What is an official translation?

Published on 13/09/2021

Do you need an official translation? Official translation is a type of translation with special characteristics and is one of the most demanded types of translation.

 In this article I will tell you what requirements must be met for an official translation to be legally valid. I will tell you who is authorised to issue them and where to find official translators in different countries.

Shall we start?

1. What is an official translation?

An official translation, formally known as a certified or sworn translation, is a type of official translation. It is the translation of documents required by the administration or other official bodies.

Since we are talking about different types of official documents,the translation must be legally valid. The final document must therefore bear the official translator’s signature and stamp (formally known as a sworn or certified translator). 
 Furthermore, on the last page of the translation, the certified translator must add a certificate guaranteeing the legal nature of the translation, which must be signed and stamped by the translator.

The certified translation is characterised by the fact that it is an accurate and complete translation of the original document. This means that the translated document includes every comma of the original document. Either because it has been translated, or because it has been recorded otherwise.

2. Who can provide official translations?

The official translation must be carried out by an official translator appointed higher governmental bodies like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in Spain (MAEC) or the Regional Courts in Germany. This authorises them to translate from a foreign language into any of the official languages of the State and vice versa.

 This training provides the translator not only with the necessary signature and stamp, but also gives them the official authorisation to carry out their work. It should be noted that a certified translator acts as a notary, "attesting" that the content of the translation is accurate. In other words, a certified translator is equivalent to a public notary.

3. Iis presenting the original document necessary for an official translation?

Although highly recommended, it is not necessary. In fact, in most cases nowadays official translators do not receive the original but a scanned copy or even a photograph of the original document.

Many years ago, when mobile phones did not exist and scanners were rare, it was essential to present the original document. Today, this has changed completely, but to ensure that the official translator guarantees to what has been submitted to him/her, certified translations consist of the translation itself, signed and stamped by the translator, as well as a copy of the document submitted to the translator dated and stamped by the translator.

This is a typical translator's stamp, showing his or her name, combination and appointment number:

4. Do I have to submit the official translation in paper?

Generally yes, but in many cases a scanned version of the certifies translation is accepted. This is quite common in courts or in the submission of tender documents where, for practical reasons, more and more documents are handled electronically.

The best thing to do, if possible, is to ask the administration to which you have to submit the translation, because they may not require a paper translation. If it’s not possible to ask, make sure to get both, the scanned version and the paper version.

5. How is the training of these official translators and interpreters ensured?

It is the government body itself that establishes the mechanisms for accessing a sworn translator's position. Here I would like to point out that these professionals are not considered to be civil servants, but usually also work on a freelance basis, or as an in-house translator in a translation companies.

Let’s look at a specific country and the requirements to becoming a certified translator. There are three ways to becoming a certified translator in Spain:

  • E: Examination Successful completing the courses organised by the Language Interpreting Office. The examination consists of three parts. The first part consists of a multiple-choice test with 50 questions on grammar and terminology, with 75 minutes to complete. The second consists of three parts: translation into Spanish of a journalistic, essay-like or literary text, reverse translation (into foreign languages) and translation into Spanish of a legal text. Finally, candidates will face a consecutive interpreting exercise.
  • R: recognition of a foreign qualification obtained in another EU country. Before the transition to the Bologna Plan , it was possible to obtain a sworn translator's degree at universities by validating a certain number of credits in legal translation. In other words, it was enough to specialise in this field. After the implementation of this plan, it’s no longer possible, with the Ministry's competitive examinations being the only way to achieve the appointment.
  • G: graduates. Graduates of Translation and Interpreting from a Spanish university specializing in economics and law. This access route is no longer possible today and was only valid for a few years.

 If you want to be sure of a certified translation service with years of experience, look at the year of appointment of the official translator. Note also that the more experience, the higher the cost.

6. What value do official translations have?

As I have already hinted, these are not private translations, but official documents.

The translation of those official documents is regulated by law in countries like Spain, Germany and France. In the UK there such a law does not exist, but the government does recommend:

“If you need to certify a translation of a document that’s not written in English or Welsh, ask the translation company to confirm in writing on the translation: - that it’s 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” (https://www.gov.uk/certifying-a-document)

Therefore, what we can sum up from this article is that a certifies translation is a type of official translation carried out by a certified translator appointed by the a higher governmental body and qualified to certify the accuracy of his or her translations.

Meanwhile, a simple translation can be done by anyone with knowledge of the two working languages and training in translation.

7. Who or which body might request an official translation?

Normally this type of translation is required for legal proceedings in which documentation written in a language other than the destination country’s language has to be presented, or to make a statement to a Public Organization. 
Therefore, it is often public bodies that require a certain document to be translated by a certified translator in order to recognise its validity.

8. What kind of documents usually require an official translation?

There are certain types of documents which, by their nature, will require an official translation. Some of the most frequent are:

Academic documents(academic transcripts, university degree, etc.).

  • Medical certificates
  • Criminal records
  • Documentation provided in naturalisation processes
  • Business contracts
  • Wills
  • Birth and death certificates
  • Residence permit
  • Powers of attorney

9. where can I find a list of official translators?

In Spain, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides a list of all authorised cretified translators up to the present time.

This list is divided by working languages and cities, to facilitate the process for those seeking the service. Similar lists exist in other countries too.

It should be borne in mind that the translated document, once signed and stamped, usually has to be sent by post, so it is best to find a certified translator near you. You can also request a quote at AbroadLink, we have been working with certified translators for years.

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