What are certified translation services?

Certified translation services – What is certified, the document being translated or the company translating it?

When someone is looking for certified translation services, you probably can conclude they are requiring an official document to be translated. This is the most common interpretation. However, because translation companies can also be certified, such a company could also be understood to offer translation services that are certified. For more on that, see our post about what distinguishes a certified translation company entitled : What is a certified translation company?

Highly important documents, high stakes!

Some translations have higher stakes than others: think about court or official government documents for instance. Most often than not, these require a certified translation in order to be accepted.

How does a certified translation differ from a regular one? It comes with a stamped certificate ensuring that the translation is accurate and done to the best of the translator’s knowledge. Depending on jurisdictions, this document can have legal binding value and be backed with liability insurance.

Certified translator or translation?

In Canada, there are professional orders or associations that “certify” translators. These certifications require a varying mix of qualifications, such as a university-degree translation diploma, appropriate experience and demonstration of skills, mentorship, as well as additional training and examinations. However, this can vary from country to country; the US, for instance, does not have a certification body.

Furthermore, it is important to note that a certified document does not necessarily have to be issued by a “certified translator”. In certain jurisdictions, any translator can certify a document simply by providing an accompanying certificate. In some places, it needs to be notarized, while in others, it must be approved by “court-sworn translators”. In any case, it’s important for both translators and clients to be aware of what is required for the country/state they live in, as well as the country the documents are destined for (such as for immigration purposes).

Here in Canada, only certified translators can certify a document; clients needing an official document in a different language therefore must contract certified translation services.

The translation process

For better legibility, certified translations must reproduce the original layout of the document. In case of a birth certificate, a passport or a diploma for example, these can be quite different from a regular page-by-page document.

Translators thus have to do their best to not only translate the content, but also replicate all the different fields, form elements, borders, lines for input, spacing, and so on.

Translating official documents additionally requires a deep understanding not only of the two languages, but also of the culture around these languages. When it comes to cultural context, it is important to work around the text and convey it in a way that respects the original meaning but also can be clearly understood by authorities who may not possess this awareness.

Another good practice: using a graphics program that can help copy visual elements of the original document (such as seals and logos) into the translated version.

The certification part

“Certifying” a document usual means adding a certificate as well as a stamp and signature. If the document contains several pages, they must each be numbered, stamped and signed.

The certificate consists of a declaration from the translator, and could read as follows in this example:

To whom it may concern:
As a certified member in good standing of the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO) and thus, by affiliation, of the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council (CTTIC), I hereby certify that the attached English document (# pages) is a true translation of the attached [source language] document (# pages); in witness whereof, I have affixed my stamp and signature to all pages of both documents.
[Place and date]
Certified Translator [SL]–EN (Canada)

Necessary elements to add:

• Name
• Certification/affiliation
• Mention of the translated document
• Number of pages
• Original Language
• Number of pages
• Place and date
• Signature
• Title

The revision process

Thorough revision of a certified translation is paramount, given the official nature of the document. Whenever possible, revisions should be carried out by another translator or editor.

Since official documents do not contain very lengthy text in general, typos and spelling mistakes are probably not the highest concern (although they should be actively looked for and fixed). On top of double (and triple)-checking legal elements, it is additionally important to check for consistency and readability. The most crucial thing to remember is to look at the document from the point of view of its reader and try to adjust accordingly.

If any details seem to require clarification, the translator should add it to the document in the form of “translator’s notes”.