Absolutely everything you should know about certified translations and how to get them done.

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The number of reasons why you might be required to translate and officially certify your documents, for both private as well as professional use, can be truly endless. From travelling abroad, applying for a visa or buying a house or even renting a car to expanding your business internationally and approaching foreign markets and trading with overseas partners, the list goes on.

Regardless of the reasons behind the need of converting your documents into another language, it is essential to understand how to go about the translation process, what the different certification types are and how to find and approach the most suitable language provider – and that’s exactly what we will discuss and cover in this article!

What is a certified translation?

Generally speaking, in the United Kingdom, a certified document translation service refers to converting documents from one language into another by an accredited, officially registered provider. What this means in practice, is that even if you are able to speak both of the languages fluently, you will not be able to translate the materials yourself. The only legally reconised way of obtaining a certified translation is working with an approved language provider, which specialises not only in your required languages, but also the particular document type you need to convert into the target language.

A translation is considered ‘officially certified’ if it is produced under one of these circumstances:

  1. The document has been translated by a ‘sworn translator’ (outside of UK)
  2. The document has been certified by an accredited language translations provider
  3. Certification in front of a solicitor

Different types of certified translation providers

There are two main methods to obtaining a certified translation – you can choose to work either with a freelance linguist, or an officially registered translation agency.

Generally speaking, working with a freelance translator is typically slightly cheaper. It also guarantees a high accuracy and is legally recognised by the authorities, such as the Home Office or Courts of Law. Nonetheless, the freelance linguist must be registered with an official body for translators, such as the CIOL (Chartered Institute of Linguists). This ensures that their accreditations are sufficient. The turnaround times for receiving your translated documents back might also be somewhat long and can sometimes take up to even two weeks.

Working with a translation agency on the other hand, can be more expensive than working with a freelance translator, however, you will be able to receive your translated and certified documents even the next working day, as it usually takes just 24 hours to convert the document. These agencies are also able to cover a wide range of document types and languages at the same time, and so if you have larger quantities of materials you require to be translated, working directly with a translation company might be the best way forward for you.

What are the different types of certified translations in the United Kingdom?

In principle, we can recognise 3 main types of certified translation services, these are the following:

  • A standard certified translation
  • A notarised translation
  • An Apostilled translation

In majority of cases, a standard certified translation is absolutely sufficient for a full legal use within the Untied Kingdom. This type of certification is signed and stamped by either the registered freelance linguists themselves or a representative of your chosen translation agency. It generally states full details, such as name, address and the registration number. As it is officially stamped, signed and accompanied by a cover letter, it can be legally used in majority of situations and presented to practically all interested authorities in the United Kingdom.

Nonetheless, in some specific situations you might be asked to provide an even further certification type. This is known as a notarised translation and involves a solicitor or a notary public signing the document, alongside the linguist. This is done in order to confirm translator’s credentials.

An apostille translation is a certification type, which is typically required when presenting the converted documents to an authority outside of the United Kingdom. This procedure is the same as for the described above ‘notarised translation’, however an apostille certification requires that the documents to be sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for validation. This translation is then valid within all countries abiding to the Hague Convention – so practically all of Europe, North & South America, Australia as well as some Asian and African countries.

How to find someone who can officially translate and certify my documents?

Generally speaking, if you do not have any prior experience in translating your documents and if you have never required the service before, either for a personal or business use, the chances are that you belong to one of the two main groups – people who believe that the translations are an extremely easy process, or the complete opposite, those who think that translating and certifying a document is a daunting and time-consuming process. As usual however, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

In order to officially translate a document into another language, you must approach a provider which is legally registered, and consequently authorised to carry out such services.

When looking for such a provider, you can take one of the two main ways of doing so – you can either find a professional translation agency which specialises in certified translation services, or alternatively, you can find a registered freelance linguist who will be able to cover your particular language pair and type of documents. Each of these approaches has their own drawbacks as well as benefits, and it is up to you to decide which solution works best for you.

Working with a translation agency is, usually, slightly more expensive than working with a freelance linguist. Nonetheless, you will be able to receive your documents back within just few days, whereas a freelance linguist might take even up to two or three weeks to translate and certify them.

Additionally, a freelance translators works with only one language pair, whilst translation agencies are oftentimes able to cover more than hundred different languages at the same time. If you require your documents converted for corporate or business use, this might be a truly great benefit.

Lastly, translation companies can provide most of the different certification types available. Whether it’s a standard, notarised or apostilled translation that you require, expert agencies will be able to advise you and then facilitate your requests.

As you can see, certified translation process isn’t as straightforward as some people might think initially, but at the same time, working directly with a professional provider, either a freelance linguist or an experienced translation agency, can make the process as uncomplicated as possible. Once you establish which certification type you are required to present to the interested party, a translation provider should be able to take care of everything on their side, simply sending you the converted and certified documents once they are ready.

Interesting Related Article: “5 Secrets to Effective Corporate Translations