What is sworn translation?
A sworn translation of a document is the legal equivalent of the original document for evidentiary purposes in a court of law. A sworn translator has sworn an oath in the High Court (not Magistrate Court) of South Africa to “translate faithfully and correctly, to the best of [their] knowledge and ability”. To ensure that a translation is recognised as a sworn translation, sworn translators stamp and sign every page of their translations and add a statement certifying that it “is a true translation of the original”. Sworn translators carry a heavy responsibility, because their work can have life-changing consequences for the people involved.
Sworn translation vs. Ordinary translation
Sworn translation is different from general translation, in that general translations have a strong communicative function, where the translator must make the text more accessible to the reader. However in sworn translation, the translator must not attempt to improve on the source document or try to adapt it to a specific audience.
Since a sworn translation is done for legal purposes, the translation should be clearly recognisable as the same document, with all the information as in the original, even if some of it seems unnecessary or repetitious. Sworn translators assume that every word and every nuance has a purpose, and reproduce the content, every signature, every stamp in the way they appear on the original.
Here is a summary of the differences between sworn translator and general translator:
- A sworn translator will ask to see the original documents or certified copies of the original documents. An ordinary translator will accept faxed or e-mailed versions of the original documents.
- A sworn translator will provide the translation in hard copy. An ordinary translator might e-mail or fax the translation, or might provide only an electronic copy.
- A sworn translator will stamp every page of the translation with an official-looking stamp. An ordinary translator will probably not stamp the translation at all.
- A sworn translator will certify on every page of the translation that it is a “true translation of the original” and will date and sign each page. An ordinary translator might provide a declaration and signature on a separate page only, if at all.
Types of documents
The list below gives examples of the types of documents that sworn translators may be called upon to translate. This is only a small selection, but illustrates the variety of work a sworn translator has to deal with.
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Orders of divorce
- Educational certificates
- Company articles of association
- Forensic reports
- Medical reports
Get in touch
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