Sworn Translations (English <--> German)

Sworn Translations

Here you’ll find some information about sworn translations: What they look like, what they’re used for, how they’re made, and how long they take.

I am certified by the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) of Düsseldorf to prepare sworn translations for use in court proceedings and other official settings. The certification process requires demonstrated fluency both in English and German and the completion of a seminar in German legal language. I am also a licensed attorney in the state of Texas, although I no longer actively practice law.

I can provide sworn translations of German documents into English, or English documents into German.

In Germany, certification procedures and vocabulary for sworn translations varies from one German federal state to another. In some states, the preferred term is beglaubigte Übersetzung (sworn translation), but in Northern Rhine-Westphalia, where I am licensed, the terms bescheinigte or bestätigte (certified) are used. The terminology is irrelevant; courts and agencies will usually accept any sworn/certified translation as long as it was performed by a professional translator with the necessary credentials.

Important: A sworn translation is not the same as a certified copy. To obtain a certified copy, you take your document to government office. They will make a copy of the document themselves, inspect it to make sure it’s complete and accurate, and then attach a seal or stamp saying it’s a certified copy. One problem that often arises in dealing with German agencies is that German government officials are not allowed to certify copies of documents which are not in German. Before contacting a sworn translator, you may wish to double-check to make sure you know whether a certified copy or a certified/sworn translation is what you need. You may also need an Apostille or a notary certification of certain types of documents. I cannot provide these myself, but I can translate them if they already exist. It’s usually a good idea to contact the agency or office to which you’re submitting the documents and make sure exactly what they need.

What is a sworn translation?

A sworn translation is a verbatim, literal translation of all of the legible information in a document. Logos, graphics, and illegible handwritten signatures are not translated. If a stamp, handwritten note, or signature is illegible, I won’t try to translate it, and will make a note to this effect in the translation (“signature, illegible”).

I will attempt to maintain the design and layout of the document to the greatest extent possible, but there will inevitably be some differences in the ultimate result. This is generally irrelevant, since the sworn translation focuses only on the information in the document, not its appearance. The sworn translation will be accompanied by a certificate signed and dated by me in which I attest the accuracy of the translation, and will bear my official stamp. The certificate may be either in German or in English, but the stamp is in German.

I use advanced optical character recognition (OCR) and translation software to prepare the translation. Once it is finished, I will create the final product by combining the following:

  1. The sworn translation.
  2. The original documents, printed out in the form I received them from the client.
  3. A page with my certificate and seal.

I will bind all three of these together in the order listed above. At this point, I will create what’s known as the “butterfly” – I will accordion-fold the upper left margin of the pieces of paper, and then put my stamp on the resulting “butterfly”. This ensures that the pages cannot be removed or re-ordered without leaving a trace. Then I will staple the pages together. The law provides that the pages of a sworn translation must be “permanently attached to one another”. I will generally use a common staple for shorter translations; longer ones may require other forms of attachment, such as grommets or thread.

How to Submit Documents

If you like, you can send documents to my email address, andrew{at-symbol}hammeltranslations.com. Since these documents often contain sensitive personal information, I will keep them strictly confidential. If you decide not to use my services, I will immediately and permanently delete your files.

Here are a few tips to make the process as efficient as possible:

  1. Send me the highest-quality file you can possibly generate. The format does not matter, any image or document format in common use is fine. Ideally, the image will be in clear, sharp focus, not skewed, complete, and in high resolution. If you don’t have access to the original or to software to produce a high-quality scan, this is fine, as long as the document is readable. However, I may charge a little extra for poor-quality documents which will need major reformatting by hand.
  2. Please send me the entire document. If it is a 15-page court judgment, I must translate all 15 pages. This is a rule designed to prevent fraud or abuse. It may be possible for me to provide a sworn translation of an incomplete document, but I am required by law to prominently point out the fact that some pages are missing. This, in turn, may lead to the agency refusing to accept the translation.

Timing and Prices

In general, I will be able to translate a short document in 3-4 days. If you need the documents urgently, I will be happy to work with you, but may charge a little extra. I will send you a scan of the translation as soon as I am finished, and will mail a hard copy, if required. I will also send you my invoice electronically and in hard-copy form, if needed. Invoices sent to German addresses will require an additional charge of 19%, the current German VAT rate.

I will calculate the fee based on the length of the document, the deadline, and the difficulty of the formatting/translation, and will let you know when I anticipate finishing it. I don’t have a “standard rate”, as such, but I charge reasonable fees. I will send you an estimate based on the scans, and you can decide whether to hire me.