Translating for legal equivalence

Translating for legal equivalence is the production of translations that are acceptable by a legal jurisdiction.

For legal and official purposes, evidentiary documents and other official documentation are usually required in the official language(s) of a jurisdiction.

In some countries, it is a requirement for translations of such documents that a translator swear an oath to attest that it is the legal equivalent of the source text. Often, only translators of a special class are authorized to swear such oaths. In some cases, the translation is only accepted as a legal equivalent if it is accompanied by the original or a sworn or certified copy of it.

Even if a translator specializes in legal translation or is a lawyer in his country, this does not necessarily make him a sworn translator.

The procedure for translating to legal equivalence differs from country to country.


In compliance with Law #20,305, all public documents (including personal papers and some commercial contracts) have to be translated and signed by a certified "public translator" (traductor público), whose seal and signature have to be legalized on each document by the Translators' professional body of their jurisdiction. All private persons, companies, the judiciary and other government departments are subject to this law regarding documents or depositions in a foreign language.[1] In order to be certified as a public translator for a major European language, candidates have to attend university courses leading to the professional degree of traductor público.


"Sworn Translators" (singular Dutch: beëdigd vertaler, French: traducteur assermenté) or "Sworn Interpreter" (singular Dutch: beëdigd tolk, French: interprète assermenté) swear an oath before the President of the Court of First Instance of the judicial district in which they have their place of residence. In the past translators and interpreters in all judicial districts aspiring to "sworn" status were screened for suitability by the Crown Prosecutor. The candidate has to state the language combinations for he or she wishes to be sworn. A diploma of translator/interpreter is usually regarded as adequate proof of competence. There is no limitation on the language combinations which can be recognized. However, following a scandal involving an illegal immigrant who obtained sworn translator status, The President of the Court of First Instance at Antwerp, launched an experimental scheme whereby aspiring sworn translators and interpreters have to undergo training organized by the Ministry of Justice and submit to examination. The same President, based on his interpretation of the language laws, also ruled that the only language combinations that could be recognized for sworn translator/interpreter status were those in which Dutch was either the original language or the target language. This view has not yet been adopted by other judicial districts in Belgium.


Official documents can only be translated by Public Sworn Translators and Interpreters, who are certified and accredited by the registry of commerce of each state. The applicants must pass highly demanding oral and written examinations for specific language pairs. They undergo background checks before receiving a registration number, which must be informed in the heading of every translation. Ad hoc (temporary) translators can also be appointed by the Registry of Commerce to do a single translation job, when there is no Public Translator registered for that specific language pair. The registry of commerce of each state also sets the translation fees. Although the public sworn translator/interpreter must reside in the state of registration, his translations are valid in the entire country. Institutions and government agencies in cities and states different from those of residence of the public sworn translator may require the notarial verification of the translator's signature. Foreign documents must be verified by a Brazilian consulate or embassy in the country they were issued before translation. Official documents translated into a foreign language need to have the public sworn translator's signature verified by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs if the institution or government agency of the foreign country so requires.[2]


German regional courts (Landgerichte) have the power to appoint "sworn translators". The specific title and the appointment procedure are different in each state. In most cases, the candidates are required to pass an examination.


There are five qualification types for translators and interpreters in Hungary: technical translator, technical translator-proofreader, interpreter, technical interpreter and conference interpreter. These qualifications can be acquired in BA and MA programmes, postgraduate courses and in institutions accredited by the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice.

Anyone regardless of age and qualification may apply for a qualifying examination in interpretation. Qualifications for technical translation, technical translation proofreading, technical interpretation and conference interpretation can be obtained in the following fields: social science, natural science, technology and economics. Anyone with a degree in one of the above fields may apply for a qualifying examination in technical translation and technical interpretation in the given field. Qualified technical interpreters and technical translators may be further qualified for conference interpretation and technical translation proofreading, respectively.[3]

The National Office for Translation and Attestation (Országos Fordító és Fordításhitelesítő Iroda, OFFI)[4] is a company in Hungary that has the exclusive right to certify translations both from and to Hungarian created by the office itself or a third party, and to make certified copies of documents written in a foreign language.[5] Interpretation in courts of Budapest is provided by OFFI. If the Office cannot provide an interpreter, and for courts outside Budapest, an interpreter registered by the local authorities will be appointed. If no official interpreter is available, a suitable person with a good command of the required language will be appointed.[6]


There is less documentation and sources known. A sworn-in Interpreter or Translator as per Maharashtra Courts Civil Law Chapter 26 of OATHS AND AFFIDAVITS prescribed under section 6 of the Oaths Act, 1969 (point 515) may with help of Form No.3 make an affidavit that he shall well and truly interpret evidences given by witnesses and translate correctly and accurately all documents given to him or her for translation.


In Indonesia, sworn translators are persons having attended and passed legal translation examination organized by the School of Linguistics and Cultural Sciences, University of Indonesia (FIB, UI). After passing the exam, they will be sworn in by the Governor of DKI Jakarta, provided that they have a Jakarta ID card. For other regions, each has to write to their respective Governor to take oath by their governor, thus obtain the status 'sworn'.

Alternatively, the Association of Indonesian Translators or HPI also have exams for members who wants to have a certification as a competent, professional translator or interpreter. Upon passing, the certification will expire in 5 years.[7]


Both Italian courts and consulates have the power to appoint as "official translators" (traduttori giurati or ufficiali) candidates who pass an examination or show proof of language proficiency (usually a university degree).


There are, in Mexico, two certifications for sworn translators: the local certification granted by the Superior Court of Justice corresponding to each of the 32 states and the one of the Superior Court of Justice corresponding to the federation. Both institutions establish that a written and oral examination shall be passed for a translator to be recognized as an expert or "sworn" (certified) translator (perito traductor); this type of translator does not swear before the court to be authorized. Although the local certification is officially valid for only one of the 32 states, a translator from any of the states may work for a client from any of the states, provided that the client accepts the translator.[8]


Candidates are certified by the Association of Government Authorized Translators,[9] after they pass a very demanding examination. Successful candidates are then authorized by the Norwegian government to sign their translations, after the phrase "True Translation Certified." The Association was founded in 1913.


The standards of translation in Poland are regulated by a relevant department of the Ministry of Justice,[10] and every translator wishing to provide such services must pass a state examination. Afterwards such a person is entered on an official list, issued with a stamp and recognized as a sworn translator. However, for ordinary translations (business, administration, correspondence) it is enough to have an independent expert in the field.[11]

South Africa

In South Africa, the translator must be authorized by the High Court, and must use an original (or a sworn copy of an original) in his physical presence as his source text. The translator may only swear by his own translation. There is no requirement for an additional witness (such as a notary) to attest to the authenticity of the translation.


Only sworn translators can do a sworn translation in Spain. To become a sworn translator in Spain for a combination of Spanish and another language, the candidate has to be certified by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation as a "sworn translator and interpreter" (traductor-intérprete jurado). Then, the translator is required to register their stamp and signature with the Ministry, who includes the translator's data in a public list of sworn interpreters.[12]

Eligibility can be achieved either through a state exam or by completing the degree studies of Translation and Interpretation in a Spanish University, provided that the translator has passed certain law-related subjects.

Sworn translators for combinations including the other three co-official languages of Spain (Basque, Catalan and Galician) are certified by regional authorities following a similar procedure as the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


The Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency is an official agency that authorizes interpreters and translators, who must pass a stringent examination arranged by the organization. Authorized translators hold a protected professional title, and their translations are considered legal and binding for all legal purposes.[13]

The Netherlands

The Bureau for Sworn Interpreters and Translators, a department of the Dutch Legal Aid Council that has been entrusted by the Ministry of Justice with various implementation tasks in respect of the Sworn Interpreters and Translators Act. They have two levels of accreditation however only the highest level has legal validity.[14]

United Kingdom

There is no such thing as a "sworn translator" in the UK.[15] However, individual translations may be certified, by a solicitor (or a notary in Scotland), not to guarantee the quality of the translation, but so that the translator can be identified and held accountable.

United States of America

The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics states: "There is currently no universal form of certification required of interpreters and translators in the United States, but there are a variety of different tests that workers can take to demonstrate proficiency." [16]

See also


  1. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. Retrieved March 10, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. "Buscar tradutor por cidade". Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  3. "Szakfordító és tolmácsképesítések". Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  4. "OFFI". Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  5. "a szakfordításról és tolmácsolásról". Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  6. "a szakfordításról és a tolmácsolásról szóló 24/1986. (VI. 26.) MT rendelet végrehajtásáról". Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  7. Sertifikasi HPI, Information available in Indonesian.
  8. peritos Archived June 22, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Archived January 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. Interpreters and Translators Archived October 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.

External resources

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