Headache-free certified translation: a guide to finding the right translator
By Maeva Cifuentes
While moving to a different country can be exhilarating, you’ll often be faced with a discouraging mountain of paperwork. Not only do the institutions ask you to find your birth certificate, marriage certificate, or university transcripts, but also to get a certified translation of these documents. Here’s a simple guide to find out how to get the right translator for your certification.
Certified translation does not mean thing the same in every country.
The kind of certification you need will depend on the country receiving the paperwork. If you’re from the United States and you’re moving to Spain, you’ll need your translation to be certified or sworn according to Spanish standards.
Always check with the organization requesting the certification what their requirements are.
Certified translation for the United States
The United States does not offer federal certification or licensing for translators. It is not legally required to be certified or licensed to provide a certified translation. This means any translator can ‘certify’ a translation for the United States by attaching a statement to the translation declaring that the text they have translated is to the best of their knowledge a true and accurate representation of the original.
That said, some receiving institutions might require that your translation comes from a translator accredited by an association.
American Translators Association offers reliable accreditation – “The ATA-Certified translator designation is a testament to a translator’s professional competence in translating from one specific language into another. The ATA-certified translator credential recognized in ATA’s Directory of Translators and Interpreters can only be attained by passing an ATA examination of translation skills, including comprehension of the source-language text, translation techniques, and target-language writing proficiency” www.atanet.org
These translators can add an official, ATA-certified seal to your text. Check this database for ATA-Certified translators. It’s a good idea to get an assessed, professional translator, even if your receiving institution does not require it. It might be more expensive, but it’s well worth avoiding expensive risks.
Note: Some entities will require that your translation be notarized. This does not certify the accuracy of the translation itself, but requires the certification to also be signed by a Notary Public and is used to hold the translator accountable.
Certified translation for the United Kingdom
If you plan to move to the United Kingdom and your documents are in a language other than English, you’ll need to have them translated and certified. However, like the United States, the UK does not require a translator to be sworn by the courts to provide an official, certified translation. There is no such thing in common law countries as a ‘sworn translator’.
Many universities or other institutions will ask that your translator has been ‘certified’ or ‘accredited’ by a prestigious or recognized translation association. It’s a good idea to get an assessed, professional translator, even if your receiving institution does not require it. There are two that usually work for official documents in the UK:
The Institute of Translation and Interpreting – “To certify a translation, the translator must attest that the translation is a true, complete and accurate translation of the original document. Each page of the translation should be stamped and/or initialed (by the translator and/or certifying authority), to prevent any tampering or misuse. Qualified Members (MITI Translator or FITI Translator) and Qualified Members commissioned by ITI Corporate Members (Language Services Businesses) can certify translations and purchase ITI Certification Seals, to certify their work and confirm their membership of the Institute.” – www.iti.org.uk
Qualified Members of the ITI also must pass an assessment to ensure quality, and receive an official seal to place on their translations.
If you need a different language pair, check this database and make sure you tick the ITI-assessed box.
The Chartered Institute of Linguists also offers accreditation to translators that is recognized by most institutions in the UK. Accredited translators in this association are called ‘Chartered Linguists’ and are listed in their database as a part of the CL register. Check for the initials CL under the column “Chartered?”.
Certified translation for Spain
Unlike the above two countries, Spain is a civil law country in which certified translators must be done by a translator sworn by the Spanish courts. These translators (traductores jurados) will be shown on an official list of translators who have been accredited by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation only. You’ll typically have to deliver a hard copy of the stamped translation to the receiving institution.
Certified translation for France
Like Spain, France is a civil law country and will require your translations to be certified by a translator that has been sworn with the French courts (traducteur assermentée).
You can find an updated list of sworn translators here, though the website might be a little hard to navigate.
You can also look for translations on the Société française de traducteurs’s database, where you can select criteria to find the translator you need.
Remember, a sworn or certified translation does not guarantee the quality of the translation. Finding professional translators who have been assessed is important and can be crucial to your document being accepted or not.