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Help! I need my official documents translated!

Translators and interpreters enjoy a different status in different countries: in come cases, the profession is fully regulated. In others – like in the UK – it’s not. No wonder then that the terms "sworn translation" and "certified translation" often get confused.

While these concepts may seem interchangeable at first glance, they are two very different services. For example, Polish authorities will most often require a sworn translation of your documents. In the UK, the requirement is a certified translation.

Alicja's certified translation stamp
Certified translation will most likely be accompanied by the translator's stamp

Certified translation

Certified translation can only be performed by a professional, qualified translator. Additionally to the translation, they will also provide you with a certificate of accuracy and correctness of the translated document(s). In essence, it vouches for the translation's faithfulness to the original content, making it legally valid and acceptable for official purposes.

When is Certified Translation Required?

Often documents that require this kind of service will be used for legal purposes. Examples include birth certificates, marriage certificates, academic transcripts, legal contracts, and immigration documents. Once translated and certified, they are then used when getting married, filing for divorce, applying for university, legally changing one’s name… The possibilities are endless!

Who Can Perform Certified Translations?

The realm of certified translations is not an open field for just any linguistic enthusiast. Certified translations require a skilled translator who possesses an in-depth understanding of both languages involved and a solid grasp of legal and cultural nuances. These translators are often accredited by recognized bodies or institutions, providing an assurance of their competence. To be deemed valid, certified translations typically bear the signature, stamp, or seal of the translator.

Need your official documents translated so that they can be presented to a UK institution? Look for qualified members on the CIOL and ITI directories.

Woman going through a cabinet full of files

Sworn Translation

Now, sworn translation is a different kettle of fish altogether. Here words are not just translated, but sworn under oath to maintain their truthfulness and integrity. This type of translation is often required by organizations and bodies of countries where the role of translators and interpreters are governed by the law: like in Poland or Spain.

Who Can Perform Sworn Translations?

Each country will have different rules for becoming a sworn translator. Sworn translators are authorized by a governmental or judicial authority, which is not the case for translators who perform certified translations. To become a sworn translator, you’d often have to demonstrate your linguistic prowess, ethical conduct, and a profound understanding of the legal system – some countries will require an in-person exam organised by the Ministry of Justice. Sworn translations are often accompanied by a signed oath, an official stamp, and a statement of authenticity.

So… which one do I need?

When you contact a translator, they won’t be able to answer this question. In the UK, it is more common to be able to produce certified translations, not sworn ones. That’s why you need to be very careful when hiring a translator – if you mistakenly order a certified translation made by a person who cannot deliver sworn translations, your documents might not be deemed valid by the institution that requires the translation.

That is why it’s key you ask the body that needs to see your foreign-language documents if a certified translation will be enough, or if you’ll need it to be sworn.

If you're looking for a certified translation between English and Polish, I know someone who might be able to help you.


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