Does sworn translation mean better translation?

The opinion of ATT INTERWERS Technical Translations Agency about sworn translators and the legal requirements concerning sworn translation
Sworn translation (translating for legal equivalence) is not at all better than regular translation. To make things clear – it’s not about being better or worse as this is not the case. In simple words, sworn translation is sometimes required by particular institutions in order to have a certified proof of the text’s legal equivalence.

The term “sworn translations” describes an activity undertaken by a translator and not a document whose correctness is guaranteed by a translator tested by the Government. The liability for correctness of the translation is transferred from the document owner onto the translator.

In other words, the translator guarantees the quality of the translation and not the Government which is responsible for testing candidates for sworn translators. The stamp of a sworn translator may be the cause for misunderstandings since it reminds one of a notary or court stamp. The Government is not a Party responsible for a given translation. The actual responsibility for a translation in case of a bad quality is borne by the translator who signed and stamped a given document. The stamp which looks like a government stamp is in fact the translator’s confirmation of his/her proper translation. To sum up – the obligations resulting from placing a sworn translator’s stamp on a document are not the responsibility of the Government.

The law applying to sworn translators was created without consulting the translation agencies, the industry or even the courts and police who are frequent customers of sworn translators. The legislator developed regulations of the Act on sworn translators which state that only a person who received their magister (master’s) degree in Philology can become a sworn translator. Such a provision was thought to be a quality guarantee. This plan did not work as during the creation of such a law there were no efficient methods of consultation in Poland, while the legislator probably assumed that the law will adapt to the existing conditions with time.

Realistically speaking, sworn translation is not an indicator of quality but merely a type of document.
Until recently, sworn translations were of various levels of quality. It all depended on the field of study which the translation concerned. If the document for translation concerned common issues, the sworn translator did not have any problems with providing a good translation. The problem appeared however, in case of documents describing a particular field of study. The sworn translator simply did not know what they were writing about because by being a philologist, they did not have the technical knowledge. Philology studies prepare the students for analysis of texts in a given foreign language and not for analysis of the specific content of the documents within all possible fields of study. Thus, a philologist can evaluate the correctness of style, grammar etc. as well as other language-specific elements of a given foreign language but they cannot evaluate the quality of the text’s message and in many cases will not understand the terms of a given field of study – similarly to any layman or other person who is not a specialist in a given topic.

A sworn translation prepared by a philologist means that a translated text has an official document status (which is not equal to a government document). The sworn translator has the power to apply an official status to the translated documents.

Until the end of June 2011, only a philologist with a magister degree could take the sworn translation exam.  The government guaranteed with its authority that the translator passed the exam but did not guarantee the quality of translation at the same time. Commonly this difference was not considered however. This caused many problems.

The Polish Association of Translation Companies whose member ATT INTERWERS Technical Translations Agency has been since 2005, criticized the Act on sworn translators and consequently in July 2011 the Sejm amended the act according to the suggestions of the Association.
Currently (since July 2011) not only a philologist can become a sworn translator. This limitation has been done away with.

The legislator amended the provisions of the Act on sworn translators and adjusted them to the reality. The idea of sworn translation is not simply the stamp of the translator, as well as all the decorative elements of the document and a special registry log where the translator records each completed translator. The idea of sworn translation is the actual transfer of a part of business risk and liability onto the translator (who is also an entrepreneur). This is the reason why the fees for sworn translations and each subsequent copy of the same document differ from standard written translations. The traditional form of sworn translation, i.e. the decorative elements, signatures and stamps are just an addition to the documents. It is important however, that a particular person, i.e. the translator and not the government bears the financial risk of their business actions and civil liability.

Currently (since July 2011) anyone who understands what they are writing about, knows two languages and is willing to bear the civil liability for the performed activities, i.e. for the text of the translation, may become a sworn translator. A government exam still applies in order to acquire the rights of a sworn translator.

Do sworn translators abroad have official stamps?

Sworn translations, i.e. official written translations are common in mainland Europe and they are provided by persons authorised to do so by the government, i.e. by sworn translators.

In Poland, sworn translators act pursuant to the Act dated November 25, 2004 on sworn translators.

The law on sworn translation does not exist in Great Britain and Ireland.

In case of various court proceedings, where there is a necessity of providing translated contracts and other documents to the court, customs office and such, ATTINTERWERS.COM Technical Translation Agency provides sworn translations. In case of technical texts, the translation services are first provided by a translator educated within a given field of study and then certified by a sworn translator. This guarantees high quality of translations, both in terms of the language and the technical contents and simultaneously meets all the requirements of court and other state authorities.