid internationally or do I have to get the certified translation in the country I need it for?

If there is any doubt, it is probably better to get the certified translation from someone located in the country you need it for, as there are some institutions that require this.  Others require a translation to be certified by a professional regardless of where he/she is located. Once again, in the case of doubt, you must ask what the rules are at the organization you need the certified translation for.

Can anyone be a certified translator?

This depends on the country you are in. In some countries, certified translators are subject to great deal of examination before being officially appointed by government institutions. Appointment can be very difficult. In other countries, only a certain level of professional credentials needs to be presented before taking a mandatory oath, thus qualifying someone  as a “sworn translator”.

There are other countries, like the United States for example, that only require a translator to officially notarize the translation and attest to its correctness. In general, anyone could do this with the help of notary public. Yet, if the case arises that the translator is required to stand before jury to attest this correctness, his/her qualifications may be subject to scrutiny.  It is for this reason that many institutions in the United States may have specific requirements on who may perform the certified translation based upon his/her qualifications.

Are certified translations more expensive than normal translations?

Generally yes, as certified translations require the translator to attest to accuracy and correctness in an official manner making it legally binding. This subjects the translator to certain obligations that he/she does not do for free.

Although, in a free market economy, translators, even sworn translators, can charge what they like. So, it is certainly possible to find a really cheap sworn translator depending on the competition that translator may face.

Is a certified or sworn translation better than a normal translation?

Even a sworn translator could make mistakes.  A certified translation serves a certain purpose, being a legally binding document that the translator attests to being correct. This does not mean that it is free of error. For this reason, a sworn translation is generally not better than a normal one done by a qualified translator.  This is why agencies normally have sworn translations proofread before sending them to their end clients. Although, generally, if a translation is done by a certified professional, that person is qualified and knows how to translate, so there should not be a problem.

What is the cheapest way to get a certified translation?

The cheapest way to get a certified translation is to go directly to a certified translator. You can go through an agency and many large companies do this, especially if several different languages are involved. This spares them the effort of organizing everything and keeping it all on schedule, but it is of course more costly.

There are also many certified translators out there. You just have find them. It might be best to start with the yellow pages.

 Where can I find a certified translator located in Germany or Austria and what do I have to watch out for?

In Austria and Germany, sworn translators are appointed, so the translator has to be a sworn translator in order to perform a certified translation.  In all cases, the translator has to have the original document to do the translation. If they do not have the original document before them, according to law, they must state that they have translated a copied of a document. Be careful, as this is not always valid depending on what the certified translation of for. In many cases, the original document must be translated.

As mentioned above, no matter where you are you can always look at the yellow pages, or Gelben Seiten, as you would say in the German language, in Austria.  Although, there is a list of certified translators located at the following link:

For Germany, is a great place to look.

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