Certified translator or qualified translator?
There is sometimes confusion about the difference between a certified translator and a qualified translator. A certified translator should certainly be qualified, but a qualified translator may not be certified.
What is a certified translator?
In some countries, translators can be affiliated with a particular court and are allowed to self-certify their translations, usually legal in nature, and affix a court stamp testifying to the accuracy and trustworthiness of the translation. In this instance, they are referred to as a “certified translator”, providing certified translations.
The same is not true in the UK, however, where the translation market is much more unregulated. That’s not to say we don’t have professional translators, but certifying translations is a different process. A court stamp similar to what you might be able to obtain in France or Germany simply isn’t possible in the UK.
One option is to look for a qualified translator with membership to a translation body, such as the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) or Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL), who can provide a signed statement in which they confirm their credentials and attest to the accuracy of their translation.
For legal translations, however, you might request a notarised translation, whereby the translator presents their translation to a Notary Public. It is important to remember that notarisation does not provide a guarantee of translation quality, it simply confirms that the translator has been able to demonstrate their translation credentials.
What is a qualified translator?
Whether looking for a certified translation or not, you should always seek to entrust your project to a fully-qualified and professional translator. Not only should it mean they are working into their mother tongue, but they will also have learned the craft of translation: how to convey not only the meaning of the source text but also the tone and intention.
A less experienced or under-qualified “translator” will often provide a literal word-for-word rendition of your text, leaving your target audience wondering why it doesn’t sound right and in which language the text was originally written.
Ideally your translator of choice should have an undergraduate degree, post-graduate diplomas, MSc or Masters Qualification. And of course, the longer they have been translating professionally, the better. Membership of a relevant industry body such as the ITI or CIoL are further evidence of the translator’s willingness to seek validation of their ability and professionalism.
What kind of translator do I need?
Whether you’re translating some material for some upcoming market research or you’re having employee contracts translated for use in an overseas market, accuracy is key, as are linguistic and cultural competence. A qualified translator who is an expert in their language and their industry sector, who has a minimum of five years’ experience in the field, and who has passed a translation test will undoubtedly give you more confidence in your translation.
It is most likely only for legal purposes that you might need some kind of “certified translation”, in which case your options, in the UK anyway, are a signed statement from the translator or a notarised translation.
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