Certified Document Translation: Can’t You Just Certify My (Or Someone Else’s) Translation??

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Caller (about certified document translation): “I have this document already translated, I just need you to certify it.”

We get this question about certified document translation so often I feel the need to address it. First, let’s get on the same page about what certified translation is. I have seen many versions of certified documents but for us at TLC, a certified document for use in the United States includes the following:

    • Certification page. This is a hard copy document that includes our complete contact information and an affidavit-like statement that declares the translation was done to the best of our belief and ability by a qualified translator. Information on the language of the document, type of the document, number of pages and other particulars is also included. The certification is notarized and labelled with a unique, traceable number.
    • Hard copy of the original document.
    • Hard copy of the translated document.

By issuing the certification we essentially guarantee the translation is complete and accurate. We also guarantee that we stand by our work. As certified translation is most frequently requested for documents with legal implications, it is obvious that by certifying a translation we are also willing to stand by our work should it be challenged in court.

Customers frequently believe they can cut down on their translation cost by either translating the documents needing certification themselves or asking their employees or acquaintances to translate. But this can backfire.

A certified translation follows a set of particular rules and it is unlikely that someone who merely speaks the language will know how to reflect the individual elements of the original document in the translation so it would be acceptable for certification.

While we may agree to utilize the existing translation, we will need to review it thoroughly and, more then likely, modifications will need to be made. This process, as simple as it sounds, sometimes ends up being more expensive that doing the translation from scratch. Why? Because reading, reviewing and rewriting portions of text takes more time and effort than simply translating. The major assumption here is also that the translated document needs to be available to us in a text editable format, which is frequently not the case.

The other issue is usually time. A customer bringing an already translated document thinks that all we will do is attach our certificate and notary stamp while they wait and they will be on their way. When they find out that we will take as much time as we normally would for complete translation, they are suddenly worried about meeting their deadlines.

My recommendation: Call to discuss your certified translation before the translation is done. Consultations are always free and you can’t go wrong planning your next steps and timeline.

 A side note: Certified translation does NOT take place of an Apostille. This is a common misconception. An Apostille (based on the Hague Convention) is issued by the Secretary of State, and communicates the official nature of a document to a foreign country. It is a series of numbered fields verifying the signature of the person who signed the document, their official position/function and identifying any seals or stamps used. If a translated document needs an Apostille, the sequence of events would be to first have the document translated and certified (notarized) and then request an Apostille.

Do not hesitate to call us with any questions – TLC is here to help!

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