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Sworn Translator vs Certified Translator: What Is The Difference?

(Last Updated On: October 18, 2022)

Sworn Translators

Certified and sworn translators are both in the business of providing translations of written documents, but their similarities end there.

Some may even argue that the differences between the two are more important than their similarities.

However, as with all things, there isn’t just one right answer when it comes to deciding whether you need to hire a certified or sworn translator.

Nevertheless, you do need to know what the differences are so you can make an informed decision about which type of translator is right for your situation and your budget.

So, read on as we take a look at this two types of translator and what differentiates one from the other.

What is a certified translation?

The ATA certification is one of two translator and interpreter certification services recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL).

The USDOL recognizes that people who carry these certifications have completed a set number of hours of coursework, have passed a standardized exam, and continue to update their skills and knowledge on an ongoing basis (OTA).

There are three different types of professional translations that ATA certified translators do; official, legal and administrative. Official translations are those which are done for documents used in legal settings like marriage certificates, divorce decrees, police reports or sworn affidavits.

Legal translations encompass all court documents like depositions, contracts or any agreements not intended for public viewing such as pleadings or briefs with possible confidential information therein.

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sworn translation

What is a sworn translation?

A sworn translation is an official document that has been authenticated and translated by a public official like a notary or another public officer such as an ambassador or consul.

Documents can be certified or authenticated for many reasons. This include because they are a legal requirement for international business transactions, required for legal purposes like resolving citizenship.

Other reasons include translation for official purposes such as drafting administrative documents in your native language (e.g., driver’s license application), or to avoid authenticity issues of fraudulently reproduced documents .

Legal authorities may request authentication of legal documents if they suspect any tampering with the original copy. An official list could be used for listing properties and assets in countries where there is no reliable system of transferring property ownership.

In these cases, a certificate may be necessary to verify the identity of all parties involved. For complete translations into foreign languages, you should always check with a reputable translation agency that adheres to ethical codes and translators who have experience in various fields.

The use of machine-assisted translation software can also significantly reduce costs without sacrificing quality when it comes to translating technical documents into foreign languages such as Spanish, Chinese or Russian.

The differences between these two types of translators

Anyone can call themselves a translator, which is why it is important to do your research before hiring anyone to work on your document.

Being certified usually means they have completed at least three years of translation classes in addition to taking an examination administered by a reputable institution such as ACTFL or WATI-TX.

These translators are fluent in the language pair, have significant translation experience, and are generally sworn and notarized before providing their translation services for legal purposes in some countries.

They use their original documents only for authentication of documents (such as notarizing documents) that are going to be filed with governmental agencies or institutions.

A certified translator does not need certification from any particular body; however, he or she will often advertise his or her credentials to show he or she has taken accredited training courses in translation.

The majority of these translators specialize in one language pair so you may want to check their credentials thoroughly if you are working with more than one.

A sworn translator must also take an exam, but instead of passing it through a renowned organization like ACTFL or WATI-TX, they must pass it through the court system where they reside.

As a result, many swear translators translate into their native language rather than having two languages as expertise.

The court system requires this because its members do not want to take the time out of their day to examine translations done by someone who doesn’t speak the language fluently enough.

sworn translators
sworn spanish translator

Who needs this type of translation service?

Many institutions require that their documents be translated by a certified translator, but some individuals may feel more comfortable with a sworn translator.

If you plan to only translate for yourself and your immediate family, you might want to consider using a sworn translator for faster service at lower cost.

However, if you need translations for large organizations or as part of your professional practice, certified translators are generally recommended because they offer not only better qualifications but also assurance that they have passed tests in their field of expertise.

You can search for certified translators through an online directory like PTI (The Professional Translators’ International) or through search engines such as Google.

Final thoughts on this subject

While both Sworn Translators and Certified Translators have in-depth knowledge of both languages, a certified translator has completed a college level course on how to translate from one language to another.

Plus, since English is widely used all over the world, you’re more likely to find someone certified in it as opposed to a particular language other than English.


What is a sworn translator?

Sworn translators can work as legal interpreters, meeting interpreters, and in educational settings such as interpreting for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Who can do a sworn translation?

A sworn translator is usually someone who is a citizen of the country where they are working as a translator and has lived in that country for five or more years, but not necessarily been formally trained to do translation work.

What is the difference between sworn and certified translation?

In most cases, sworn translation is faster and less expensive than certified translation as long as you are fluent in the language that is being translated.

What is expected of the sworn translator?

The sworn translator, which is also known as a judicial translator, provides certified translations in legal proceedings and has extensive knowledge of both languages. Their objective is to use their professional skills to offer accurate translation services while representing their client to the fullest extent possible.

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