What is a sworn translation?

Sworn translationsSworn translations, often also referred to as certified or official translations, are performed by linguists that have been sworn in by the High Court of South Africa.

According to SATI, the South African Translators Institute, a sworn translation is defined as:

A sworn translation is a translation that will be accepted for official purposes. Examples of work that have to be a sworn translation are documents required in court or other legal proceedings, for migration purposes or for use abroad. Largely these will be official or legal documents. The sworn translator will stamp and sign such documents, indicating that they are a true translation of the original. In general, such translations will be accepted around the world.

A sworn translator is someone who has been authorised by the state, on the basis of having proved their competence, to produce sworn translations. They are first tested and then have to swear an oath in the High Court of South Africa to ‘translate faithfully and correctly, to the best of [their] knowledge and ability’. To ensure that a translation is recognised as a sworn translation, sworn translators stamp and sign every page of their translations and add a statement certifying that it ‘is a true translation of the original’. A sworn translation of a document is the legal equivalent of the original document for evidentiary purposes in a court of law. 

Sworn translators carry a heavy responsibility, because their work can have life-changing consequences for the people involved. Their work needs to be 100% correct and for this reason sworn translation is a specialisation and should be done only by highly competent and experienced translators.

When you require sworn translations, you’ll need to submit the originals to the linguist to evaluate the translation requirements and work from.  Once the translations are complete, they are stamped by the sworn linguist (with the official stamp they have received form the High Court of South Africa). They are then delivered in hard copy, in order to submit them to the relevant authorities, along with the original source documents.

Examples of documents that may require sworn translations would be (according to SATI):

The list below gives examples of the types of documents that sworn translators may be called upon to translate. This is only a small selection, but illustrates the variety of work a sworn translator has to deal with.

  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Wills
  • Marriage certificates
  • Orders of divorce
  • Educational certificates
  • Contracts
  • Company articles of association
  • Patents
  • Constitutions
  • Affidavits
  • Forensic reports
  • Medical reports

Until next time,


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