Every now and then a prospective client asks whether I would ‘just stamp’ their translation; they think, perhaps, that providing a translation will make the sworn translation process quicker and cheaper. My usual reply is ‘No, I am sorry. I do not offer certification services for third-party translations.’
Here is why:
It is never a ‘just stamp’ job
From experience, when someone asks to ‘just stamp’ a translation, the job is never to just stamp a translation.
The job is
- to perform a bilingual review,
- to proofread, and
- to certify.
A bilingual review involves reading the translation, checking everything – legal concepts, terminology, figures, personal details… you name it – against the original, and then correcting mistakes. It is usually done in several stages, each of them dedicated to look for specific types of mistakes, such as mistranslations, typos in personal details, figures, grammar, and style.
After the bilingual review, it is time to proofread. It involves reading the translation only, looking for and correcting mistakes, such as punctuation, typos, and misspellings.
The last stage is to add the certification, print out the document, sign it, and stamp it, attaching a dated and stamped copy of the original to it.
It is never a ‘just stamp’ job. It is a 3-step process, only one step less than the usual 4-step sworn translation process.
The sworn translator will be the one certifying that the translation is a true and faithful rendering of the original document, so ‘just stamping’ someone else’s translation is a tricky job not many translators want to take on. The risk of quality issues is high, and so is the risk of not spotting a mistake and then having to take the blame for it.
Knowing languages does not suffice to do a good translation job. Non-translators (and even non-sworn translators) will normally not know how to approach common translation challenges such as non-equivalence of legal terms, legal false friends, and polysemy; they will not know what strategy to adopt regarding organisations and institutions, acts and regulations, titles, signatures, certifications, seals, and more.
Speaking from experience, translations are usually not good enough to consider taking them on and simply certifying them after a quick read.
Not financially viable
The high risk of quality issues and the three steps involved in the review + proofreading + certification process usually make these jobs not financially viable. Quite often, reviewing a translation done by a third party takes longer than translating the document from scratch; therefore, contrary to what some clients think, the 3-step ‘just stamp’ job is likely to cost more than the usual 4-step sworn translation process.
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IRENE CORCHADO RESMELLA is a Spanish translator based in Edinburgh. A Chartered Linguist and member of the CIOL, she is also an English-Spanish sworn translator appointed by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Irene specialises in sworn and legal translation (particularly in wills and succession) and is an Affiliate member of STEP. ICR Translations is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office and has professional indemnity insurance.