Sworn translation, certified document : Meaning and explanations

What does certified or sworn translation mean?

Sworn translation, what does it mean?

A sworn translation or certified translation is one undertaken by a certified translator.

In France he or she will be listed on a yearly updated roll of judicial experts to be consulted at the relevant Court of Appeals. His or her mission in executing the sworn translation is to marry up an original document (let’s say a birth certificate) in English to his or her translation (let’s say into French).

Depending on the languages officially used by the translator, the preceding process will naturally apply to any English document which is required by a French speaking authority.

It is useful to accustom oneself to the concept of ‘source’ and ‘target’. For example, you need your birth certificate translated from English to French? To the certified translator, your official certificate is the source document. His sworn translation of that birth certificate will be the target.

Usually at the bottom of the certified or sworn translation, mention must be made of the translator’s full name and the Court of Appeals under whose jurisdiction the official translator comes.

It has to also bear the translator’s stamp/seal indicating the latter and it has to be signed and dated by the sworn translator. That information is then replicated on the original (source) document which is also signed and dated. A specific number, issued by the translator himself or herself for that particular document, must appear on both the source document and its sworn translated counterpart. In France, only documents from and into French can be certified.

In a time of virtual documentation, it should be borne in mind that the certified translator deals in hard copies of both the source document and its translation. It might expedite lead-time to work from an electrically generated document. However it has to be the original hard copy which bears the sworn translator’s stamp or seal. Equally a photocopy of a document must not be stamped and certified. On rare occasions however, this may be obviated by a footnote mentioning the full DNA of an electronic document.
This can only ever apply when working with courts, lawyers notaries and bailiffs, and only with their approval.

A term you may come across is apostil. The Hague convention of October 5th 1961 did away with certain requirements on certification of foreign public documents. The purpose of the apostil is to verify the authenticity of the origin of an official document, if the signature of the person issuing it is genuine and also to verify his or her qualification to make copies. However not all states signed that convention. In real terms when the word apostil is used with regard to document legalization (certification) it means someone, often the mayor of the town where the certified translator lives, witnessing his or her actual signature on the translation and source document. Apostils are always required for documents transiting via ministerial departments like the Home Office. An apostil does not constitute verification of the content or quality of the actual official translation itself.


Keep learning more about Certified translations in France.

Certified translator, English / French, Charente

Keith Elliott ©2019
Certified translator, English / French, Charente