What is a certified translation? Who can certify a translation? And other questions…

If you have ever researched translation or have looked into having a document translated, you may have come across the term certified translation. But what is certified translation? How is a translation certified? Who can certify a translation? And how much do certified translations cost?

In this article, we take an in-depth look at certified translations and answer all of your questions on the subject. So, without further ado, let’s find out what a certified translation is…


What is a certified translation?

Certified translations are translations of official documents that have been certified by the professional translator or translation company as a true and accurate translation of the original document. Certified translations are generally required for official purposes.

The requirements for certified translations differ from country to country. Most countries have an official body that is tasked with regulating certified or sworn translations. In the UK, however, there is no particular authority with this role. Instead, professional translators and translation companies may self-certify their translations in accordance with the official government guidelines. These guidelines specify that the translator or translation company confirms the following in writing:

  • that the translation is a ‘true and accurate translation of the original document’
  • the date of the translation
  • the full name and contact details of the translator or a representative of the translation company

This certification must be printed out and affixed to both the translation and the source text. These three documents must be presented together in order for the certified translation to be valid.


What is the difference between a certified translation, a sworn translation, a notarised translation and an official translation?

You may have come across a number of different terms relating to the translation of official documents. Besides certified translations, people also refer to notarised translations, sworn translations and official translations. You may be wondering what is the difference between these various types of translations and which one you actually need.

Sworn translations

Sworn translations are translations that have been completed by a sworn translator. As noted above, however, there is no such thing as a sworn translator in the UK – instead, professional translators self-certify their translations. In civil law countries, such as Germany, France, Spain etc., the relevant government authorities appoint sworn translators. Only these sworn translators are permitted to produce sworn, certified or official translations in these respective countries.

Notarised translations

Notarised translations are translations that have been certified by a notary. They are generally used to make translations official and suitable for overseas use. Examples include notarised translations of degree certificates to apply for a course at an overseas university.

A notary is someone who has been authorised by the government to oversee legal formalities. The translation is completed by a translator, who needs to sign a certification stating that the translation is accurate to the best of their ability, with the notary as a witness. The notary then stamps and signs the document.

In the case of notarised translations, the notary does not have to speak the language of the translation – as such, they are unable to check the accuracy of the translation itself. Instead, the signature and stamp simply certify that the translator swore the translation is accurate. In other words, the notary notarises the certification, rather than the translation.

Notarised translations generally cost more, as both the translator and the notary need to be paid for the service.

Official translations

An official translation is a general term that refers to a translation that has been stamped by an authority. As such, it can apply to all three of the types of translation described above, i.e. certified, sworn and notarised translations.

As different countries have different rules and regulations pertaining to what constitutes an official translation (as seen in the difference between certified and sworn translations), there can be some confusion regarding what actually constitutes an official translation. In the UK, an official translation can be either a translation that has been certified or a notarised translation. You can find more information about this on the Institute of Translation & Interpreting website.


certified translations for solicitors

When do you need a certified translation?

Certified translations are generally required for official purposes. Official documents, such as passports, birth certificates and marriage certificates, need to be translated for visa applications and these translations must be certified by the translator or translation company in order to be accepted by the authorities. Certified translations of marriage certificates may be required for divorce proceedings, while universities may request a certified translation of academic certificates for degree applications.

Here at LEaF Translations, we regularly provide certified translations of the following documents:

  • Marriage certificates
  • Birth certificates
  • Passports
  • Wills
  • Academic certificates

If you need a certified translation of an official document, you can find out more about our certified translation services here. Alternatively, contact us now for a free, no-obligation quote.


Who can certify a translation?

As explained above, there is no such thing as a sworn translator in the UK. Instead, professional translators are invited to self-certify their translations in line with the government guidelines. There are two professional bodies for translators in the UK – the Institute of Translation & Interpreting and the Chartered Institute of Linguists – and it is recommended that only members of these professional bodies provide certified translations. This is because, in order to meet the criteria of these organisations, translators have to pass rigorous tests to prove that their translations meet the required standards of the profession.

Qualified members of the ITI, for example, are given ITI certification seals to affix to certified translations and thus render them official translations.

When looking for a translator to provide a certified translation, make sure you use a qualified translator (member of the ITI) or a chartered linguist (member of the CIOL), or work with a translation company like LEaF Translations. Here at LEaF, we work only with highly qualified and experienced translators and ensure that all certified translations are proofread by a second language professional before delivery.

MITI logo min LEaF Translations
The logo used by qualified members of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting. LEaF’s founder Lucy is a Qualified Member for the language combination German to English

What is a certified translator (and how do you become one)?

While there is no official body to appoint sworn or certified translators in the UK, the term certified translator could be used to describe a qualified translator who is a member of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting or Chartered Institute of Linguists and who is able to self-certify their translations as a result, using an official stamp or seal.

Both the ITI and CIOL require at least three years’ professional experience as a translator and references from former employers or clients for the initial application stage. To become a qualified member of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting (MITI), applicants then also need to pass the translation assessment to prove their skill as a translator.


Where can you get a certified translation?

There are many translation companies and professional translators offering certified translation services. Here at LEaF Translations, we offer certified translation services in a wide range of languages, with the most popular including:

  • German
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • Portuguese
  • Greek

If you would rather work directly with a freelance translator, you can find professional translators able to provide certified translations in the member directories on the ITI and CIOL websites.


Top tips for choosing a certified translation service

If you need a certified translation, the most important thing is to make sure you work with a trusted translation company or a qualified translator (i.e. a member of the ITI or CIOL). You can find qualified translators on the ITI members’ directory and for German to English certified translations, look no further than our very own Lucy Pembayun MITI.

Professional translation companies can be a more reliable option, as they are likely to employ a second language professional to proofread the translation before it is certified. Here at LEaF Translations, we believe this to be a vital step in the process of providing an accurate certified translation. Professional translation companies also offer the benefit of being able to provide translations in a wide variety of languages – ideal for clients who may need several official documents translating, such as solicitors.

The best tip for choosing a certified translation service, however, is to choose a company or freelancer that you trust. Certified translations are needed for official purposes and, as such, represent important documents. It is important to choose a certified translation service that you feel will result in an accurate translation and that will be delivered on time.

Lucy professional translator
Lucy Pembayun MITI, founder of LEaF Translations & professional German to English translator

How much does certified translation cost?

The cost of certified translations varies massively, but as a general rule they tend to cost significantly more than non-certified translations. There are several reasons for this, including:

  • Highly qualified translators
    As mentioned above, in order to certify translations, translators need to be a member of a professional body, i.e. the Institute of Translation & Interpreting or the Chartered Institute of Linguists. This requires both a wealth of professional experience and expertise, as well as an investment on the part of the translator. Translators with this level of experience and qualifications quite rightly tend to charge more for their services.

  • Additional costs of paper documents and postage
    We live in a digital world and translation is no different: the vast majority of translations are now delivered electronically. The only real exception here: certified translations. While the original documents do not need to be posted out to the translator (here at LEaF, we accept a good quality scan or photograph of the original document sent via email), the certified translation needs to be posted out to the customer. This includes a certification document, the translation complete with stamp or seal, and a printed copy of the original document. The printing and posting costs involved in this naturally make certified translations more expensive.

  • The legal responsibility of the translator
    Certified translations are, by their nature, important documents – if they weren’t, they wouldn’t need to be certified. As such, there is a great deal of legal responsibility placed on the translator. They essentially have to swear that their translation is “a true and accurate translation of the original document”. The translator certifying the translation of the official document has to provide their name and contact details (or those of the translation company), should there be any questions regarding the translation. As this article by Jody Byrne explains, there can be legal consequences for incorrect professional translations, and these consequences are heightened in the case of translations of official documents. This additional responsibility is naturally reflected in the price.

Here at LEaF Translations, we pride ourselves in providing an excellent service for certified translations of official documents at a fair price. Our price always includes translation by a qualified translator, proofreading by a second language professional and delivery of both the electronic documents and the paper documents. And we are currently VAT-free, so you save 20% against VAT-registered companies.


Do you need a certified translation of an official document?


FAQs

  • What is a certified translation in the UK?
    In the UK, a certified translation is a translation of an official document that has been certified by the translator to confirm that it is “a true and accurate translation of the original document”. Certified translations come with a certification and an official seal and are required for passport and visa applications, as well as legal proceedings, such as divorces.

  • What is the difference between certified and notarised translations?
    Certified translations are certified by the qualified translator, attesting that the translation is “a true and accurate translation of the original document”. By contrast, notarised translations are certified by a notary. The notary may not have any knowledge of the source/target language and cannot, therefore, confirm whether the translation is accurate. Instead, the notary certifies that the translator completed the translation accurately and to the best of their ability. Notarised translations are used to make translations official and suitable for overseas use, such as degree applications.

  • How do you certify a translation document in the UK?
    Qualified members of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting or the Chartered Institute of Linguists are able to certify translations by stamping or adding an official seal to the translation and providing a certification confirming that the translation is “a true and accurate translation of the original document”. The certification must also include the translator’s name and contact details (or those of the translation company), as well as the date the translation was certified.

  • Do you need a certification to be a translator?
    In the UK, you do not need to have completed any formal exams or degrees to be a translator, however there are strict requirements for translators wishing to join one of the two professional translation bodies in the UK: the Institute of Translation & Interpreting and the Chartered Institute of Linguists. These requirements include at least three years’ professional experience as a translator, references from past clients and the passing of a practical translation exam, which is marked by peers. Unless you know a translator and are confident in their ability, it is best to opt for a qualified translator (i.e. a qualified member of the ITI or CIOL) as their professional proficiency has been recognised and confirmed by one of the industry’s professional bodies.

The bottom line

There is a lot of confusion regarding certified translations of official documents in the UK. This is largely due to the various terms used for these types of translations – namely, sworn, official, certified and notarised – and to the lack of official list of “sworn translators”, as is available in many other countries.

Certified translations should be completed by a qualified translator (a qualified member of the ITI or CIOL) and always include an official stamp or seal and a certification, confirming that the translation is “a true and accurate translation of the original document”.

They are generally required for official purposes, including immigration (e.g. passports and visa applications) and legal proceedings (such as divorce).

If you believe you may need a certified translation, contact LEaF Translations – we will be able to advise you further and send you a free, no-obligation quote for the service.


About the Author

Lucy LEaF blog 2021

Lucy

Lucy Pembayun, founder of the translation company LEaF Translations and a Qualified Member of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting (MITI), is a German to English translator with over 14 years’ experience. Her true passion lies in helping great, ethical businesses reach new international customers with excellent quality translations. Lucy specialises in German to English translations, including certified translations, websites, articles, sales brochures and other marketing materials.

Lucy graduated with an MA(Hons) in German from Edinburgh University before being awarded a DAAD scholarship to study for a post-graduate Masters in Germany. She has lived in Bamberg, Fulda and Berlin, and now resides in York, UK, with her husband, two children and fox red lab.

Contact Lucy directly now.