Sworn translation services in South Africa – Part 2

In Bangula’s previous blog on sworn translation services we saw that, due to the legacy of apartheid, it is currently not possible to provide sworn translation services in South Africa’s African languages (also referred to as black languages).

While there are enough sworn translators to service the non-African languages market, there is only one sworn translator in one of the African languages, Setswana. Yet the nine official African languages are spoken by 75% of the South African population. The reason for this state of affairs is that only English and Afrikaans were recognised as official languages prior to 1994.

Today, 22 years into our new democracy, there is a demand for sworn translation in all SA’s languages, including the African languages, listed here according to the number of mother-tongue speakers:

  • isiZulu (Zulu)
  • isiXhosa (Xhosa)
  • Sepedi (Pedi or North Sotho or Sesotho sa Leboa)
  • Setswana (Tswana)
  • Sesotho (Sotho or South Sotho)
  • Xitsonga (Tsonga or Shangaan)
  • SiSwati (Swati or Siswati)
  • Tshivenda (Venda) and isiNdebele (Ndebele)

Unfortunately, the demand for sworn translation in the African languages cannot be met at present. The best that can be done in the current situation is for a translator or a translation agency like Bangula Lingo Centre cc to produce a certificate of translation faithfulness and accuracy. However, such a certificate does not have the same legal force and effect as a sworn translation. Sworn translation, which is also (incorrectly) referred to as certified or official translation, is required in the case of certain official documents.

Many official documents are still being produced and used in English and Afrikaans, notably birth certificates, death certificates, educational certificates, marriage certificates and wills. However, a demand has arisen over the past 24 years of democracy for sworn translation services in African languages in the case of affidavits, constitutions, contracts, declarations, some Fica and Rica documentation, forensic reports and transcripts of audio recordings, especially where these documents are needed for evidentiary purposes in court.

Since Bangula Lingo Centre sometimes receives requests for sworn translation in African languages, we’ve discussed the situation with Marion Boers, Executive Director of SATI (the South African Translators’ Institute). Marion pointed out that while the demand for sworn translation in the African languages is still not large, “it is important that there should be well-qualified translators for this purpose and SATI is therefore committed to developing a system for testing them as the first step of the process”.

There are challenges, however, as explained by Marion. “Among the challenges faced is that the testing should include typical texts generated originally in the indigenous language concerned. These are virtually non-existent at this point and so we are having to consider alternatives. So far we have not come up with a satisfactory solution, but among the options are (a) using general texts combined with testing on the conventions of sworn translation and the candidate having some background or experience in the legal field or (b) generating texts in the various languages specifically tailored to the exams. Neither option is ideal, but we may have to decide on one as an interim measure until we have a pool of sworn translators and texts to draw on.”

Bangula has offered to assist SATI in obtaining or creating suitable texts for sworn translation testing purposes. Although the market for sworn translation, especially in African languages, is small, Bangula strives to meet all the translation requirements of our clients, no matter how small. In the meantime, the best Bangula can do to issue a certificate of translation faithfulness or accuracy. We do inform clients, however, that such a certificate does not have the same legal status as a sworn translation.

Below is a list of typical documents requiring sworn translation:

  • Affidavits
  • Birth certificates
  • Company articles of association
  • Constitutions
  • Contracts
  • Death certificates
  • Declarations
  • Divorce orders
  • Educational certificates
  • Fica and Rica documents, such as proof of residence
  • Forensic reports
  • Marriage certificates
  • Wills

Contact us now to find out more.