Certified Translation vs. Certified Translator

Q:  What is certified translation?

A:  A certified translation package consists of the following three parts:
(1) The source-language text (usually a copy of the original document), (2) the target-language text (translation), and (3) a signed statement called a “Certificate of Translation” (sometimes referred to as a “Certificate of Accuracy” or “Affidavit of Translation”) stating that the translator or translation company representative signing the statement believes the target-language text to be an accurate and complete translation of the source-language text. It must contain the name of the translator or company and all the necessary information (i.e.: phone numbers, Web site address, etc.) that is required by any governmental (including USCIS - former INS), educational or judicial institution.

Any translator or translation company, regardless of credentials, may “certify” a translation in this way. However, please note that most governmental agencies in the US, such as USCIS, courts, colleges, universities, medical and nursing boards, and many other organizations require that translation is performed by a certified translator. For example, translation certification requirements set forth by the USCIS state: “Any foreign language document must be accompanied by a full English translation that the translator has certified as complete and correct, and by the translator's certification that he or she is competent to translate the foreign language into English” (Instructions for USCIS Form I-130, page 1).

Q:  What is a certified translator or interpreter?

A:  To become certified, translators and interpreters must pass the appropriate exams offered by a recognized certifying agency, such as American Translators Association (ATA) or the state courts (e.g.: Superior Court of California), and comply with the Code of Ethics, continuing education, and other requirements. The applicants are tested in their fluency in both the source and the target languages, as well as translation and/or interpreting skills in particular areas of expertise, e.g.: legal, medical, or technical. ATA runs a certification program consisting of written tests in more than 20 language pairs. The Administrative Office of the Courts and the Judicial Council of California run the Court Interpreters Program and facilitate the process for taking the state certification test and becoming a Certified Court Interpreter, which includes both written and oral exams. They also monitor the compliance of court interpreters with the Code of Ethics and continuing education requirements (30 hours of continuing education and minimum of 40 assignments of professional interpreting experience every two years).

Q:  Do I need to send my original documents for certified translation?

A:  Documents submitted for translation do not need to be originals—it is sufficient to send electronic copies via e-mail or clear fax copies.

Q:  Does certified translation need to be notarized?

A:  Certified translation does not need to be notarized unless there is a specific requirement by the receiving agency or organization. It is also important to realize that the Notary Public seal assures only that the signature is that of the person who presented him/herself to the notary. The Notary Public does not attest to the accuracy of the translation.

Q:  What is an apostille?

A:  If you need to use documents in a country other than that in which they were issued, you must make sure that they are “authenticated” or “legalized” properly. Some countries have agreed to abide by the Hague Convention facilitating reciprocal recognition of official documents. If the country where the document will be used is a party to the Hague Convention, your documents may need to have an Apostille Certification. Not to be confused with a Certificate of Translation, apostille is an international certification comparable to a notarization and is sometimes added to documents that have been signed by a notary, lawyer, clerk of a court, or other public officials in their official capacity. It specifies the way by which a document issued in one of the signatory countries can be certified for legal purposes in all the other signatory countries. In most cases, you do NOT need the Apostille for your documents in order to obtain certified translation.

Q:  What is a consular certification?

A:  States that have not signed the Hague Convention must specify how foreign legal documents can be certified for use. Sometimes two countries will have a special treaty concerning the recognition of each other's documents. When the country issuing or receiving the document does not recognize an apostille, you must usually take the document to the consulate of the foreign country. This process is known as “consular certification.”

Translation, Interpreting, Court Interpreting

Q:  What is the difference between translation and interpreting?

A:  Translators work with written materials while interpreters deal with spoken language. Translators take a document written in the source language and produce an equivalent document in the target language. Interpreters listen to spoken words in the source language and repeat the same message in the target language.

Q:  What is a court interpreter?

A:  Court interpreters interpret in civil or criminal court proceedings (e.g.: arraignments, motions, pretrial conferences, preliminary hearings, depositions, trials) for witnesses or defendants who speak or understand little or no English. Court interpreters need to be completely fluent in both English and a second language and must accurately interpret for individuals with a high level of education and an extensive vocabulary, as well as for persons with very limited language skills, without changing the language register of the speaker. They shift between two different languages in real time, accounting for different types of speech and grammar. They understand a variety of court procedures and practices, are familiar with legal terms and commonly used courtroom forms and reports, and sometimes are responsible for translating written legal documents from English into the target language and vice versa.

Q:  What is the difference between a registered and a certified court interpreter?

A:  Only interpreters who pass the Court Interpreter Certification Examination and fulfill the corresponding Judicial Council requirements are referred to as certified interpreters. Currently, there are certification examinations for 13 designated languages: American Sign Language, Arabic, Eastern Armenian, Western Armenian, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Interpreters of spoken languages for which there is no state-certifying examination are required to pass the Pass an English Fluency Examination, offered by an approved testing entity, and fulfill the corresponding Judicial Council requirements in order to become a registered interpreter of a nondesignated language.

Q:  Is special training recommended to become a court interpreter?

A:  Yes. Court interpreting is a very demanding job. Spoken language court interpreters must be completely fluent in both English and the second language. The level of expertise required for this profession is far greater than that required for everyday bilingual conversation. The interpreter must be able to handle the widest range of language terms that may be presented in the courts—from specialized legal and technical terminology to street slang. Most people do not have a full command of all registers of both English and the foreign language and, therefore, require special training to acquire it. Special training is also needed to develop interpreting techniques in three modes: consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation, and sight translation.

Q:  What is ATA Certification?

A:  The American Translators Association (ATA) offers tests for professionals who do written translation. ATA Certification is a testament to a translator's professional competence in translating from one specific language into another. It is available to candidates who offer proof of eligibility to take the examination based on education and experience. It is awarded after a candidate passes an open-book examination administered under controlled conditions. It comes with the obligation to continually improve professional skills through continuing education. It is available only to Association members in good standing and remains valid as long as membership in the Association is continued. It is currently available into English from Arabic, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish; and from English into Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian.

Certified Russian translation by a Certified Russian Translator: Sonia Melnikova-Raich is a Russian-English translator certified by American Translators Association (ATA). She is a certified Russian translator, certified Russian interpreter, certified court interpreter, Russian court interpreter certified by the State of California and Judicial Council of California, and a federal court interpreter. She has twenty years experience with expertise in legal translation, business translation, real estate translation, health care translation, medical translation, education translation, environment translation, communication translation, social services translation, social science translation, marketing and advertising translation and cultural adjustment, religion translation, art, film and video translation, architecture translation, and literary translation from Russian into English and from English into Russian. She works as a court interpreter for Superior Court of California, US Federal Court, USCIS (INS), Workers Compensation Board, and interprets for depositions, arbitration, trials, immigration and political asylum interviews, business meetings, and conferences. She provides certified translation of diplomas, academic transcripts, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, divorce certificates, adoption papers, immigration documents, business contracts, immunization records, and other legal documents in compliance with requirements of the USCIS (INS), US courts, credentials evaluation services, medical boards, boards of registered nursing, American colleges and universities. She can also provide a certificate of translation (affidavit of translation or affidavit of translation accuracy), and notarized translation, if needed. She translates from English into Russian and from Russian into English. She interprets English to Russian and Russian to English, performing consecutive interpreting, simultaneous interpreting, sight interpreting, and voice over. Other services include linguistic analysis of company and product names, localization and cultural adjustment, Russian-American cross-cultural communication, cultural sensitivity training, and cross-cultural conflict resolution.