What Kind of Translation Should You Use?

Posted by Rachel Wheeler on August 30, 2017


When dealing with legal matters, employment processes, academic applications, and similar issues, you may be asked to provide a certified or notarized translation. The two are different, and submitting the right one requires knowing the difference between the two. Luckily, if you hire a reputable translation company, they’ll usually be able to provide either one.

When to Use Certified Translations?

A certified translation doesn’t necessarily mean that the person who translated it is a certified translator. Although organizations like the American Translators Association do offer certification programs, you don’t need to have participated in one to provide a certified translation.

However, rules and regulations regarding certification usually vary between nations. Therefore, this discrepancy in a non-officially recognized translator being able to provide certified translations is only the case in the United States. In some other countries, it’s necessary for an individual to hold an official certification before they can certify the accuracy of a document. If you’re not sure what the restrictions are in a particular country, ask an expert from there.

In the United States, any translator confident in the quality of their work can attach a signed certificate of accuracy to a document, affirming that it is an accurate translation of an original document. Typically, a translator will be asked to certify legal documents, like birth certificates, death certificates, employment and business contracts, adoption agreements, and similar materials.

When to Use Notarized Translations?

A notarized translation is more likely to be requested for official documents that don’t have as much legal weight. Often, documents like diplomas or transcripts are notarized after being translated. Rule of thumb: if your document contains precise legal language that needs to be entirely accurate, have it certified. If your goal is merely to demonstrate that you’ve been following proper procedures, you should have it notarized.

The process is simple: Your translator meets with a notary public and has them sign an affidavit confirming that the document is an accurate translation. The notary typically doesn’t even check the document for quality. Essentially, their job is to provide official confirmation that your translator was there and did attest to the accuracy of the translation. Again, the main function of a notarized translation is to prove that the appropriate process was put in place and executed.

In rare instances, someone may ask that you provide a both a notarized and certified translation, but that usually isn’t the case. Odds are good that if someone wants a notarized or certified translation, they’ll request either one or the other. Whichever they choose, make sure you hire a reliable translation service. If you’re submitting an officially certified or notarized document, you want to be sure that it’s as accurate as you claim it to be.

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