Standard translation versus sworn translation

Published on 05/05/2020

When we hear the term sworn translation and compare it with the standard translation, the difference seems to be obvious and intuitive: the former is official and certified, while the latter is not. However, to this brief definition we must add several differences between these two types of translation.

Belonging to the field of legal translation, sworn translation has a number of peculiarities, especially in terms of process. Why should we use a sworn translator? For what kind of documents? How is a sworn translation done?

1. Differences between standard and sworn translation

Differences between standard and sworn translation

1.1. Standard translation

The standard translation covers all documents that have no official or legal value. So it includes all kinds of translations, including specialized translations:

1.2. Sworn translation

Sworn translation, also known in the common language as official or certified, corresponds to the translation of legal, official or juridical documents, but also technical or medical documents. It requires that it be carried out by a professional sworn translator who is registered on the list of sworn translators - interpreters appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

Once translated by a sworn translator, the document will have to be "certified as being in conformity with the original" and sent to the recipients along with a copy of the original. The sworn translation must be signed and stamped by the sworn translator, and the copy of the original must include the date and stamp of the translator on all pages.

1.3. Legal translation and sworn translation

There is a lot of confusion between legal translation and sworn translation. The translation of a legal document can be carried out without it having to be a sworn translation. However, it is understandable that there is some confusion since sworn translations are usually of legal documents.

A sworn translation of an official or legal document must be made in accordance with its use in the country of destination (for administrative purposes, to obtain other documents, etc.)

2. When and why should we use a sworn translator?

When and why should we use a sworn translator?

The fact of having to resort to a sworn translator will depend on two aspects:

  • Who are the documents for?
  • What type of document should be translated?

Unless it is for personal use, some documents require a sworn translation in order to retain their legal value in the target country, such as an identity card or driving licence in some European countries.

In addition, if the document is addressed to an institution in the context of administrative procedures, for example, a certified translation must be provided. In most cases, it is the jurisdiction or the corresponding administration that establishes the obligatory use of sworn translations or, failing that, informs about the procedure to be followed.

If you are looking for a sworn translator in the case of Spain, you can consult the updated List of sworn translators - interpreters appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

3. Certified Translation: what documents does it cover?

Many documents may require a sworn translation in order to be accepted for use in the target country. Below is a comprehensive list of documents that normally require a sworn translation:

  • Company certificate from the commercial register
  • Marital status documents
  • Passports
  • Identity card, residence permits
  • Driver's license
  • Authorization writings
  • Wills
  • Administrative certificates
  • Adoption files
  • Sales commitments
  • Deeds and notarial acts
  • Sentences
  • Official Records
  • Diplomas, transcripts
  • Etc.

Sworn translation is indispensable in certain cases involving official or professional justice institutions (notaries, consulates, management and procedural personnel, lawyers, tax administration, courts, etc.). For all other cases, the standard translation can be used.

The difference between the two lies in the procedure involved in the sworn translation. The competences of the professional translator concerned shall be the same.

Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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