Why Legal Translation of Some Documents is Mandatory, But Not All

Where documents form part of evidence-in-law, the other party or the judge is entitled to question their authenticity. Much the same applies to witnesses, where it is prudent to know their character and background before trusting them.

The Courts expect anybody giving evidence to promise what they say is true, and may prosecute if they lie. In a similar vein, a legal translator certifies their work is a true and honest reflection of the original document. Without this, it may have no legal standing.

Two Levels of Legal Translation – Certified and Notarized

A licensed translator signs off their work by identifying themselves, and certifying it is an honest translation perfectly reflecting the original content. However, a Court or attorney could still call on them to affirm this in person.

Alternatively, a notary public may append their official seal to attest to this promise. Many lawyers and commissioners of oaths have this authorization. Now we understand the basics, let us move on to understanding the circumstances when legal translation of some documents is mandatory.

Circumstances When Legal Translation of Some Documents is Mandatory

Clearly, certification is unnecessary when the translation is for private purposes. If I find a letter written in an unfamiliar language among my late mother’s documents, I may, for example just be curious to learn what it says. I could ask a friend who knows the language to satisfy my curiosity. However, what they wrote down for me might not be grammatically correct.

Of course, if the document turned out to be the last will and testament of my late mother’s friend, then I would need a professional translator to draw out the subtle nuances – just in case I turned out to be a beneficiary of the estate. A Court would certainly require a certified, notarized version were I to press any claim.

Similarly, any other translations forming evidence must be legal ones a Court would respect for accuracy. They would need to be the work of an educated, well-trained person with both professional registration and professional dedication. They should, furthermore, have notarization by someone in high community standing.

For instance, the Canada Immigration Service always insists on certified translations of all documents not already in English (of French as applicable). It is essential to find a reliable translator to do the work. A simple mistake could invalidate a request for a visitor, or residence visa.

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