Common Mistakes In Certified Legal Translation, And How To Avoid Them

Common Mistakes In Certified Legal Translation, And How To Avoid Them

The need for legal translation is all around: from immigration documents to contracts, litigation to academic certificates, or anything in between - the need for legal translation services is almost unavoidable. In most circumstances, organisations requesting such translations may require them to be ‘certified’. But what does this mean? How are such things procured? And, are there any pitfalls?

First: What is a Certified Translation?

A certified translation can be many things. It is therefore paramount at the outset that you are clear what type of ‘certified’ translation you require. This could be anything from a sworn translation, a notarised translation, an ‘official’ translation, or simply a ‘certified’ translation:

Sworn – Wherein the translation is undertaken by a sworn translator, and signed as such; sworn translation systems tend to operate in civil law systems, such as in Italy or the Netherlands, and sworn translators tend to be registered directly with the courts of government ministries in such jurisdictions.

Notarised – Wherein a translated document is authenticated by a notary public; notarisation doesn’t necessarily indicate a higher quality of translation but rather stands as a legal requirement wherein a translation that has been signed and stamped by a notary public - the Notary Public checks the identity of the translator or translation company representative and attaches a notarial certificate to the translation, the notarial certificate does not endorse the quality of the translation itself, rather it can only confirm that the identity of the translator/translation company representative were verified by them.

Apostilled - In order for a translation to be sealed with an Apostille stamp, it must carry a declaration endorsed by a notary public.  In the UK, it is the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office that issues Apostilles. The stamp is placed on the original document. This may be required if you intend to use the document abroad, and it ensures that your document is recognised as valid around the world. An Apostille verifies the document will be recognised in all countries which are signatories to the Hague Convention 1961. 

Official – A translation is regarded as 'official' when it bears the stamp or signature of a recognised body or member of such a body. The exact requirements for an 'official' translation will vary from country to depending on their legal system & regulatory regime.

Certified – For a translation to be 'certified', the translator must attest that their translation is a true, complete and accurate translation of the original work. The translator (or the certifying authority) should stamp, mark, or initial the translation and provide a statement that the translation is a true and accurate rendering of the original source text. 

Second: What are the Common Mistakes Often Seen in Certified Legal Translation?

1.      Inaccurate Translation of Legal Jargon: An inaccurate translation of these terms can change the entire meaning of the document, leading to legal discrepancies or misinterpretations. Certified translators need to have specialised knowledge in the relevant legal practice area, a thorough understanding of the appropriate jurisdiction(s), and a deep awareness of the applicable culture(s) to ensure accuracy and reliability.  

2.      Ignoring Structural Requirements: Certified legal translations often need to mirror the format of the original document. This includes maintaining, as far as reasonable and practicable, the same layout and formatting. Failure to adequately replicate the structure accurately can result in rejection of the document by the requesting organisation. Although it is worth double checking with the requesting organisation just how detailed and exact the formatting needs to be, as extensive formatting may attract and additional cost due to the time and effort needed (whereas basic formatting is often included as standard).  

3.      Literal Translations: Literal translations can lead to significant errors, especially in languages with high contextual reliance. A qualified legal linguist must understand more than just the context and cultural nuances, but also the legal practice area and relevant jurisdictional distinctions to fully convey the correct and accurate meaning.  

4.      Forgetting the Certification Statement: A crucial aspect of certified translations is the inclusion of the certification itself. All statements vouch for the accuracy and completeness of the translation; however, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, what format that certification takes is dependent on the requirements of the requesting organisation, a certificate for a sworn translation, for instance, requires specific information that might not otherwise be included on a standard LSP company certificate.  

5.      Not Maintaining Confidentiality: Legal translations often involve sensitive and personal information. Failing to maintain strict confidentiality, can lead to breaches of privacy and trust, that may have significant legal ramifications. Legal linguists and translation services must adhere to strict confidentiality protocols to safeguard the information in the documents they handle.

Third: …How Does One Then Avoid Such Pitfalls?

·        Ensure you use legal Language Service Providers with the relevant specialised knowledge and expertise. IMD Legal Translation and Interpreting was created by solicitors for solicitors and operates across all legal practice areas; furthermore, our staff are selected for their excellent knowledge and experience in either legal and/or language services. On top of this, we ensure the linguists we work with are not just linguistically competent, but also have expertise in specific sectors including various legal practice areas, andother relevant fields such as medical and technical. This ensures that technical and legal terms and jargon are translated accurately and with relevance to the practice area and jurisdiction required.  

·        Adhere strictly to the original document's format. At IMD Legal Translation and Interpreting, basic formatting is included as standard,: that means the layout of the target text will be more or less in the same way as the source text; however, if greater formatting is needed, such as replication of signatures, stamps, and more detailed imagery and embellishment, make sure you speak to our team about the same at the outset of a project.  

·        Adhere to privacy and confidentiality protocols strictly, in order to protect sensitive information. This might include non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), secure handling and storage of documents, and ensuring that all staff members are trained on the importance of confidentiality. At IMD Legal Translation and Interpreting we handle sensitive and confidential data on a daily basis and have relevant policies and staff training in place to ensure all customer data is treated with respect, confidentiality, and security.

If you're looking for reliable, accurate, and professional legal language services, get in touch with IMD Translation today at or 03309121530