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A-Z of Translation – the letter N:

We’re looking at a rather niche issue for the letter N:

Notarisation – When a translation is needed for official purposes, such as applying for citizenship or in the context of a divorce, proof is generally required that the translation is accurate. There are several options here and a number of terms are used almost interchangeably, which makes things confusing for clients.

The simplest way of demonstrating accuracy is certification by the translation provider. Professional translation companies can apply a stamp to the translation to indicate that it is a true rendering of the original document. In many Continental European countries, by contrast, individual translators are accredited by the courts or a state agency as “sworn translators” and have the ability to certify the translations they produce. (We won’t bother ourselves here with the minor detail that all translators are fallible and relying on a single person to produce a translation therefore involves considerable risk; possession of sworn translator status makes no difference to that reality.)

Where a higher level of proof is required, perhaps because the translation will be used in court proceedings, notarisation may be required. Here, the translator must typically appear before a notary public and confirm that the translation is correct. The notary will then add their stamp and bind the original document(s) and the translation together. It’s important to be aware that the notary will not normally check the translation, so any flaws will not be detected. (Imagine if you asked your local big-name car dealer about an “approved used car” and they said “approved” didn’t mean anyone had even looked under the bonnet, never mind getting the vehicle up on a ramp to check things like the suspension, they just put a big sticker on the windscreen.)

A stricter variant of notarisation also exists, in the form of an “apostilled translation”. This involves having the notary’s signature and seal checked by the Foreign Office, which will then attach the internationally recognised “Hague apostille”. Here again, the translation is not checked in any way, this is merely a formal step to ensure that the notarisation is accepted in other countries.

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