When, How and Why: An official guide to translating your documents

Margie D. Moore
Steps on How to Translate your Documents & best Document Translation  Services | by Albert Abe | Medium

If you found yourself in the position of having to obtain a certified translation of your documents but aren’t too sure how to go about it, you can rest assured; You’re not alone! A growing number of businesses as well as private customers are asked by the governing bodies to provide their foreign documents translated by an accredited provider in order to support their application.

Whether you’re applying for a visa, want to start studying abroad or are looking for a mortgage and need to translate your bank statements – the reasons behind being asked to convert your documents can be truly countless. This short but detailed guide looks into the different types and levels or certified translations, explains how you can go about obtaining the service and how to choose the best possible supplier for your particular needs. So, sit back and enjoy our article – we hope that when you finish, your understanding of what ‘certified translation’ actually means will be much better!

The definition of a ‘certified’ translation

The term ‘certified translation’ is in fact, very ambiguous. In Europe, people often define it as a ‘sworn’ translation, whereas in the United Kingdom we recognise a standard certified translation and a notarised translation.

Generally speaking the standard certified translation is perfectly adequate for majority of cases where official documents need to be translated into English. Home Office, Passport Offices, Courts of Law, Education Institutions such as Universities or potential employers all accept this type of certified translations and recognise this level of certification.

The ‘Standard’ certified translation should consist of the original document, translated version and a cover letter, which states that the translation is accurate and that the linguist (or translation supplier) who converted it into the target language takes full responsibility for its accuracy. This letter must contain signature and an official stamp from the language service provider (LSP).

A notarised translation is in many ways very similar to the standard certification, however, it also additionally consists of a notarisation letter from a legal professional, such as solicitor or a notary public in the UK. The legal advisor will sign and stamp the translation once they confirm the credential of the certified translator in person. This means, that the person who translated your documents will have to visit a notary public in person and provide a physical, original copy of their documents such as passport, ID and all relevant accreditations. 

In some European countries, a certified translation is known as ‘sworn’. A professional sworn translator is registered with the country’s official government bodies for linguists, consequently allowing them to offer a certified translation service. Some translation agencies based in the UK offer sworn translations as they work with a wide range of international linguists, who are officially and legally recognised in their countries. 

Who is able to supply a certified document translation in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, certified document translation can be supplied and provided by either a professional translator, who is officially registered with an established translation body, such as Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), or a language service provider (LSP). An LSP is usually a translation agency registered and fully recognised by the Association of Translation Companies, also known as the ATC UK. In order to become a member of the ATC, the translations supplier must undergo very rigorous tests and meet specific criteria.

When approaching a certified translations supplier, make sure to ask whether they are recognised by the association or official bodies mentioned above, as your translated documents will only be officially legalised, if they are. 

How much should an official translation cost?

This is a really difficult question to give a definite answer to, as the price might vary depending on a number of different aspects, each of which can directly influence the final price. 

One of the key factors which can determine the final price of a certified translation service is the type of your documents. Of course, the longer your documents are, the more expensive it can be to convert them into the target language. Short documents however, which only consist of 1 or 2 pages, should usually cost around £30 to £40 and take no longer than 2-3 days to complete. Majority of UK based translation providers also offer free delivery of the physical copy of your documents. 

Interestingly, the required languages can also influence the price of an official translation. Some languages, such as German, Spanish, Polish or French tend to be cheaper, as they are widely available amongst UK agencies. Others, for example, Japanese or Danish can be slightly more expensive. 

Where can I find a certified translation supplier?

In order to find a certified translation supplier, you can take one of two available routes, and that’s either working with a freelance linguist or a professional translations agency. 

Each approach has its very own benefits and drawbacks. 

Working with a translation agency tends to be on the more expensive side of things. However, your translations will be completed much quicker and if you require more than one language to be translated, the chances are you can achieve everything simply in one place. Communication is also usually much more efficient.

Freelance translators, on the other hand, can take slightly longer to deliver your translation or answer to any queries that you might have regarding your documents, nonetheless, they are often slightly cheaper than larger companies.  

If you decide to work with an agency, make sure to visit the ATC official website, which you can find here. All of the key and legally recognised LSPs will be listed there, and so you can take your pick according to you specific requirements. A full directory of all freelance translators can be found on the Proz.com website.

As you can see, obtaining a legalised translation isn’t as daunting as it may seem to be at first. Once you are able to better understand the different certification levels, what to expect in terms of price and turnaround times as well as know where to look for a supplier, you should be confident enough to approach your chosen supplier and request the translation of your documents.t

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