What Does “Certified Translation” Really Mean?

While the concept of “machine translation” has been making headlines recently, many manufacturers require “certified translation” to ensure accuracy, quality, and consistency across all aspects of a translation project.

From the start, finding a reputable, dependable translation service to meet a manufacturer’s specific needs can be challenging since there is no clear-cut path or set formula for what equals certified translation. To this point, the American Translators Association states, “Any translator or translation company may ‘certify’ a translation (but) a translator does not need to be ‘certified’ in order to provide a ‘certified translation.’” In some cases, translators are not certified because there is no certification or screening process in their home county; other translators may feel their years of experience outweigh the need for certification.

Companies looking for a translation service provider can come to the table with a variety of expectations concerning “certification.” Regardless of the internal requirements, there are a number of different factors that you can look for in a translation services provider that will let you know your project will be handled professionally and the end result will be high quality.


With notarization, the translator and/or the project manager will add a sworn statement to the translation project, attesting to the accuracy of the content; a notary will then notarize their signature(s).

This type of certification is typically required for legal documents in support of immigration and naturalization efforts. Typical documents are birth certificates, family history booklets (common in some countries), and official police records confirming an individual’s lack of a criminal record.

The notarization of translated documents is also commonly used with college and high school transcripts for the admission process at US universities.

Notarization does not really ensure a specific level of quality but just affirms that a translator or project manager was willing to place a sworn statement on the translation affirming its accuracy.

Organization Membership

Some companies, especially in the case of manufacturers, will ask that their translation service provider be a member of a certain professional organization, such as the ATA in the United States, the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) in the United Kingdom, or in the European Union the Association of Translation Companies (EUATC). Membership in these organizations is open to all translation service providers once they have met specific criteria.

The ATC, which bills itself as “perhaps one of the oldest professional groups representing the interests of translation companies in the world,” offers certification in addition to training events such as workshops and webinars, a resource library, and the latest news about “published and emerging language industry standards,” according to its online presence.

ISO 17100:2015 is specifically geared toward translation companies and, specifically, human translation. (“The use of raw output from machine translation plus post-editing is outside the scope of ISO 17100:2015.”)

ISO Registration

A good benchmark for quality translation is provided through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), “an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 126 national standards bodies” whose members “develop voluntary, consensus-based, market-relevant Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges,” according to its website.

Read more about the importance of ISO-certified translation in manufacturing in a recent blog post from Argo.

SOP Compliance

Finally, some manufacturers have translation projects that must meet their industries’ standard procedures or their own company’s standard operating procedures. Sharing these documents and maintaining a solid line of communication between the client and the translation service provider is the first step in getting a quality translation.

Typical SOP requirements include guidelines on how many steps should be included in the translation process. For example, some companies will require a three-step process with three individual linguists –  Translator, Proofreader, and Editor.

Putting It All Together

It comes down to this: no matter what a manufacturer’s definition of “certified translation” is, or what criteria are in place for a translation project, it’s who is providing the translation that is the key to a successful conclusion. A translation service provider must be qualified, responsive to a company’s requirements and deadlines, and transparent in all aspects of its business.

Argo Translation prides itself on providing 100 percent human-powered translation. Working with more than 300 thoroughly vetted, certified translators from around the world, projects will be handled only by experienced professionals. For Argo, “certified translation” is the only kind of translation.

For additional information on best practices in the translation industry, download our “Top Ten Things to Consider for Your Next Translation Project” ebook.


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