Certified Translation Demystified: Who, When, and Why You Need It



Certified translation is the transformation of documents from one language into another and having the translation both signed and stamped by a certified translator. It can be used for official documents that will be used for legal purposes and for other reasons. There is a difference between a certified translation and a notarized translation and a difference between a certified and an accredited translator.

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What is a certified translation?

Certified translation typically means the translation document that is usually accompanied by a signed statement in some countries. This statement aims at attesting that this translated document is accurate and complete to the translator’s ability and knowledge. To certify a translation is to attest that the translation is an accurate, complete, and true translation of the source text or document. Certified translations must always be signed and stamped by the concerned certified translator or the specialized authority.

Certified translation is used on so many occasions and for so many documents, and unlike what most individuals believe to be true, it can be used in fields other than the legal field. Certified translation is considered to be very essential since it is the only way that guarantees that the information that has been translated is accurate and correct. A certified translation fulfills all the requirements in the country of the source language and can therefore be used in formal procedures without complications.

Certified translation can be used in almost every field, including legal, medical, technical, scientific, academic, and more. It can be used for official documents, school grades, medical reports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, wills, medical prescriptions, statements, agreements, contracts, patents, and many more.

To be able to certify a translation, translators must be certified themselves, as this is the only way that makes it possible for them to have a signature and have the translation stamped.

It is important to note that not all translators are certified, thus not all translators can certify a translation.

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Who are certified translators?

Certified translators can have two meanings. The first meaning (the general meaning), is the person who has a professional translation degree from a university or a recognized institution. In some countries, this person is also required to pass a certain certification exam to verify professional translation skills in the chosen language.

The second meaning, which is the specific meaning, is something totally different. Certified translators are usually translators who have been recognized by the government as having the qualifications and skills that are required to translate written documents or even spoken words from the source language into the target language. They begin their journey as translators with a Bachelor of Arts in Translation.

They can pursue their studies but it is not necessary. However, what is necessary is to have experience, as most countries won’t allow translators who are under a certain age to become certified. Certified translators are the only ones who are allowed to have a signature and stamp on the translation. That being said, translators are not allowed to certify translations unless they are certified.

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When is certified translation required?

Certified translation is required for most legal documents, especially if they are official such as affidavits, birth certificates, contracts, agreements, transcripts, statements, or anything else that has to pass through a government or legal entity.

However, certified translation might also be required for other types of documents such as medical reports, medical prescriptions, business agreements, and more.

The reason is that these specific types of documents are highly technical and mistranslation can lead to stringent consequences.

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When is a certified translation not required?

Certified translation is not always required as not all documents and translations must be certified. Unofficial documents do not need to be certified since they are not used for legal purposes or for other related purposes. Therefore, they do not require any proof that guarantees that the translation is accurate, complete, and correct. Unofficial documents might include research papers, articles, blogs, web content, marketing materials, and more.

However, translators, even if they are not certified, must always do their best to translate documents in the most accurate way possible. The reason is that even if the documents do not need to be certified, they need to be accurate and correct, and it is the translators’ duty to guarantee high-quality outcomes.

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What is the difference between translation and certified translation?

While they share one point which is the transformation of a text or a document from one language into another, they do not totally mean the same thing.

Translation is the process of conveying content from the source language into the target language. It is not an official translation, which means that individuals cannot use it for legal purposes or for other purposes that require proof that it is accurate, complete, and correct. Texts and contents that can be translated include articles, blogs, captions, marketing materials, web content, research papers, academic papers, essays, dissertations, and more.

On the other hand, a certified translation is a process of conveying documents from the source language into the target language and having the final outcome signed and stamped by the certified translator or what some call a sworn translator.

Certified translation is used for official documents that are for legal use or for other purposes such as medical purposes or academic purposes. Documents that require certified translation include affidavits, statements, official papers and documents, medical reports, school grades, certifications, contracts, agreements, and more.

That being said, one can still recognize one difference; translation can either be done by a translator or by a certified translator, whereas certified translation can only be done by a certified translator who is able to sign and stamp the final outcome. Nonetheless, both must always be one hundred percent accurate, complete, and correct.

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What is the difference between a certified translator and an accredited translator?

A certified translator is a translator that has been recognized by the government and that can have his/her own signature. Thus, he/she can both sign and stamp a translation when done. Certified translators usually translate official documents and papers that will be used for legal purposes and other official purposes as well.

On the contrary, an accredited translator is a certified translator that is recognized by a certain entity such as an embassy or a company. Accredited translators usually pass an exam that is prepared by the concerned entity. They then become accredited translators for this specific entity.

It is important to mention that not all certified translators are accredited, but all accredited translators are certified. This means that if a translator wishes to become accredited, he/she needs to be certified first.

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Certified translation VS notarized translation

Certified translation is the translation that is completed, signed, and stamped by the certified translator (or what some refer to as a sworn translator) who has translated the documents. On the other hand, notarized translation is the official documents that are accurately and thoroughly translated from the source language into the target language which are then authenticated by the concerned public notary.

In simpler words, certified translation shows that the translation is accurate and correct, whereas in notarized translation, the specialist does not translate the document but he/she briefly compares both the source and the target document and simply indicates that it can be used in official and legal agencies. Usually, certified translators hand in the translated document to the concerned notary public. This aims at guaranteeing that the translated document is accurate, complete, and correct. Also, it makes it possible for clients to use these translated documents for official and legal purposes.

It is important to note that if these documents include mistakes or errors, the concerned translator might be held accountable for them.

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What are the qualifications of a certified translator?

Being a translator is quite a responsibility in itself, let alone being a certified translator who can be legally held accountable for the mistakes that he/she might commit. For that reason, there are some qualifications and skills that certified translators must have.

First, to be able to become a certified translator, individuals must earn a minimum of a Bachelor of Arts in Translation.

As for the personal qualifications, they include:

  • Strong verbal and written communication skills.
  • Responsiveness is the sole way that guarantees that the relationship between translators and clients is fairly good.
  • Fast as certified translators might have to work on a large number of documents and papers at the same time.
  • Time management skills since translation is time-consuming and translators must be able to manage their time to be able to deliver the projects on time.
  • Computer literacy because this is what the whole world is prioritizing and only translators who are familiar with technology are succeeding nowadays.
  • Patience, since to be a translator, is to face many problems that can only be fixed if the translator is patient.
  • Strong analytical skills and ability to understand complex documents and texts and ability to accurately translate the source document.
  • Problem-solving skills, as translators usually face many problems that they must fix on the spot.
  • Fluency in both the source and the target language and ability to write correctly in terms of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure.
  • Knowledge of the cultural differences and having deep knowledge of the culture of both the source and the target language.
  • The ability to conduct thorough research since it is an integral part of the translation process and it is always required to be able to have the high-quality outcomes one needs.
  • The ability to work under pressure is one of the most important qualifications certified translators must have since they will definitely work on many projects at the same time.
  • Ability to deliver work on time as it is the only way that guarantees that clients will come back next time.

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Examples of translations that need to be certified

In general, a certified translation is needed when individuals have to submit legal documents or for official purposes where the documents must be one hundred percent accurate and the accuracy must be guaranteed. It is important to mention that certified translation can be used in fields other than the legal field.

Hereafter are some examples of documents that must be certified when translated:

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Is certified translation expensive?

In general, the cost of certified translation depends on many factors. These factors typically include the number of pages, words, or the time it took (per hour). Also, the prices can be based on the certified translators themselves; this means that the more the translator is experienced, the more the translation might be pricey.

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