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The difference between sworn and legal translation

Sworn translation

Companies often find they need to translate a legal document and, knowing it's an important document, go for a sworn translation to ensure the translation is of the highest possible quality. But in fact it's not always necessary to get a translation sworn - a legal translation is a much more common requirement. At first sight, these two types of translation may appear to mean the same thing, but today we'll take a look at the difference between sworn and legal translation. And of course, we will also look at the profile of a legal translator vs. a sworn translator. Let's go!

Let's define legal and sworn translation

Legal translation applies to the translation of official or private documents that are legal by nature, for example contracts, regulations, or rulings. These documents call for particularly technical vocabulary and involve specific legal terms and entities.

This is why it's essential to put your legal translation in the hands of professional translators specialising in legal work. Not doing so could lead to errors as there are a number of differences between different countries' legal systems. When it comes to particularly sensitive documents, the repercussions from a bad translation could lead to serious legal consequences.

Legal translator

A legal translator is responsible for translating legal documents. This type of translation is quite complex, as you must have a deep knowledge of legal concepts, while also knowing the laws and procedures of the two legal systems: those of the country of the original text and those of the recipient's country. Literal translations are no good as these are documents with real legal effects. The legal translator must understand the concepts and meanings and include everything in the final legal context.

A legal translator needs to work with linguistic precision and terminological rigour. In addition to knowing and using specialised terminology with precision, research and terminological creation are also required to translate legal concepts and terms that do not have an exact equivalence in the target language.

Can a legal translator be a sworn translator?

As we have seen, a legal translator translates texts from different fields of the law.

Sworn translation, however, is not necessarily confined to a specific field of specialisation, since it is understood as "the version of a translated text which a sworn translator declares is a true and accurate reflection of the original".

As such, a legal translator is not the same as a sworn translator, but it can be the case that a native translator specialised in the area of law is also a sworn translator.

Sworn translation

'Sworn' translations are translations of official documents that are carried out by an officially recognised translator who holds a legal testament - which in Spain comes from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. And in fact, contrary to what many people may think, these types of translated documents do not have to be related to legal or judicial matters. The sworn translation is a guarantee that the original document and the one written in the second language contain the same information.

Who can do this type of translation?

A sworn translation can only be done by a sworn translator, regardless of the subject area. These translators are accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, have their own identification number, and can only carry out sworn translations in the languages the ministry has assigned to them. Any translations the translator does in languages other than those they've been assigned to translate will not be classed as sworn translations - and as such cannot be deemed official.

When do I need to get a sworn translation?

According to Spanish legislation any documents written up in a language other than Spanish which are to be used for legal purposes in Spain must be accompanied by a corresponding sworn translation. These will always bear the stamp of the sworn translator, and are officially recognised by the authorities.

What types of documents need to be sworn?

  • Public tenders
  • Notarial deeds
  • Contracts
  • Company articles of association
  • Patents
  • Powers of attorney

Other features of sworn translation

A key differentiating feature of a sworn translation is that the translated document will be provided on paper and rarely in any other format, given that one of the requirements of providing a sworn translation is that it must bear the translator's signature and official stamp. As well as a signature the translator also needs to add a brief description of the translation to guarantee that the translation is faithful to the original document.

Finally, in cases where the document is official or signed by a public official it must include a Hague Apostille, which guarantees that the public official or department is authorised by the state to issue the document and has been present in the sworn translation.

Short summary: the difference between sworn and legal translation

The main difference between sworn and legal translation lies in what the translation is required for, and the type of text being translated. As we've already seen, a legal translator specialises in texts in the field of law, whereas a sworn translator carries out translations for official purposes (which may or may not be legal by nature).

AT Language Solutions has more than 20 years of experience offering both legal and sworn translations. Let's chat?

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