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Certified translations – truth or myth? November 24, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Translation Sites.

Unlike the way things work in Germany, where translators apply with the courts to become beglaubigt, which then allows them to stamp and certify their translations, “certification” in the U.S. is a whole other ball of wax. Let us not get this confused with ATA certification, which entails taking (and passing – no small feat!) a test and having to complete a set number of continuing education points every two years in order to maintain your certification. You do not have to be an ATA certified translator to certify a translation.

I am talking about the translation and certification of legal documents, such as birth certificates and divorce decrees. NOTA published an article by Nancy Huskins, Doing the Impossible – Quite Possibly What Translators Do Best, in the May 2005 NOTA BENE that details the situation very well. We also have numerous quotes from our members about certification and how they certify documents.

I feel one comment in particular summed it up best:

I don’t really know what people want when they say “certified translation” and I guess they don’t know either. For whatever purpose they need a translation, they have been asked to get the translation “certified” and they pass the requirement to the translator. I also have continuous requests for “certified translation” and it always involves birth certificates or other type of certificates and also diplomas. What I do, after the translation, I just add a sentence which reads, “This translation has been prepared by me, (name). I am a professional translator and fully competent to translate, and to the best of my knowledge and ability, this translation is
complete and accurate.” Signed, dated and signature notarized, and it always works. Which leads me to believe that this is a “certified translation.”

When I need to certify a translation I include a cover page (see below) and go to a notary public to get my document(s) notarized. The notary public can be a secretary, someone at a bank, or a fellow translator. There are several translators I know who are notary publics. They, like other notary publics, still can’t confirm that the translation is a “true and accurate translation of the attached original,” but they can notarize you “appeared before them and acknowledged that [you are] an active/certified member of the American Translators Association and that [you] executed the document as [your] free act and deed”. You also might want to include a disclaimer such as “to the best of my knowledge and ability.”

The best certification example, which was submitted by Dr. Lee Wright and a version of which I now use, is as follows:

[to be printed on translator’s business letterhead]


I, [translator’s name] ([translator’s academic or other credentials, if any; e.g., Ph.D.]), a translator of proven expertise in translating to [target language] and an active/certified member of the American Translators Association by a certificate attesting thereto issued on [date], do hereby CERTIFY that the foregoing translation of [a] document[s] pertaining to:
corresponds to its/their original in [language], which I had in my possession.

In [city], [state], USA, on the ____________ day of _______________, ______.


I, the undersigned Notary Public, do hereby certify that [translator’s name] appeared before me and acknowledged that [she/he] is an active, certified member of the American Translators Association and that [she/he] executed this document of [her/his] own free act and deed.

In witness whereof, I have set my hand and seal, this ___________ day of ______________________________.


Naturally, you shouldn’t include the “original in [language], which I had in my possession” if you only had a copy of the document. And of course it goes without saying that you should always charge for the time and extra work involved with certifying a document.



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