Sworn translation: what it is, who can swear and when it is necessary

sworn translation

Sworn translation: what it is, who can swear and when it is necessary

You may have heard of sworn translation, which is often used for documents in the legal-financial field: the process involves an additional step on the translator’s part in order to legally certify the accuracy of their translation. But how does this work precisely, and what validity does a sworn translation have?

When it comes to sworn translation, it’s not unlikely to imagine a translator in court, perhaps with their hand on their heart, faithfully swearing that they have translated the source text correctly.

Although rather romanticised, it’s actually not that far from reality: indeed, for a sworn translation to be valid, in many countries the translator must personally go to court to swear, or asseverate, the fidelity of their translation.

We at Creative Words have also been working in the legal field for many years. If you’d like to learn more about how we complete legal-financial translations, download our free case study.

If you would instead like more information about sworn translation, continue reading our article.


What is a sworn translation?

Of course, let’s start with the basics: what do we mean by sworn translation?

In general, we could define it as a translation for which the translator assumes legal and criminal responsibility, faithfully certifying that they have translated the text in a manner consistent with the original.

The swearing-in process (also known as asseveration) differs from country to country:

in the United Kingdom, for example, the translator does not need to physically go to court. In fact, it suffices to sign a kind of ‘self-certification’ of the truthfulness of the document.

Regardless of the country, a clarification is in order: a sworn translation does not certify the legal value of the original document, only the fidelity of the translation itself.

In other words, the translator does not take responsibility for the original content through asseveration, but only for its translation. If, on the other hand, you want to certify the source document as well, you need a legalisation, or legalised translation, a more complex process that we recently explored.


Who can endorse a sworn translation?

In general, when we discuss sworn translations and especially sworn translators, we are referring to countries that adopt what is known as Civil Law, such as Italy, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and many others.

In these countries, in fact, it can only be carried out by a sworn translator, a certified professional registered with specific public bodies: in Italy, for example, a translator who wants to become a sworn translator will usually have to register with the Chamber of Commerce (CCIAA) and/or the CTU (Court Appointed Consultant) Office of their province of residence. However, requirements can vary from province to province, and it is always advisable to enquire about the specific process in your area of residence.

sworn translation what is itIn countries that don’t adopt Civil Law, as we mentioned earlier, technically anyone can become a sworn translator: in fact, the translator will be able to take legal responsibility for their translation with a simple written declaration. However, if the document is to be used abroad, a notarisation’ of the translation may also be requested.

Therefore, before relying on a sworn translator, we suggest checking the specific criteria for sworn translations in your country of residence, so as to avoid mistakes that could cause problems and slow down subsequent legal procedures.


When is a sworn translation required?

Now that we have explained sworn translation and how the process for swearing in a translation varies from country to country, let’s try to answer another question: when is a sworn translation needed, and what documents usually require such a translation?

In general, is necessary in the case of legal documents attesting to official information. Consider, for example, birth, marriage or death certificates, notarial acts and other legal certifications. In all such cases, it is essential to certify the correctness and accuracy of the translation into another language.

However, is often required in other cases as well, such as for school certificates, report cards and diplomas, but also for financial documents such as bank statements, company financial statements, pension documents and more.

Very often it is the legal agencies themselves that require a sworn translation in order to process requests or issue certain documents (such as a foreign certificate of residence). In other cases, however, often through overzealousness, individuals choose to provide sworn translations of their documents even when not required.


Is one enough for the whole world?

Having come to the end of our article on sworn translations, we want to try to answer another very common doubt.

Indeed, there is often a tendency to think that a sworn translation is universal: by having a translation from English to Italian sworn in Italy, for example, many believe that it may be valid in another country. But is this really the case?

In reality, the situation is slightly more complex. First, to answer the main question, we must specify that a sworn translation is only valid domestically: if a document is translated and sworn in Italy, therefore, that sworn translation will only be acceptable in Italy.

Also, let’s not forget the language issue: if we are in Germany, for example, and we are asked for this type of translation in German, of course a sworn translation in Italy (and therefore made in Italian) will not be accepted.

What if, on the other hand, one wanted to use a translation sworn in Germany in Austria, or a translation sworn in France in French Switzerland? Should the fact that the language is the same make the foreign asseveration automatically accepted?

Again, unfortunately, the answer is no: as we said, each country has its own rules in this regard, and the criteria for the validity of a sworn translation vary from state to state. In general, therefore, our advice is to always have the translation notarised in the country where it has been requested and will be used.

At Creative Words, we are professional translators with extensive experience in the legal field and qualified to notarise your documents. If you have a certificate to be translated and notarised, contact us without any obligations: we will be happy to provide you with a free quote and find the best solution for your needs together with you.

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