Monthly Archives: June 2011

Translation of official documents – what does it really mean?

Written by Dr Aga Gordon                                       Find me on Twitter @acgtranslation

I have recently received several enquiries about the meaning of ‘sworn’ translation in the UK.  Therefore, I thought it would be useful to clarify a common misapprehension among Polish people regarding the translation of the official documents in the UK. Sworn translators do not exist in the UK, as the country does not accredit translators with seals subsequently used to confirm the translation’s authenticity. You can still find sworn translators from Poland, Germany or France, but their stamp is not required by local authorities.  In the UK translations needed for official purposes are certified or notarised.


There are three main levels of the official translations:

Certified translation – this is when the professional translator performs the translation, and then certifies it by putting a clause at the end that they are a qualified translator, and that the translation of the official document is accurate and true to the best of translator’s knowledge and ability. A certified translation is usually sufficient for most governmental bodies, universities, schools, insurance providers or employers for documents such as birth, divorce and marriage certificates, study transcripts, diplomas, medical reports, contracts, power of attorneys, household bills etc. Translators do not have to be members of professional translators’ organizations.

Notarised translation – this type of translation might be required for certain governmental or legal bodies. In this case, a qualified translator will perform their translation as in the case of certified translation, but will have to collaborate with a notary public, in whose presence the affidavit is sworn to declare true and accurate translation of the official documents. This will be confirmed by the notary public with their official stamp and signature.

You should always check with the body concerned whether you need a notarised translation. Such a translation carries an additional cost of about £70 for notary public fees.

Apostille – this certification might be required for documents needed overseas, especially concerning countries complying with the Hague Convention.  Examples might include when you plan to marry overseas, adopt a foreign child, or obtain a job abroad.

The process follows the same procedure as for a notarised translation, after which the notarised document is sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). They will confirm that the signing notary public was authorised to do so. Similarly to an affidavit, the apostille will incur an additional cost on a top of the cost of the translation.



A translator in Barcelona

Another guest post from my fellow translator, Catherine Christaki, I feel honoured she chose me to host her first ever blog post. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

By Catherine Christaki                               Follow her on Twitter @LinguaGreca

Visiting Barcelona has been a life-long dream, which finally came true last May with the added bonus of supporting the great Greek basketball team Panathinaikos for the Euroleague Final Four (European basketball competition). Just in case you were wondering, the team won the first place making all their fans exhilaratingly happy (including myself & hubby). The excitement for the game, the palpable & festive atmosphere in the stadium can’t really be described, there’s nothing like it. And such sports events are even greater for women, because the ratio is something like 50:1, so the boys treat us women like queens.

Barcelona, what a beauty!

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much available time to see and explore the gorgeous city of Barcelona during our short trip. We barely managed to take a short tour around the city on Friday morning, a stroll in La Rambla on Saturday followed by a flamenco show in Tablao Flamenco Cordobes that same night. So, travel-wise it was only an amuse-bouche, but we’ll be back to explore more, Barcelona hasn’t lost her spot on our destinations priority list, it’s even gone up a few places.

My language experience with Catalan

Let’s get to the language part of this post. I don’t speak Spanish or Catalan (only had a semester’s worth of learning while in Uni – Spanish for beginners, but it’s safe to say that I don’t remember any of it, it’s been a while since then and we all know what happens when you don’t regularly practice your language skills). Plus, I intentionally did no research on the differences of the two languages so that my comments would be more “pure” as a mere visitor and not a linguist. So, here goes:

What’s Catalan for “I can’t speak English”?

As tourists, we went to a few shops and restaurants during our short trip. In some cases, people didn’t even know or understand even the basic words that would be necessary to communicate with tourists. Don’t get me wrong, maybe I interacted with the wrong people and it was just a coincidence. But people kept talking to me in Spanish or Catalan even though it was clear I had no idea what they were on about. And some of them weren’t even very polite or hospitable and didn’t seem keen to make the extra effort, even just using body language. Of course, there were also many helpful and hospitable Catalans who made the whole travel experience even more enjoyable.

The French influence

From my short experience with Catalan, I noticed that the language influence from French is rather significant. It was easier for me to understand Catalan words because I can speak French and not because of my limited knowledge of Spanish. Someone told me that the Catalan equivalent for ‘thank you’ is ‘merci’. Why is that? I think that the two cultures are very different, so I couldn’t imagine the reason behind that heavy influence. Is it because they are neighboring countries? Bulgaria and Turkey are neighbors of Greece, but our languages are far from similar.

Lost in hospitality

Being a translator, it’s not hard to understand why I always notice spelling, grammar and translation mistakes everywhere I go, even in languages I don’t understand. It’s part of the job, most of us do it. So, I should mention a translation blunder I noticed on a poster in the hotel elevator (about breakfast). I don’t remember the Spanish phrase, but the English said “go off on right foot” and it made me laugh. That reminds me of another example. In a London hotel this time, in the elevator again, there was a letter from the manager welcoming guests etc. In one A4 page, less than 300 words, I spotted more than 20 spelling and grammar mistakes (in English!). I decided to alert the receptionist (even offered to help) and she told me it will be taken care of. Nothing had happened until our departure a few days later. Now, what does that say about the hotel’s brand or the hotel staff’s professionalism?

The Twitter connection

My Barcelona trip gave me the opportunity to meet a fellow translator, whom I had virtually met on Twitter. How great is that? I always love meeting new colleagues and with Twitter breaking the ice of the first contact, everything is easier now. Stefan (@SKTranslations), thank you again for the lovely conversation we had, it was one of the highlights of my Barcelona trip!

Special thank you to Silvina (@ATGTranslations), Moiraine (@MoiraineM), Samar (@samarowais) and Konstantina (@wordyrama) for offering to read the post and providing feedback. The comments were very useful and so good, what a support team! I’d also like to thank my gracious host Aga for agreeing to publish my first ever blog post in her blog. We all need help at the beginning of exciting ventures and in this case my Twitter friends have made all the difference.

About the author: Catherine is a freelance translator (English, French & German to Greek), specializing in IT, Medical and Technical texts. She has recently been awarded the 10th place at the Top 25 Language Twitterers 2011 competition. Find out more about her by visiting her profile on Proz. Her website and blog will soon be available online. You can follow her on Twitter at @LinguaGreca.