Look up translation providers online and you’ll find translators that offer what they call a certified translation service.
At the same time, though, you’ll also run across translators that don’t provide certification.
Now imagine you’re someone in need of a translation. How do you even know if you need a certified translation, let alone what that exactly means?
Hopefully we can clear this up.
As a freelance translator, you need a key for understanding what clients truly need to know. Then you can ask if they need a certified translation service.
What is a Certified Translation Service?
First of all, one important thing to remember is that translation clients, especially those that have never needed a translation before, often don’t really understand what it even means to have a certified translation.
When I’ve talked with different potential clients over the years, I’ve found that they have different ideas on certification while some haven’t even heard of a “certified translation service.”
Part of our jobs as translators is to help our clients feel comfortable with not only the services that we offer, but also with the translation profession in general.
This involves spending time educating clients about what’s important and what they should keep in mind when requesting a translation.
They should learn about the questions they need to ask so that they feel comfortable and knowledgeable about what it is that we as translators can help them with.
And if these questions aren’t asked, it’s up to us to ask them for our clients so that we (and they) have a clear idea of what everyone’s objectives are.
So what are some of these questions to keep in mind?
Well, as basic as it might sound, the first two things to know for certain are:
- why the document is being translated and
- who is the intended audience.
Without this knowledge, it is very hard for us as translators to provide a quality certified translation service that will get the correct message of the original across to the audience.
The person requesting the translation should have a clear idea of this as well, in order to clear up any confusions the translator might have while translating the work.
If a requestor doesn’t have a clue, then why should anybody expect the translator to?
Once those basic questions are answered, then it’s time to get into the real meaning of a certified translation service.
I’ve found that generally speaking, countries can be divided into two categories when it comes to translation certification.
The first category includes countries such as the United States. In this category, there is no government sanctioned or government-sponsored official translation organization that certifies translators.
(Yes, I know that there is a federal court interpreter program, but as for translation, there is no federally mandated organization.)
What does this mean for a certified translation service?
Well, since there is no single government-controlled entity in charge of certifying translators, it can be hard to know if a translator is certified, and if so, by what authority.
And in many cases, translators see certification of a translation not as proof of passing some rigorous course of study to gain translation knowledge. Instead, it’s merely an acknowledgement on a translation stating that to the best of the translator’s knowledge, the translation is an accurate reflection of the original (even if clearly it is not).
The second category for countries in terms of translation certification includes those countries where sworn translations are the norm. Sworn translators, basically speaking, are those translators that have been authorized by their respective governments or government agencies to translate and notarize translations (specifically that the translations are accurate).
In these countries, translators that provide a certified translation service have to pass a government-sanctioned examination in order to be given the title of certified or sworn translator.
Certain types of translations, legal documents for example, are required to be done by sworn translators.
So what does this mean if you’re looking for a certified translation service provider?
First of all, clients shouldn’t get caught up in the hype of getting a “certified” translation.
This is especially the case in the United States, where any translator can provide certified translation services. Just because a translator says that he or she is certified doesn’t mean that they have passed a national standardized translation test.
Nor does it mean that the translator is really any good at translating.
So what should a client do?
Well, I’ve always told clients and potential clients that the most important test for determining the credentials of a translator is to talk to previous clients the translator has translated for.
If a translator has consistent positive feedback from previous customers, it’s a good bet that the translator is a quality professional and will treat all job with equal professionalism.
So as a translator, your job is to not focus on your certifications but instead focus on how to make sure that your clients have the best possible experience. In the end, certification is only as good as the person who has it.
Be sure to read my book for more info on becoming a successful translator.