Your daughter was born in Quebec, Canada, and her birth certificate is drafted in French. Small problem: you now live in the United States and she needs to submit a birth certificate in English to register to school — you need a certified translation. No problem at all, in fact! Let’s see what a certified translation is and how you can manage to get one.
What organizations can ask for a certified translation?
A certified translation, also called a notarized translation or an official translation, is most often required by an authority such as a governmental body, a court or an educational institution. These organizations want a translation that is certified as accurate. Since anybody can call himself a translator, requesting a certified translation ensures the quality and accuracy of the document.
What documents may need to be certified?
There are many and the circumstances vary: wedding in a foreign country, studies abroad, immigration… The most frequently asked documents are the following:
- Birth Certificate
- Death Certificate
- Certificate of marriage
- Certificate of divorce
- High school, college or university diploma
- Driver’s license
- Certificate of search (will)
- Notarial will
Who can provide a certified translation?
In Quebec, only the translators members of the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec (OTTIAQ) are entitled to provide certified translations. You are sure to find skilled French-English (and other language combinations) translators in the OTTIAQ’s directory. Not all certified translators offer this service, though.
Aside being entitled to translate official documents, certified translators are always a good asset for your personal or business communication needs.
What is the difference between a certified translation and a regular translation?
A certified translation includes three distinctive features that prove its authenticity and must appear on each page:
- The certified translator’s official seal — It includes the name and logo of the OTTIAQ (or other association), as well as the name and member number of the translator.
- A certification paragraph — In this paragraph, the translator certifies that the document is an accurate translation of the original, and states again his name and member number. This paragraph must be written in the language of the recipient (e.g. in English if the authority is in the USA).
- The certified translator’s signature.
Must a certified translation be notarized or “sworn”?
You may be asked for a “notarized translation”. However, notaries and lawyers do not have the power or ability to verify the accuracy of a translation! This simply means that the translation has to be certified. It does not mean it has to be “sworn” either. The translator does not have to declare the accuracy of his translation before a commissioner for oaths, unless otherwise specified.
Is a certified translation identical to the original document?
The layout of the certified translation is adjusted to make it look as similar to the original document as possible, with the same spaces, tables and columns, if applicable. Since we, translators, often receive scanned copies of the original documents, we must rebuild the layout from scratch. You will notice that the logos, seals and signatures are not copied, but indicated between brackets (e.g. [seal], [signature], etc.).
How much is certified translation?
More than for any other type of document, the translator who translates an official document puts his professional responsibility at stake. In other words, he will be responsible in case of an error and the consequences may be heavy. This partially explains why the translation fees are higher for an official translation. Some bill by the hour (such as myself, because some documents contain more words or a more complex layout and I think this has to be reflected in the price). Others charge per page, up to CAN$125/page. It might be a good idea to shop a little and ask for quotes before you choose your translator.
Will my documents be kept confidential?
According to the Professional Code (in Quebec), the certified translator must keep your documents confidential. We are bound to professional secrecy at the same extent as lawyers and psychologists, among others. You can rest assured: your documents will not be shared with a third party and the OTTIAQ has a complaint procedure if you judge there has been a fault.
Do I have to mail my original documents to the translator?
Long live technology! The translator does not need to have the original paper copies of your official documents to translate them. However, he needs to receive a high-quality scanned copy of the entire document. In that case, the translator will mention in the certification paragraph that the translation is “an accurate copy of the original French received by email”. The certified translation will then be sent to you by mail in two copies. This means you do not have to hire a translator located near you, but can choose someone in another area.
If you have any question about certified translation or would like a quote, do not hesitate to contact me.