What Is the Difference Between a Sworn Translation and a Regular One?

Many people are not familiar with the concept of sworn translation, until they are requested to submit one translated document that also needs to be legalized. One of the main differences between a sworn translation and a regular one is its purpose and particular target audience. 

While one single document, for example, a sales agreement or a divorce settlement contract, is subject to be translated as an ordinary translation, it can also be needed to be sworn. The aim or purpose of the text could be for general understanding or for internal usage, e.g., in a meeting. However, if the document will be used in an actual trial, this will probably have to be previously legalized. 

Regular translations

A regular translation is not legally valid and can be done, in principle, by any person who has a really good command of the language, as well as training in translation and knowledge on the relevant subject. In fact, there are many people who are only fluent in both source and target languages, but do not have translation studies and usually translate professionally on a daily basis. 

Regular translations can be required for informational purposes, to be published or further for internal purposes, and are usually sent electronically.

However, a sworn translation is a legal document. 

Sworn translations

Sworn translations cannot be considered as simple translations. Those should be performed by a certified translator who must have been accredited in order to do the sworn translation, and thus the translated text becomes a new complete text having the same nature as the original one and therefore the same legal validity. 

The figure of a sworn translator in the United Kingdom is not as clearly defined as, for example, it is in Spain. Sworn translators are not designated nor authorised by the British Government in order to do official translations. For those documents translated into English that must be submitted to the competent British authorities, it is only required that one translator appear before a Notary Public or commissioner for oaths. 

Conversely, sworn translations in Spain are done by translators who count with the certification of Sworn Translator-Interpreter granted by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union, and Cooperation. Sworn translators bear witness to the fact that the translated document is a fully accurate and faithful reflection of the source text. It is also important to mention that there are not always exact equivalences in all languages, so the task of the sworn translator is to get as close as possible to the original text.

All pages of the sworn translated document should be signed and sealed with  the sworn translator’s own and personal stamp, whereby we will obviously find a physical final document which will always be submitted in paper form. Nonetheless, a regular translation can be sent in paper form or by any other means of communication, including email, etc. As stated above, sworn translations are generally delivered in print form, although in certain occasions it could be necessary to scan the sealed physical document and send it electronically, in the event that it is not feasible to hand deliver it to the addressee. This is not very common, though. Sworn translations can be printed on stamp-impressed paper or regular paper. This is a decision the translator makes. Layout on source content is normally respected, but this is not essential. It is important to remember that the most important aspect is to get the highest fidelity to the original.