Using A Sworn Translator: When, Why and How Does it Work?

When dealing with foreign countries and officials who do not speak in your native tongue, it is necessary to use sworn translation services in order to ease the streams of communication and administration. Whether you’re immigrating, travelling for school, or simply sharing legal documents with international stakeholders, it is vital that you get a professional sworn translator to help you with the accurate and truthful translation of your documents. Read this article to learn more about the different types of translation services, the requirements to become a sworn translator in South Africa, the ethical standards they’re held to, and the different situations when you’ll need to hire a IL Consultancy sworn translator.


Types of Translation

There are varying kinds of translations, depending on their usage and purpose. If a document is going to be used for matters of politics, finance, business, security or personal documentation then it is expected to be translated by an authorised translator who can attest to its truth. Translators who work with literature are held to different standards and regulations than those who work with official, legal documents. Below is a list of different kinds of translation services for legal documents. While the differences between each kind of translation seem minor, and many people tend to use these adjectives interchangeably, they do require different procedures.

Certified Translator

A translation requires an assessment from a professional before it can be deemed certified. Once a qualified translator has approved the validity of a translated document, a designated authority has to stamp, sign or initial each of the document’s pages. In America, a certified translation is a translated document accompanied by a statement that certifies the accuracy of the translation. ‘Certified translations’ are often considered to be the same as ‘Sworn Translations’, however, sworn translations are more relevant to the South African context.

Sworn Translator

For a person to obtain a sworn translation In South Africa, they have to hire the services of a person who has been deemed qualified by the High Court of South Africa. Only those who have been accredited by the High Court can be trusted to give sworn translations. Translators who work with these documents have to take an oath in front of the courts before they can receive a unique case number (or registration number) that reflects their authorisation.

Notarised Translator

Notarising a document is one of the simpler kinds of translation procedures, particularly for business documents. Notarised documents will contain the name of the person who issued the document, the date that the document was prepared, the location it was prepared, and an official seal by the translator who oversaw the process of notarisation. Having a document notarised is necessary if a document is being used by public/ state bodies and authorities overseas.

Apostilled Translator

In South Africa, a person can only get an Apostille Certificate for their documents if the state it is presented to is a signatory of the Apostille Convention (Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961). South Africa is a part of the Apostille Convention and, hence, does not have to attest or authorise documents. Below is a list of some of the countries in the world that accept apostille documents. However, it should be noted that the content of a document that is apostilled has not necessarily been checked or verified.


Signatory Countries of the Apostille Convention

  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Czech Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Guatemala
  • Lesotho
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Switzerland
  • Tunisia
  • United Kingdom
  • Vanuatu

Other countries that are not listed would have to be attested and authenticated instead of apostilled. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation, located in Pretoria, is where citizens can get a wide variety of legal documents apostilled. To get a document apostilled, the document has to be signed off by an Apostille, who will ensure that the document can be recognised by signatories of the Hague Convention of 1961. Once a notary public has endorsed the translation, it will be stamped.


Skills Required to Become a Sworn Translator in South Africa

Court approval as regulated by the South African Judiciary

To become a sworn translator in South Africa, you are not required to obtain any specific degree. You are, however, expected to have a firm grasp of two languages, and this is preferably proven by some higher-education tertiary qualifications in the linguistics fields. Once a person has advanced to a certain level of proficiency, and obtained professional experience working part time or freelancing through institutions such as the South African Police Service, their local Magistrates courts, or any immigration service, they can request a letter of reference from one of their superiors, supervisors or colleagues.

The translator would then need to compile a curriculum vitae, their sponsor’s reference letter, their official transcripts and a few other identification documents so that they can fill in and complete their application form. With these documents in hand, the sworn translator can approach the South African high courts and make an application to receive accreditation to be sworn in and act as a professional sworn translator in that city. If the application is successful, they will then take an oath in front of the high court and receive a document that certifies and endorses their official, formal status as a sworn translator.

Fluency in at least two languages

The people who are capable of carrying out a sworn translation have a high linguistic standard. Sworn translators are practised not only in fluency in at least two languages, but they are also adept with law. Official documents often involve a heavy volume of legal terminology. Sworn translators have experience working with a large range of technical documents, and their vocabulary and legislative awareness allow them to adequately translate the jargon without losing the sensitive meaning and intention behind the original statement.

The IL Consultancy offers sworn translation services from qualified professionals who have practical working experience in two languages. They have a clear understanding of the different requirements presented by countries and their embassies, and consulates of foreign affairs ministries. Following the ethical codes of the relevant state, they are capable of expertly translating documents with precision.


14 Situations That Require A Sworn Translator

Marrying a Foreigner

In order to marry a foreigner, you will need to obtain a formal marriage certificate. Before you can do this, you are required to fulfil certain procedures, such as the fulfilment of a marriage application at your Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During this process you will have to complete an interview to verify that your matrimony is real and not simply an attempt to gain a work permit.

You will also have to submit a variety of personal documents to the designated civil registration officer. At this point, you will require your documents to undergo sworn translation. If your application has missing, incorrect or poorly translated information, it will be rejected and you will not be able to marry your fiance.


International Student Exchange Programmes

If you’re a student in a tertiary institution, and you’d like to go on an international exchange program, then you will have to prepare some important documents for your travel and the transferral of your points to a foreign university. Your educational transcripts, proof of diploma, and any other relevant academic records will have to be translated into a foreign language in order for them to be recognized. Students will undergo serious preparatory talks where they will be briefed on the expectations for international students, and guided through the placement process.

To ease streams of communication in the instance that the student attends a university in a place with a different official language to their mother tongue, they will have to use translation and sworn translation services. This will prevent any confusion with overseas embassies, and protect the students from experiencing administrative problems as they gear up for their next big adventure. This is important because the process can be incredibly stressful without the help of a native speaker.

Reviewing Financial Records, Patents and Business Agreements Internationally

Sworn translators are allocated to certain projects based on their level of expertise with the subject matter and the language. At the IL Consultancy, there are sworn translation services that are targeted towards financial subject matter. Sworn translation services for financial issues usually involve the translation of economic reports. Insurance documents, bank statements, patent agreements, contracts of agreements, quarterly and statistical overviews.

Financial institutions and corporations who work with international clients, investors and partners are often required to present financial statements for the purpose of transparency. The translation of these documents also necessitate that the translator working on the project has an advanced financial vocabulary. Investment companies, accounting firms, stock brokerage companies and banks can all be assured that with the IL Consultancy, their information will be adequately portrayed in their chosen language.

Ethical Standards for A Sworn Translator

Linguistic professionals who work with legal documents are expected to uphold standardised procedures and professionalism. For example, people working in sworn translation are expected to keep all of their client\’s information confidential. Confidentiality is a vital aspect of sworn translation because documents of a legal nature contain sensitive personal or private information that should not be shared. Sworn translators are therefore overseen by governing bodies and authorities to ensure that they are not likely to publicise or tamper with their clients’ information.

Sometimes translators will have to work with documents containing controversial issues. For example, a sworn translator could be asked to translate a police case record, a divorce paper or a witness statement in a high profile murder case – these issues might stir up some feelings within a translator, however, they are still required to translate the text without bias and without inserting their own opinion into the final translation. Regardless of the sworn translator’s opinion on the context of the document being translated, sworn translators are expected to convert the information into another language as faithfully and accurately as possible.

It is more difficult to translate documents legally than one might think. Translation requires an understanding of tone and nuance as well as a working knowledge of the subject matter included in the document – because the documents are of a legal and private nature, they require impartiality. All countries that require sworn translation will outline their codes of conduct and any other guidelines that they expect to be protected. It is the responsibility of the sworn translator and their manager to confirm whether a conflict of interest will affect the translation prior to the commencement of the case/ project.

Furthermore, sworn translation requires professionalism. Sworn translators at the IL Consultancy offer their customers the best experience possible by ensuring that their clients are comfortable and accommodated. IL Consultancy translators deliver work on time, as determined by the clients’ deadlines and needs. Furthermore, you can be assured that IL Consultancy’s sworn translators will never disclose any of your classified information.