Legal documents are professional documents that have full validity and authenticity in the eyes of judicial authorities. They carry out essential information, including employment contracts, financial agreements, birth certificates, policies, licenses, legal statements, witness statements, immigration documents, and many more. When these documents are written in a foreign language, you might need to have them translated. The question is: do you need a professional legal translation, or is a regular translation enough? Let’s find out.
This article was written in collaboration with Textology – translation services in London.
Due to specific legal terminology, legal documents can be quite difficult to understand for an average person. To understand the specialistic language, they require a certain level of knowledge from the field of law, finances, and the economy of a given country. That’s why translating legal documents is best performed by skilled translators who have great knowledge of the language and have lots of experience in the areas that the document refers to. Legal translators understand the law and legal practices in the country in which the target language is spoken and in the source language country. They can easily grasp the complexity of the terminology and possess enough knowledge required for these types of translations.
Legal translations are required to be performed by certified translators. Only then are they perceived as lawfully valid translations.
Legal, certified, notarised, and sworn translations.
There is a slight difference between legal, notarised, sworn, and certified translations. Before you bring your document to the translation agency, it’s good to know what translation services it will require.
Legal translations refer to all legal documents written in a foreign language and require translation to be recognized as valid in the eyes of the law of the target country. There is no setlist of legal documents. However, such translations are usually required for court, business, government documents and medical records, and education certificates.
Most common legal documents which may require legal translation services include:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Adoption agreements
- Driver’s licenses
- Immigration documents, passports, visas
- Wills and testaments
- Court transcripts
- Witness statements
- Evidence documents
- Application letters
- Financial reports and statements
- Bank deposits
- Business contracts
- Corporate and government proposals
- Medical records.
Specialistic language in which legal documents are written requires great lexical knowledge and understanding of the law of both the source and the target language country. Hence, legal translators must have lots of experience in this particular field.
A certified translation is carried by an accredited, highly professional translator required to sign a statement confirming that the translation is a complete, accurate, and true replica of the original document. Each page of such translation needs to be stamped and/or signed to prevent any misuse.
In the UK, a translation is perceived as “certified” when it fulfills one of the following conditions:
- An accredited translator has translated the document
- The translation has been signed by a certified translator or a translation agency
- The document has been signed in front of the notary public or a solicitor.
To ensure that all official procedures have been met, a translation should be signed by a notary public, who the government has appointed to oversee legal formalities. The notary does not check the accuracy of the translation itself. His stamp and signature certify that the translator swore that his translation is accurate. Only then is the translation perceived as “official” in the eyes of the law. Notarised translations are required for documents that are going to be sent overseas, and they’re usually required for education-based documents such as:
- Administrative documents
- Degree certificates
- Professional qualifications.
Sworn translations are done by translators who have taken an oath that they can provide an accurate translation. In many countries, this is usually done for court cases where translators provide their expert knowledge as interpreters. It’s important to know that this does not apply to the UK. In the UK, there is no such thing as “sworn” translation. All official translations in the UK are “certified.”
alt: a legal document
Why do I need a professional legal translator?
Speaking of legal translations, we all know how complex that field is. Many of us have problems understanding the linguistic intricacies when reading the legal document in our native language, let alone translate it by ourselves into a foreign language. With the development of technology and AI, today, we are equipped with tools to do that job for us. Some of us may wonder whether we still need a professional translation of legal documents in that case?
While automated translation tools such as google translate can help everyday situations when a quick translation is needed, legal translations are still simply too complex for them. Our own language skills also may not be enough for such types of translations. Therefore we should not rely on automated translation tools entirely for important official document translations. Let’s broaden that topic a little and discuss a few reasons why you should opt for a professional legal translation.
Legal terminology is very complex. Written documents, especially the legal ones, are not always straightforward, and mistranslation could be quite devastating to the client. With legal document translations come great responsibility, so we should always choose a trustworthy and experienced agency for the legal translation services.
Professional translators must be highly skilled in legal terminology in both languages. It’s also essential that the translation conveys the same tone as the original. For example, when translating an urgent notice, it is crucial to keep an urgent tone so that the receiver gets the right message. One of the most challenging things about legal translations is probably the differences in the linguistic structures. Sometimes, a particular structure in the source language may not have its direct equivalent in the target language. A skillful legal translator will find the most suitable words without any loss to the meaning of the original information.
Legal translations require not only a great lexical and grammatical knowledge of both languages. To provide the most accurate translation, a good legal translator must also know the international law, economic situation, and educational systems of the source language country and the target language country. This comes not only with additional university degrees but most of all with experience. Professional legal translators will also know about any law changes, so their translations will always be legally valid and accurate.
Another reason why a professional translator should do your legal translation is that legal documents often require confidentiality. Some documents contain susceptible information, so it’s essential to lay it in the hands of a person or an agency that can guarantee full confidentiality of your private information.
Some documents, especially the ones required in court, come with stringent deadlines. Failing to present the translation within the required deadline may result in the document becoming null or void. Because the translation sometimes has to be done within a minimal time frame, it requires a skillful legal translator to ensure the top-quality translation is completed within a short time limit.
Translation requirements may vary depending on the target language country. If you’re still unsure whether your legal document requires professional translation in the UK, please ask one of the agencies which offer translation services in London. Thanks to years of experience of linguistic experts and their in-depth knowledge of applicable regulations, you will get the best advice and the best translation services provided by competent professionals.