What is a Certified Translation and Certified Translation Services?

You may have seen the term ‘certified translation’ bandied about in several different contexts, but what actually defines a certified translation? How do you go about getting a professional translation certified? And is it as costly and complicated as it sounds? Whether you’re an individual, an SME or a large company, these are just a few of the questions you may be wondering about if you find yourself in need of a certified translation, so we’ll help you cut to the chase.

What does certified translation mean?

In a nutshell, it is a translation that has been declared to be a true and accurate representation of the original source document, either by an accredited translator, language service provider or other official body depending on the relevant country. There are a number of reasons someone might require a translation to be certified, mainly for legal purposes such as birth, death or marriage certificates, contracts or legal correspondence. If your business works with international clients, for example, you may need to sign a contract in a language that isn’t your own, or make any solicitors’ correspondence available in the languages of both parties. In this instance, it would make sense to get an officially certified translation to ensure accuracy, as the risk of using an unverified translation that contains even a single mistake could have huge legal implications.

However, the definition of a certified translation can vary quite a bit from country to country as there is no standardised universal translation system and legal frameworks will invariably differ depending on the country. This often causes confusion. The Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) defines four official categories of official translations:

  • Certified translation – the accredited translator or translation agency who provided the translation confirms the accuracy and completeness of the translation. This is the standard offering in the UK and is usually sufficient for most needs, unless further regulations apply.
  • Apostilled translation – these must be endorsed by a notary public. In the UK, documents are legalised with a stamped official certificate (an ‘apostille’) by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which ensures the translation is recognised in all countries that are part of the Hague Convention. You can find out more information at https://www.gov.uk/get-document-legalised.
  • Notarised translation – this must be accompanied by a declaration either from the translator and signed by a notary or from the notary public for the purpose of making the translation official for use overseas. The notary themselves cannot endorse the quality of the translation unless they are a member of a professional translation body. Their signature simply acts as witness to the translator’s declaration of accuracy.
  • Sworn translation – in some countries, including Germany, France and Spain, a translator can achieve the accolade of ‘sworn translator’ by being accredited by the relevant governing authority. This allows them to self-certify their translations. This system does not exist in the UK.

At Planet Languages we are able to provide certified translations in over 80 languages. Take a look at our Legal Translations page to find out more about our credentials in this field.

How do you certify a translation?

This will depend on the purpose of the certification and the relevant authority you are working with as requirements can vary from country to country. We would always advise a client to check with the relevant authority exactly what they require in order to deem the translation certified. Usually a signed declaration from the accredited translator or translation agency stating that the translation is a true and accurate representation of the source documents will suffice, but some authorities may require a witness such as a solicitor or other legally qualified professional to verify the authenticity of the document. The declaration should be physically attached to both the translation and source document so that they cannot be separated. Each individual page of the translation will need to be stamped or signed to ensure there is no possibility of tampering and the bound documents will need to be provided to the recipient in hard copy, again to ensure there is no misuse, although some authorities may accept a scanned copy.

Who can certify a translation in the UK?

In the UK, there is no specific system of appointing ‘sworn’ or ‘certified’ translators. Technically any practising translator can self-certify their own translations. However, most authorities will only accept translations that have been certified by members of a recognised professional body for translators/translation agencies such as the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) or the Association of Translation Companies (ATC). Membership to such bodies attests to their qualifications in the industry and indicates a certain level of professionalism. The ATC provides a certification stamp to accredited member companies, which is renewed annually and carries the name and membership number of the company.

What makes a translation company certified?

In order to attain the ATC certification stamp a translation company must be an accredited member of the association, demonstrating that they have passed rigorous background checks for both financial and operational viability as well as quality management practices. They must also comply with the ATC’s Code of Professional Conduct and Complaints Handling Process. Planet Languages has been an accredited member of the ATC for 25 years.

How long does it take to certify a translation?

The turnaround time will depend on a number of factors, such as the availability of your chosen provider, the length of the source document and the complexity of the content, but the certification itself should not delay the process. Assuming you do not require notarised or apostilled translations, the certification can be fulfilled as an additional quality assurance step once the translation is complete and before final delivery to the client.

How much does a certified translation cost?

In short, a certified translation should not cost you any extra compared to a standard translation. Any respectable translation provider will endeavour to always ensure their translations are consistently high quality and a true and accurate representation of the source, so adding the label ‘certified’ should not necessarily inflate the price. At Planet Languages we offer all-inclusive rates, meaning whether you require a translation to be certified or not we will never ask you to pay more for this service. We work with highly skilled and experienced linguists who can be trusted to get it right, so we are happy to put our name to every translation we deliver.


As we’ve discovered, the world of certified translations can be a little perplexing given the many definitions that are out there. But don’t let yourself get lost in translation. As a golden rule, your first step should always be to ask the authority you will be submitting the translation to exactly what they require. In general, if your translation will be used in the UK, then a certified translation from the accredited translator or translation agency will usually be sufficient, but it is always best to double-check, especially if it will be used abroad. Once you know the requirements, you can then enquire with you preferred provider(s) whether they are able to fulfil these conditions. Make sure you don’t forget the other important factors that should always be considered when choosing any service provider: do they offer consistently high-quality work and exemplary customer service? Whatever you are looking for, you should always feel in the safest of hands.

About the author

Sinead Livesey graduated with a First Class Honours degree in French, Spanish and Linguistics from the University of York in 2013. She joined Planet Languages shortly after and is now a senior member of the project management team. Across her multiple client accounts, she coordinates translation, proofreading and typesetting projects, as well as providing in-house expertise in her native and studied languages. Outside of work she enjoys distance running and cycling and completed the 2019 London Marathon to raise funds for the Wessex Cancer Trust.