When do I need to call upon a sworn translator?

An expert in translation and linguistics, only a sworn translator can produce a translation that is certified as faithful to the original under the French legal system. That document is referred to as a sworn translation or a certified translation.

When might I need to call upon a sworn translator? What sets them apart from other translators? What documents can they translate?

Discover the answers to all these questions and many others in our post!

Sworn translation, certified translation, official translation, authorized translation…. What’s the difference?

Despite all these terms, there’s no real difference between a sworn translation and a certified translation (or the others!). On the other hand, they mustn’t be confused with certifying a translation which is a related matter. This is what you need to know.

Sworn translation or certified translation

In France, sworn translations are produced by a translator who has sworn an oath before their Court of Appeal or the Court of Cassation. The French Government, through these court institutions, grants the sworn translator official status which enables them to certify the accuracy of their translation.

Only authorized translators can provide a sworn translation that will be recognized as an official document by foreign authorities.

A professional sworn translator is also deemed to be an expert translator to the court, which enables them, when requested to do so by lawyers, judges or police officers, to perform official translations of documents for the courts. Of course they provide individuals with translations too – as required by the authorities.

This kind of translation is also referred to as certified translation, because the sworn translator certifies that the translation is faithful to the source document, or sworn translation because the translator is a court expert.

Sworn translators are included on public lists that can be accessed by anyone.

Certifying a translation

Often, as well as having to be performed by a sworn translator, a translation has to be certified.

Translators can only certify documents if they are approved by a competent court authority. For some foreign authorities, you may also need to contact a French town hall or chamber of commerce to get your translated document legalized.

In addition to proving that the original documents were translated by an expert translator appointed to the court, certification attests that the translation is faithful to the original.

What you need to know about sworn translation

Here are a few important points about sworn translation, its validity and use.

When are certified translation services needed?

A certified translation is an official document that you can be asked for when making various kinds of applications to the authorities – either to embassies and consulates or directly to the institutions of the foreign country in question.

You might need an official translator for an application for naturalization, to register at a foreign university, or even to open a subsidiary of your firm abroad.

Often, a sworn translator is needed for translations of:

  • identification papers, marriage certificates, birth certificates, etc.
  • legal documents: powers of attorney, divorce papers, etc.
  • notarized deeds: property deeds, last will and testament, etc.
  • certificates or diplomas like a degree, or a driving licence
  • business documents: certificate of incorporation, contract of employment, terms & conditions, etc.
How do you recognize a sworn translation?

A sworn translation should include the following:

  • the sworn translator’s forename, surname, and signature
  • the sworn translator’s stamp or seal
  • the translation is numbered, and marked “ne varietur” (this means true to the original)
  • the language from which the document was translated.

This information can be added at the end of the document or on a separate page that is attached to the translation.

Furthermore, the document should be translated observing as far as possible the source layout and the end of the translation must be clearly indicated – for example by a line – to avoid fraudulent additions. Any illegible wording or stamps are noted, and signatures or other marks on the original document are stated as such.

Lastly, each page must be numbered and signed by the sworn translator.

Is a translation certified abroad valid in another country?

According to agreements between different countries, a sworn translation that is valid in France might not be valid abroad, and vice versa. It’s always best to check with the authorities concerned before starting an application or other formalities.

How long is a sworn translation valid for?

Sworn translations are valid without any limitation in time, apart from certain identification documents that have to be renewed regularly. In that case, you’ll need to request a new sworn translation.

Can a photocopy of a certified translation be used?

Only the original sworn translation is officially valid. So any formalities that require an original document also require an original translation to be submitted.

What you need to remember about sworn translations

  • Sworn translations are official documents with legal value.
  • They can only be produced by sworn translators on an official list.
  • They may be requested for a variety of official formalities abroad.