Translation Differences Across Europe

by Tayo Ademolu of Translayte

Europe has an incredible linguistic diversity. The EU has (for the moment) 28 different member states, with 24 official languages. Whilst over 50% of Europeans speak a second language, there are many visitors, business travellers, immigrants and expatriates who will have translation needs. Each country has slightly different translation requirements and tend to have complex ways of obtaining an official translation.

An official translation is the translation of a document, such as a marriage certificate, university degree etc for official purposes. Official translations are usually completed by translators or companies that have been authorised by relevant agencies, courts or organisations, and such translations can be submitted to a variety of official and governmental bodies.

The Different Types of Translation

Across Europe, there are three main types of official translations:

Sworn translations

These can only be undertaken by translators that have been sworn in. There are different procedures depending on the country under how the translator can be sworn in, and who swears him or her in. However, they usually have to take an official oath in a court.

A translation completed and signed by a sworn translator proves that the document translation is genuine and includes the sworn translator’s seal as the sign of authenticity. Countries that need sworn translations include France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland and others.

Certified translations

These can only be performed by translators who are certified professionals. They can become certified by being trained and taking a certification exam / test. These training / test requirements differ depending on the country or the organisation issuing the certification. Certified translations must have a statement from the translator, confirming that the document has been translated in a true and accurate way. The translator then includes his or her signature and contact information. This guarantees the quality of the document, provided by the translator.

Countries that require certified translations include the UK and Ireland.

Notarised translations

Unlike sworn and certified translators, notarised translations can be done by any translator. What makes notarised translations different is that the translator must meet with a notary public and sign an affidavit. The affidavit confirms that the translation of the document is an accurate representation of the original.

Portugal is an example of a country that requires notarised translations when a non Portuguese document is presented for official purposes.

So many differences - why?

There tends to be a split between which countries require sworn and certified translations.

In common law countries like the UK and Ireland, there is not an official process regulating the status of a certified translator. As such, more people can become certified translators because there aren’t specific qualification requirements, so these translations are usually cheaper because of the lower barrier to entry. However, this does not impact the translation quality, and merely reflects the translation requirements of the country. Notary publics can work with certified translators to produce notarised translations.

However, in continental Europe sworn translations are required, as per the civil law in those specific countries. Each country has different criteria for those who want to become a sworn translator. They usually have to pass an official exam, administered by the state, and be registered at a court. The job titles on the continent usually differ slightly, and it reflects the judicial nature of the qualification. For example, in France, translators are called traducteur expert judiciaire (expert judicial translator).

As sworn translations require the translator to be legally responsible for their work, and must pass rigorous exams, the number of official translators is usually lower. Sworn translations are usually more expensive as well, given the lengthy process to become a sworn translator.

Who does this affect?

Translation requirements may apply to anyone who wants to live, work or visit a foreign country. This includes immigrants, people who got married abroad, and even international businesses.

Many countries require commercial documents, such as licenses, training certificates etc., and these must be submitted in the native language of the professional body and whoever is submitting it.

For employment, documents such as criminal record checks and educational certificates must be translated.

International businesses may also need certified translations of documents. In such a globalised world, legal disputes can take on an international scale. Many multinational companies will be able to afford interpreters, but smaller companies might obtain a translation of documents needed during the case.

Many travellers may struggle because they need to translate their documents locally and might not understand the local requirements. The many translation differences across Europe provides additional complexity, with the split being between those common law countries (UK, Ireland) and civil law countries (most of continental Europe).

Translayte is a provider of official translations across Europe and can help you overcome many of these challenges, contact us now for help with you translation needs.


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