Characteristics of sworn translations – South Africa


In South Africa, sworn translations commonly known as certified translation are legally valid translations that are done by a translator who has been sworn in before a court of law. The term Sworn translation is little-known but necessary and mandatory for any documents that have some legal significance and which need to be submitted to a foreign government body, or an employer for a variety of reasons. Documents that have ‘some legal significance’ could be anything from personal documents like professional qualifications, birth and marriage certificates to business or corporate documents and court documents.

Sworn translation features

Performing sworn translations in South Africa requires impeccable technical expertise combined with in-depth knowledge of the legal system in which the text will be used. Translation professionals who provide sworn, notarized, or certified translation services offer their clients a guarantee of quality and legal value. The features and mandatory elements of the sworn translation in South Africa are:

  1. The formatting and layout in the sworn translations in South Africa always be as similar as possible to the formatting and layout in the source document
  2. Images such as coats of arms, photos, letterheads, emblems, stamps, seals, logos, etc must not be reproduced. Instead of this, they must be referred to in the target language in square brackets e.g. describe a logo as [Logo] if the target language is English. Directly beside or below this, in the target language, provide a detailed description of the text within and surrounding the image in question.
  3. Handwritten sections in source documents should be noted as handwritten in the sworn translations in South Africa. If handwritten sections are illegible, they should be noted as illegible handwriting in the target language; e.g., [illegible handwriting] if the target language is English.
  4. Always make sure the appropriate Bates code (AKA Bates numbering, Bates stamping, Bates branding or Bates labeling) appears on each page in the legal document translation in the place where it is located in the source file. This applies to other numerals and marginal notes as well.
  5. Names of institutions/schools shouldn’t be translated in sworn translations in South Africa unless there is an officially translated name of the institution/schools in the target language.
  6. No comments should be made for the owner/ recipient in the actual sworn translations in South Africa. Translation of the document must be as precise as possible and if necessary for clarification purposes, comments should be placed at the very end of the translation, after the words “Translator’s Note” as footnotes that refer to specific areas of the translation or endnotes if the comments generally refer to the entire original file.
  7.  A translator should never be pressured by a client to add or subtract from the original meaning of the source text in the sworn translation in South Africa. While it is acceptable to be flexible to accommodate some changes, your legal document translation needs to accurately reflect the original document.
  8. Lastly, it must include a statement to the effect that this is a “certified and true copy of the original”, along with the sworn translator’s seal and signature. The translator must clearly state his or her full name, the designation “sworn translator” (or certified, etc.), and the languages for which his or her translation is sworn.

sworn translation in South Africa

Differences between regular translation and sworn translation.

The regular translation has the same requirements as the sworn translation in terms of the quality of the translation and its characteristics. The difference is that the translation is not required to be signed and sealed by a professional translator or registered sworn translator, in the case of those countries like Spain, France or Germany, where this is necessary.

When we talk about standard legal translations, we are talking about legal documents that are not going to be processed by an official public body or documents intended for private use only.

We take care of your documents

At SpeakPortuguese we specialize in Legal sworn translations, we take care of your most valuable and important documents at your time of greatest need. There are no two clients with the same ultimate goal; each case has different needs, motivations, and levels of urgency.

Contact us if you have any questions about sworn translations and would like more information or an obligation-free quote.

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