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Certified Translation vs. Sworn Interpreter

Authorities often require a “certified translation” for the recognition of foreign documents. When you want to have a legal transaction recorded by a German notary in German, without speaking German yourself, it is required that a sworn interpreter be present.

But what does this mean, exactly? And why are there so many different terms: publicly appointed and generally sworn interpreter (or translator), generally sworn interpreter, authorised translator, sworn translator, sworn interpreter, state-certified translator (or interpreter), generally sworn liaison interpreter, publicly appointed and sworn translator of documents? And this list is not even complete!

The reason for the different terms is that the judicial system is different in each “Bundesland”. Therefore, also interpretation and translation law differ from state to state, creating this concoction of terms.

When do you need a sworn interpreter or an authorised or publicly appointed translator?

When it comes to interpreters, it is mainly in two cases:

- in court hearings: according to German law, the interpreter must either take an oath for each assignment or, when generally sworn, must make reference to his or her oath. Usually, the court will appoint an interpreter itself, because otherwise it must justify why it has not appointed an interpreter.

- in all legal transactions that must be notarised. These are mainly real estate purchase transactions and while founding a limited liability company.

 Translations must be certified when an authority requires it, but also in certain legal proceedings a certified translation may be required, especially when it comes to international affairs.

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