Certified translation – should you, when, and how?

Title certified translation

Certified translation – should you, when, and how?

We all probably know how stressful it can get when one has to take care of administrative matters: regardless of whether it concerns a private matter or if it’s a work thing. Sometimes we are not quite sure where we should start to see things through. It can happen that we are required to provide an institution with a document that we don’t have in the correct language, because it was drawn up in a foreign country (e.g. documents for imported goods). In cases like that we must try to obtain a translation – but what should we focus on to make sure everything goes smoothly?

What is a certified translation

The first thing that needs to be addressed here is the definition of a certified translation. In the Polish language, the most commonly used term is tłumaczenie przysięgłe; however, one can also encounter expressions like tłumaczenie uwierzytelnione, tłumaczenie poświadczone or tłumaczenie urzędowe. Whatever the wording, the term implies a translation that will be accepted by a government institution or by an insurance company as credible. And as demanded by law it can be provided only by a certified (sometimes called sworn) translator. A certified translator is a public trust profession that requires one to meet a number of criteria to get an official “certified by a certified translator” seal. Apart from perfect command of a foreign language, a Polish certified translator must:

  • know the Polish language;
  • be a citizen of Poland or one of the member countries of the UE and/or EFTA;
  • have full capacity to perform acts in law;
  • not have been punished for a premeditated offence, premeditated fiscal offence or for an unintentional offence against the safety of business transactions;
  • hold a master’s degree or higher;
  • pass the exam required for certified translators.

When do we have to turn to a certified translator for help

When we want to submit official documents to an institution, such as:

  • acts of ownership;
  • diplomas/certificates;
  • official letters (e.g. requests, applications, notifications, etc.);
  • documents of a vehicle imported from abroad;

Finished, a translated document should include:

  • a reference to the translation direction, e.g. German to Polish (DE-PL);
  • a formula certifying the compliance of the translation with the original;
  • a signature of the translator under the formula.

Additionally, each page of the document has to be sealed with a round seal containing the name and surname of the translator, as well as the number assigned to them by the Ministry of Justice. The document should be sewn together so that no sheet of paper could be removed or added.

A translation prepared this way will be accepted as a credible copy of the original so we can rest assured that the transport department or the insurance company will get all the documents necessary to resolve our cases positively.

Example of a situation that necessitates the use of a sworn translator’s services

A driver carrying our goods in Germany was involved in a car crash because his vehicle skidded. Some of the cargo was damaged. A giant oil spill covering a decent-sized portion of the expressway and the falling rain contributed to the incident. The police were called in and the driver was fined with a €400 ticket. We want to appeal against the fine because the road surface was not properly degreased after an earlier tanker malfunction. Therefore, the dangerous situation which resulted in a car crash and cargo damage was the result of negligence on the part of the road services. We should lodge the appeal in the official language of a given country, in this case – in German. Because we don’t know the language ourselves, we need to obtain a translation of the appeal, as it is a formal petition to the state authority of the Federal Republic of Germany.

What’s next? In this case we need to take the German certified translation standards into consideration. Our safest bet is to find a certified translator inside Germany because it’s easier for the German police to identify relevant competence of a translator residing in their country rather than of someone active abroad, e.g. in Poland. This way we can be sure that the translation provided by us will not be contested in terms of credibility and the case will move forward.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s easier to find a capable English–German translator than a Polish–German one. What is more, the translation fees for translating from English to German are lower than for the same translation from Polish; therefore, if we know English fluently, English will be the preferred language to prepare the appeal in. Later, we will ask a suitable translator for help.

What should a complete set of documents for the German police look like? The documents have to:

  • be sealed with a seal containing the formula “Öffentlich bestellter und beeidigter Übersetzer” and the pair of languages the translator has been sworn in for;
  • contain the personal information of the translator (i.e. name and surname, and residential address);
  • be permanently sewn together so there’s no chance of a shadow of suspicion being cast on the integrity of the text (same as in Poland).

When providing the appeal in this form we can be sure that the German police will consider the document – otherwise they might reject it, and it could be troublesome – if not impossible – for us to provide a proper version in time.

Certified translation agencies

We can look for the translator ourselves, as well as use the services of a translation agency. The latter will save us a lot of time, often so precious when dealing with administrative matters. We are frequently overwhelmed already when trying to find out what documents are necessary and later during the collection phase. Translation agencies can take the burden off our shoulders in the last phase, before we lodge the documents – not only do they usually have quite a few translators at their disposal but also are familiar with practices involving the preparation of a given paper. All this together ensures not only the quality of the text but also the short time of getting the translation ready for the customer.

  1. When required by law, official documents should always be translated by a certified (sworn) translator.
  2. The country of the institution we’re lodging the translated documents with should be taken into consideration – we must follow the regulations of a given country.
  3. If we want to prepare the document ourselves and we know English, we may draw it up in English.
  4. If time is of the essence in our case, we go to a translation agency.

If you liked this post, please leave a comment – I’ll be more than happy to follow up on this topic in the future!

You can find more about translations here

Sources I have used:

    1. List of sworn translators residing in Poland: https://www.gov.pl/web/sprawiedliwosc/znajdz-tlumacza-przysieglego.
    2. List of sworn translators residing in Germany: https://search.bdue.de/, http://www.justiz-uebersetzer.de/.
    3. PL: https://turbotlumaczenia.pl/blog/tlumaczenia-uwierzytelnione-przysiegle-dla-kogo-i-za-ile.
    4. DE: https://bdue.de/en/our-profession/sworn-interpreters-and-translators/.

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