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Can you certify my translation? April 27, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Translation Sites.
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Certified translations are probably the most misunderstood concept in translation. Many countries in Europe have certified translators who have to take an exam in order to be able to certify their translations with a personalized stamp. In Germany they are called “staatlich geprüfte Übersetzer.” There is no such thing in the United States. To quote Denzel Dyer, “In general, a certified translation (in the US) is one to which the translator has added a statement that the translation is true, accurate, and correct “to the best of my knowledge and ability.” The statement may be made under oath, or “under penalty of perjury,” and may be notarized to confirm the identity of the person signing the statement.”

You do not need to be certified by the American Translators Association in order to certify a translation. In my case, I include my M.A. with my name and indicate that I am an active member of the ATA. You are merely certifying that the translation has been translated “to the best of [your] knowledge and ability.” Any translator can produce a translation which is correct to the best of his or her knowledge and belief.

Many times an individual will contact me and need a certified copy of a birth certificate for immigration or legal purposes. Just the other day I translated a birth certificate and vaccination booklet entries for a private individual. Another client frequently asks me to certify my translation of medical reports for a clinical trial. Depending on what the client needs, I add a cover sheet with my declaration that I have translated it “to the best of my knowledge and ability” and take it to a notary public, who also signs it and stamps it. Note that this declaration must be attached to the translation, with individual pages of the translation initialed. That requires delivery of the actual paper, so I usually mail it to the client. I charge a fee for the time I spend driving to and from the notary, the notary’s fee, and printing and postage costs.

Here are some possible formulations you could use:

I, [insert name here], a translator of proven expertise in translating German to English and an active member of the American Translators Association, do hereby certify that the foregoing is, to the best of my knowledge and ability, a true and correct English translation of the original German documents.

In Solon, Ohio, USA, this ___________ day of ______________________________.

_____________________________________________
[TRANSLATOR’S NAME]

STATE OF OHIO
CUYAHOGA COUNTY

I, the undersigned Notary Public, do hereby certify that [Jill R. Sommer] appeared before me and acknowledged that she is an active member of the American Translators Association and that she executed this document of her own free act and deed.

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

_____________________________________________
NOTARY PUBLIC

I, [insert name here], a translator of proven expertise in translating German to English and an active member of the American Translators Association, do hereby certify that this document, which I have translated on behalf of [client name], is, to the best of my knowledge and ability, a true and correct English translation of the German document:

I, ________, declare under penalty of perjury that I understand the German language and the English language; that I am certified by the American Translators Association for translation from German to English; and that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, the statements in the English language in the attached translation of ___________, consisting of ____ pages which I have initialed, have the same meanings as the statements in the German language in the original document, a copy of which I have examined.

Does anyone have any other formulations they would like to share? Everyone probably does. Feel free to add them in the comments. I sometimes feel the comments are the best part of a blog post, because I learn so much from you guys.

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Comments»

1. Judy Jenner - April 27, 2009

Good point. I find myself explaining this frequently to customers as well. Occassionally, customers are still reluctant and want to hear that there’s a government certification, but unfortunately, there is not. I have been using a disclaimer very similar to the one you have (inspired by yours, thanks a lot), and it’s always been accepted. And you have to love the Germans/Austrians/Europeans in general with their great certifications — very European bureaucracy, but the standardization is nice.

2. anon - April 27, 2009

Thanks for the post. It was very helpful. I emailed the local US consulate asking what a certified translation is, but they only told me to use a professional translator and would not answer the question.

3. Nicole Pennebaker - April 27, 2009

Great topic! This is so frequently misunderstood. Thank you for including the wording you use for certifying your translations. It’s very thorough and I think I’m going to change mine! Currently I use this:

I, Nicole J. Pennebaker, declare under penalty of perjury that I am thoroughly competent in both French and English, and that the foregoing document is a true and correct translation of the attached birth certificate, which I translated from French to English on this 22nd day of August, 2008.
________________________________
[signature]

I’d like to add a clarification to your post. Translations of official documents for immigration purposes (i.e. for USCIS – including birth certificates, the Justice Department, embassies, consulates and the police) do not need to be notarized. This is really confusing because occasionally documents for some U.S. courts and universities DO need to be notarized. If the client isn’t sure if they need a notarized certification it’s certainly safer to go ahead and do it. There is an article for translators on my website that explains some of the intricacies of translating official documents and the certification process.

Thanks again for posting such a great topic!

4. Tom Ellett - April 27, 2009

Like many European countries, Canada has an official system of translator certification. I believe Ontario was the first jurisdiction in the world (certainly in the English-speaking world) to introduce some form of regulation for the translation profession, back in the 1920s or ’30s.

Use of the reserved title “certified translator” is governed by provincial law and requires the holder to have passed the certification exam in the relevant language combination and to be a paid-up member of the provincial translators’ association.

Since a standard certification exam is now used across Canada, a certified translator’s stamp is acceptable to most federal and provincial institutions without additional notarization. However, I always advise out-of-province clients in particular to check with the intended recipient of the translation before placing an order.

Certification is offered only in language combinations involving one or both of Canada’s official languages (English and French). Translators using the “certified” title in connection with a language combination for which they are not certified are likely to be struck off.

The wording I use in my declaration is as follows:

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]

[Signature]

[Name]
Certified Translator [SL]–EN (Canada)

5. Kevin Lossner - April 27, 2009

Actually, Jill, passing state exams for translation in Germany does not give you the right to certify translations. I am a staatlich geprüfter Übersetzer (through the relevant state testing authority in Berlin), but it is my status as a court sworn translator in Bavaria that allows me to certify translations. To qualify as a translator for the courts in Germany, one must meet various criteria, which differ in each German state. State exams or recognized equivalents are required in Bavaria, but in other states a degree in translation or a pulse will suffice.

jillsommer - April 27, 2009

Kevin, so why bother taking the test? I didn’t have to be staatlich geprüft in order to translate in Germany. If the test doesn’t afford you the right to certify translations why bother? Just curious.

6. Sarah Dillon - April 28, 2009

Excellent post Jill, this is so often an area of confusion for translators and clients alike. I’m actually in the process of writing up an FAQ on this for my new website, I’ll post a link here when it’s done! (although based on past experience, goodness knows how long more THAT will take…)

7. Shannon Jimenez - April 28, 2009

Your certification is almost exactly the same as mine. Just a note to those in California (and possibly other states): California has very specific language that must be used for the notary part of the certification that is different than the language used by other states. If the correct wording isn’t used, they are not allowed to sign.

My nice local notary provided me with a copy of the statement he is allowed to sign so I could add it to my certification on my letterhead. If you haven’t notarized your certifications before (and, as Nicole noted above, it’s not actually required for US immigration documents, but some people want it anyway), you should consult your local notary about the wording you should use.

8. Irene - May 5, 2009

Hi Jill,
what you wrote about the ‘staatlich geprüfte Übersetzer’ is not quite true. If you want to be able to certify translations you need to be a ‘öffentlich bestellter/ermächtigter Übersetzer’. This, however, has nothing to do with you academic or non-academic training. The following link provides very good insight:

http://www.aticom.de/a-faq.htm#uu
Quotation:
“Was sind ermächtigte/bestellte Übersetzer?
Diese Übersetzer sind von den Gerichten besonders ermächtigt oder bestellt. Vor ihrer gerichtlichen Bestellung wurden sie auf ihre persönliche und fachliche Eignung geprüft. Je nach Bundesland werden sie in Deutschland als ermächtigte oder öffentlich bestellte Übersetzer bezeichnet. Sie erstellen Übersetzungen öffentlicher und privatschriftlicher Urkunden jeglicher Art und sind berechtigt, die “Richtigkeit und Vollständigkeit der Übersetzung” zu bescheinigen. Ermächtigte/bestellte Übersetzer sind zur Verschwiegenheit und Unparteilichkeit verpflichtet.

Übrigens sind “staatlich geprüfte Übersetzer” nicht automatisch auch “ermächtigt” oder “bestellt”. Die Ermächtigung/Bestellung ist von einer abgelegten staatlichen Prüfung oder erworbenen akademischen Qualifikation (Diplom, akademische Prüfung usw.) vollkommen unabhängig.”

Whether or not a translator wants to be able to certify the correctness and integrity of the documents translated is therefore completely up to him or her and he or she must explicitly apply for that function. I just wanted to mention that because we all know that ‘the outside world’ has a hard time even distinguishing between translators and interpreters, let alone between titles and so on. However, I think that translators and interpreters should definitely be familiar with the in-depth details.

jillsommer - May 5, 2009

Thank you so much for sharing this information with us, Irene! Very informative. I never jumped through the hoops, so that was definitely a Bildungslücke (for those non-German speakers: gap in my education) on my part.

9. Lynn - June 24, 2009

Great point! So true that the clients are not always sure what they are requesting verses what they actually need. Thanks for the information.

Atlanta, GA

10. Starlette - August 25, 2009

If one is a translator and a notary, can that person notarize their own translation?

jillsommer - August 25, 2009

No. That would negate the fact that the notary is certifying that the person is who they claim. You need a second person to notarize that you are indeed who you claim you are.

Starlette - August 26, 2009

Thank you.

11. Terena - September 1, 2009

I’ve found putting things on company letterhead go a long way…

12. Toto - March 24, 2012

Hi, three months in 2012 as freelance translator, I found your sites very very useful, how glad i am to found your site!!

Jill (@bonnjill) - March 24, 2012

Welcome to the profession, Toto, and good luck!

13. Norbert - June 7, 2012

How can a notary certify a translator, shouldn’t it be some kind of expert linguist? Certified translators in my country are examined by academicians in the area of lingusitics.
On the other hand, I understand that we are all prone to make mistakes, however, if you stamp a document, you think twice bewfore you commit something to paper.

Norbert

Jill (@bonnjill) - June 7, 2012

That’s just not the way it works here in the U.S., Norbert. Translation just isn’t as common, so no one in the legislature has ever given it much thought. Right now the notary only certifies that the translator is who he/she says they are. One would hope that the translator who is putting their name on the document would have it proofread by a second (linguistic) source before visiting the notary. But legally they don’t have to at this point.

Vladimir K. - July 20, 2012

To clarify it a bit (“Right now the notary only certifies that the translator is who he/she says they are”) the notary, strictly speaking, only certifies that a certain person (first and last name) brought a certain printout with some text and said it was a translation he/she had done and affixed his/her name and signature (the latter while in the notary’s presence) and provided his/her photo ID (driver’s license) for proof of identity. The notary’s wording was only “State of Florida, County of …, Sworn to and subscribed before me this (date) by (translator’s name)”.
Notary’s name, signature, stamp

In other words, what she says here is: this guy came in with a translation, gave me his name (and proved it); also he showed me a document he said he translated and certified as a translator – he swore he did what he said (translation, fluency, whatever’s in the translator’s certification) and I attest that I heard and read this oath/certification.

My notary never even asks to see the source document, photocopy or original.

Helen Eby - August 27, 2012

In the state of Oregon, all documents that are translated are reviewed by an Oregon court certified interpreter to determine whether they will be accepted.

14. Vane - September 11, 2012

Hello I’d like to know what an official certified translation is in the USA. Does the word official means it has to be a ¨public¨ or “sworn” translation? If I am a freelance translator can I make an official certified translation just by adding a disclaimer like the ones you mentioned. I’m not a member of the ATA and I’m from Peru.

Vladimir K. - September 12, 2012

Whatever you imply by words “official” (translated by a government employee?), “sworn” (how can one be sworn for a translation?) or “certified” (as discussed before, the translator is the one who certifies his/her translation)

15. Marie-H - November 9, 2012

Hello, I need to translate my birth certificate (in French) for USCIS and I am fluent in both French and English. Would I be able to translate it myself writing the disclosure that the translation is complete and accurate, and that I am competent to translate from the foreign language into English?
Thank you very much!

Jill (@bonnjill) - November 9, 2012

No, you cannot certify a translation for yourself. You will have to have it translated by someone. I’m not sure what the laws in Canada are, but I’m fairly certain that they actually have state-certified translators.

16. Jana - Czech English Translator - January 12, 2013

A very informative post, thank you. I live in the UK and translate between Czech and English. As the profession is not regulated in the UK, the term “certified translation” means the same as desribed above – I simply attach a declaration that the translation is true, accurate etc, and it is enough. British institutions don’t seem to be very fussy. Unlike the Czech ones. In the Czech Republic there is a system of so-called “court-sworn translators”. They are issued with a special round stamp and are the only people who can certify a translation. In other words, if you don’t have the stamp, your “certified” translation will not be accepted in the CR. There are some exceptions which I have recently discovered, though. When translating an official document (e.g. a birth certificate), I can translate it and the Czech Embassy in London will certify it with the “special” stamp for only £5!
Great website btw. Lots to read about 🙂

17. Sue - January 22, 2013

Hello, I need to translate my kids’ birth certificates and my marriage certificate to apply for citizenship for my kids. I am fluent in both languages. Can I translate them myself?

Jill (@bonnjill) - January 22, 2013

No, you absolutely cannot. It needs to be translated and certified by a third party who is not related and has no interest in the matter.

18. Olivia - March 18, 2013

Awesome article.

JMS - June 6, 2013

“a degree in translation or a pulse will suffice.” !

19. Lupe - July 3, 2013

Hello, just double checking. My husband needs a Child Support Document translated. I am fluent on both languages. Can I translate?

Jill (@bonnjill) - July 3, 2013

No, Lupe, you absolutely cannot translate your husband’s child support document. For both ethical and legal reasons. First, ethically, a translator cannot translate a family member’s legal document. What would keep you from adding something that isn’t there or modifying something in the original? The recipient could question the veracity of the translation. Also, legally, you have to have some qualifications showing you are qualified to translate the document. Simply thinking you are fluent in both languages does not qualify you in the eyes of the court. The document must be translated by a third party who is preferably a native speaker of the target language.

20. Rebecca Henderson - August 13, 2013

Jill, I just would like to thank you, your certification inspired me and added some to the one I had. I translate English-Spanish, and State Licensed (in Mexico). It doesn’t hurt to add a disclaimer.
thank you again
Rebecca

21. Matt Pour - October 20, 2013

21. Hello, can we use a document translated and certified by ATA. (American Translators Association), in Canada for immigration purposes?
Thanks

Jill (@bonnjill) - October 20, 2013

The ATA does not certify translations. You would need a translation that is certified by an individual translator. I would suggest you ask your immigration lawyer what you need.

22. Matt Pour - October 21, 2013

Thanks!

Matt

23. Sam Ben - May 16, 2014

Hi Guys, I have bachelor`s degree in translation I used to work for translation companies in different country just by having university degree I am certified? I mean in usa because in my country It’s completely different
Thanks

Jill (@bonnjill) - May 21, 2014

Yes and no. In the US there is no official certification process. There are certification exams that are held by the various professional organizations, and those people can call themselves certified once they pass the exam. However, anyone can certify a translation by adding a notarized statement that states how they are qualified to vouch that it is a true and accurate translation of the original. However, you cannot call yourself certified if you have not taken and passed a certification exam. The associations are working to fix this loophole, but technically anyone can certify a translation. You do not have to be a certified translator to do so.

Sam ben - May 21, 2014

Thanks Jill, I think it’s not fair so you spend 4 years or 6 years studying translation, in the end anyone without degree do your job !!

24. Claudia - May 6, 2015

Hello Jill! Thanks for your Blog’s discussions and its content. In this case, don’t you think they are probably asking for a sworn translation? I don’t think a notary declaration like these ones above can substitute a sworn translation made by a registered sworn translator (unless you are one, and I am not aware of.). What about if the notary doesn’t even know the source language? What this instance will be stating or certifying?

Jill (@bonnjill) - May 6, 2015

There is no such thing as a sworn translation in the U.S. We don’t have sworn translators. The notary is simply verifying that the translator is who they say they are.

25. richardbandini@gmail.com - September 24, 2015

Can I translate and certify my own birth certificate and any other Spanish documents into English and submit them to USCIS when applying for permanent residence? Do I need a notary if I´m the applicant? I guess it´s recommended to say what makes you a qualified translator. In my case, I’ve been working as a bilingual teacher (Spanish-English) both in Spain and the United States and I also have several official certificates in English as a foreign language.
Thanks for your help and information!

Jill (@bonnjill) - September 24, 2015

It does not matter. It is unethical to translate your own documents. I imagine USCIS has guidelines that clearly state that you cannot do it yourself. You need another translator to do it.

26. Ayman - November 22, 2015

Hi Jill,
I have a question please, I’m in the process of planning for launching a USCIS translation service, the business will not have physical address in US. Should the translators who do translate the document live in US? and for notarization, should each translator goes him/her self to the local notary? or the project manager can?

Jill (@bonnjill) - November 26, 2015

I’m sorry, but I honestly don’t know how to answer this. I suggest you ask a lawyer.

Ayman - November 26, 2015

No Problem Jill, Thanks for your attention anyway 🙂

27. Irene - November 26, 2015

Ayman, that depends very much on the respective country, state, and county you are working for/in. Legislation greatly varies outside the US so in Germany, I can notarize a document myself if I have applied for (and been approved for) the respective function which not only goes along with certain legal obligations, but is bound to location. In Spain, the situation is different again. What is important is that the translator is trained accordingly and meticulous as the seal involved is equivalent to a guarantee of same content.

28. Evelyne Warner - March 28, 2016

Reblogged this on Evelyne Warner Translation and commented:
Something I did not know

29. Gregory (Grisha) - October 10, 2016

Thank you very much Jill for posting this way back in 2009. I just read the entire post and bookmarked it. I am also checking ‘Notify my of new comments via email and Notify me of new posts via email.

Thank you also to everyone who asked GREAT questions to help me understand.

I’ll try to be brief.. (I live in USA, Citizen, wife is from Russia)

Need translations for USCIS purposes, my wife and her 2 kids. She is also a translator, has a Degree from Russia that is Apostle (Apostled) Apostiled? (sp?). Anyway, she (and I) had determined (incorrectly) that she can translate (which she has done), take it to a Notary at a bank and get it notarized.

I now read this and learn (thank GOD!) that we would not have been able to use the translations because of the conflict of interest.

Thus, we must resort to using a Translator, who in turn will ‘certify’ that they are true and to the best of their knowledge.

I see $25 per page on average, for online services.

My question (finally :-)), what are the chances that a Freelance translator will be willing to use my wife’s translation as a guide (likely saving time) and charge less than their going rate?

Speculation, I know, but… thoughts?

Jill (@bonnjill) - October 10, 2016

Cheaper than $25 a page? I’d say pretty slim, but you can always ask. Every translator is different.

Vladimir Kolteniuk - October 10, 2016

I am a translator that does this kind of translations all the time and just the other day a person called and asked if I could check and certify and notarize documents someone else would translate. I refused as I always do because it’s kind of weird.

I could revise somebody’s work and charge 3 to 4 cents a word which is about the habitual 25% of the average translation rate in the US for that kind of work but… I wouldn’t certify that and have it notarized as matter of principle because THAT job in its entirety is called certified and notarized translation and paid differently.

Your wife’s case is one of those rare occasions when a translator has to hire another translator to do translation for herself. Let her do that and being a translator herself she would soon make up what she’s paid by doing translations for other people.

30. Marissa - October 29, 2016

Hi, I have provided certifications to agencies I’ve worked with, which go with their letterhead and address in the USA for USA clients. I live in the UK, can I provide my particular clients with these auto-certified translations (not notarized) even though I don’t live in the US? Will my UK address be accepted by the embassy, for example?


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