What is the difference between official and unofficial translation?

unofficial translation

What is the difference between official and unofficial translation?

(Last Updated On: June 18, 2020)

You have been looking to get a translation for your documents to be submitted to governmental and consequential places and you have been told that you have to submit an official translation if you want your document to hold merit in the office. Now, were you are wondering about the difference between an official and an unofficial translation? Let DutchTrans explain to you in detail.

Official or unofficial translation?

An official translation is the United Kingdom’s term for a certified translation. A certified translation is any translation that comes with an authenticity certificate stating that the translator is capable to translate between the languages and the translation is accurate. The translator or the translation agency signs the certificate and the certificate is submitted to the office along with the translation.

What is an unofficial translation

What is an unofficial translation?


Many times, the translator does not provide a certificate of authenticity because the client did not ask for one. These translations are called unofficial translations.

An unofficial translation will not be admissible in a legal, governmental or any other office that requires verified translation with credentials of the translator provided. The translation may be well-done and credible and yet it will be open to debate and dubious speculation. An official translation will be verified and can be admitted to serious institutions for further assessment.

Why is unofficial required then?


A translation agency doesn’t provide just translation for immigration but much more: translation for personal reasons and translation for business, which includes fields like medical, technical, etc. Such translations are not supposed to be submitted for official purposes and do not need a certificate of accuracy.

Another type of unofficial translation that is highly used these days is website translation, used by companies in order to expand to certain markets. Software localization is also unofficial, yet it is needed in order to translate a software suite or an app into another language.

There are many fields where the translation, although highly accurate, doesn’t need a certificate of authenticity. When it comes to immigration or getting a job in another country, certified translation becomes necessary.

where is unofficial needed

When should you not bother with a certificate of authenticity?


There are moments when it is OK not to get a certificate of authentication. The certificate is there to verify the credentials in front of the reviewing person. There are a couple of things to ask yourself when you are deciding whether to get a certificate of authenticity or not;

  • Is an official translation a compulsory requirement? If the reviewing team has specifically asked for a certificate of authenticity from the translator then enough said. There is no point in taking the debate any further. You should end the discussion here and get certified translation.
  • Are you expected to vouch for your submission? If you are submitting a translation of your own academic research papers, for instance, the certificate of authenticity has much less to do with the contents of translation than the fact that you can verify the translation yourself. The contents of the translation are far more a reflection of you than the translator. If similar instances are at play, we will advise you to find an acquaintance that is fluent in the target language to review the translation. Just make sure that you are allowed to do that.
  • Can you understand the target language? If you can understand the target language well and fluently then you can see for yourself if the translation is up to the mark or not, and if the translation wasn’t done for official purposes, it can be a normal translation.

DutchTrans reviewed these instances to show that there is a difference between providing a certificate of authenticity and finding the translation accurate yourself. A certificate of authenticity is best served for instances where the translation is needed for official use, like immigration. If it wasn’t meant for that and the certificate is not required, a normal translation would do.

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