Certification (NZ lawyer without translation qualification)
Thread poster: Nadescha Vester

Nadescha Vester  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 08:55
German to English
Oct 24, 2008

Hello Everyone,

I have a question about carrying out certifications. I have looked around the forums quite a bit and have found various threads on this topic, but none have really helped me to find an answer to my specific situation, which is the following:

I am a fully qualified lawyer (i.e. admitted to the bar) here in New Zealand (although I do not hold a current practising certificate as I am not employed as a lawyer).
I have been working as a freelance translator for a few years now (German > English), but I do not have a translation qualification or any form of accreditation.
My clients are based all over the world.

If a client wants me to certify a translation, can I do this in my capacity as a lawyer, although I do not have a translation qualification? I.e. can I write on the translation something to the effect of "I certify that this is a true and accurate translation..."?
Or do I need a translation qualification to do certifications and another lawyer (notary public in Europe) witnesses my signature?
Or can another lawyer simply certify the translation I have completed (although I have no translation qualification)?
Does this differ depending on where my client is located?

A further factor: I am planning on completing a translation qualification at some stage (probably the IoL DipTrans). Will this have any bearing on my (in)ability to complete certifications?
Will it make a difference if I am based in Europe? (I will move to Austria at some stage in the next few years.)

I really hope someone has some answers, or maybe some suggestions as to where I can educate myself.
Many thanks in advance!

Nadescha


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 07:55
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Australia, England & Germany Oct 24, 2008

Since you plan to move to Australia, I'll share my experience with "certifying" patent translations for a client in that country. The process was essentially unverified self-certification. I filled out a form on an extra page listing my name, possibly my address (I forget) and the title of the translation. On that page was also the statement that I am competent in German and certify that the translation is "true and correct". No qualification process whatsoever was required to be able to issue such a certification; anyone could do it in principle. I think the process works basically the same way in England.

In Germany the picture is more complex. One must be approved by the courts to do these certifications, but the process varies considerably from state to state. Years ago in the Saarland I think they checked my partner's pulse to make sure she was alive and spoke to her for 30 seconds before making her a court-sworn translator and interpreter (that has changed in the meantime). Other states will accept a university degree in translation. Others, like Bavaria, accept only state exams. And of course there is the usual extra paperwork here like police certifications of good behavior (Führungszeugnis) and so on. I'm sure many people feel this makes a great deal of difference in the reliability of such a certification, but my experience tells me otherwise.


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Damian Harrison
Germany
Local time: 08:55
German to English
Professional associations should be able to help you Oct 24, 2008

I suggest you contact these two organizations for information on certifying documents in New Zealand and Australia respectively.

http://www.nzsti.org/
http://www.ausit.org/eng/showpage.php3?id=646


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Anita Cassidy  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2005)
English to German
Austria, not Australia... Oct 24, 2008

I think Nadescha said Austria, not Australia.

AFAIK, the situation in Austria is somewhat similar to the one in Germany.

In order to be able to 'certify' (the accuracy of) translations in Germany, you would need to obtain some sort of translation qualification, such as sitting an approved IHK (chamber of commerce) or culture ministry examination. The IoL diploma might count, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Your best bet for reliable information, as Damian suggested, would be the relevant translators'/interpreters' associations. Here's one I found for Austria: http://www.universitas.org/


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Nadescha Vester  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 08:55
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Oct 26, 2008

Thank you very much for your suggestions.
I did indeed mean Austria, not Australia (although the latter seems to be the more obvious place to move to from New Zealand...).

It appears that what clients want when they ask for a "certification" can really differ. In some cases they actually mean a notarisation. I guess, in a common law country such as NZ, I can get another lawyer to witness my "certification", but in a civil law country I'd have to go to a notary public (and first get a translation qualification).

But what about the location of the client? If my client is located in Germany and needed a notarisation, I guess I would have to take my "certified" translation, as witnessed by a lawyer, and get it apostilled. I would need to check private international law rules on that procedure...

Hmm, it seems that when a client asks for certification, it's probably best to ask the client what exactly they want and what they need the certification for.
If they need a notarisation e.g. for immigration purposes, ok fair enough. However, it seems that many clients want a certification to assure themselves that the translation is good. I don't really see the point though when no third party authority actually checks this... (that is, in common law countries where you can just write your own "certification" without having a translation qualification).

Well, I will make some enquiries and then decide which qualification to obtain!

Best regards,
Nadescha


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 07:55
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Certifications Oct 26, 2008

Nadescha Vester wrote:
I did indeed mean Austria, not Australia ...

But what about the location of the client? If my client is located in Germany and needed a notarisation, I guess I would have to take my "certified" translation, as witnessed by a lawyer, and get it apostilled....

I don't really see the point though when no third party authority actually checks this... (that is, in common law countries where you can just write your own "certification" without having a translation qualification).


Oops. Austria is indeed a bit different. Have a look at this:
http://www.uebersetzen.at/Beglaubigungen.htm

This is far, far stricter than anything I have seen with in Germany. Here the BDÜ crowd still argue about whether one can/should attach the original or a copy of the original to the translation; in Austria it seems that each page must be separately marked and charged. The actual qualifications vary between states apparently, just like in Germany, but the whole discussion of obligations to government service sound a lot more oppressive than anything in Germany. It is also interesting to note that Austria apparently has a fixed pricing schedule. Very different from Germany except with regard to work for the authorities/courts.

For "Beglaubigung" for a German client, your seal will generally suffice. There are, however, exceptions for certain official documents. I don't have enough experience with such work myself to describe the exceptions; I do know that in some cases one might have to spend significant time dealing with apostilles at embassies or consulates.

I'm really glad you raised this issue. I've received inquiries a few times for certifications for Switzerland (which came to nothing), but I have never received any requests related to Austria. It's obvious from the description in the link that the practice I follow for the Bavarian courts & elsewhere is in no way adequate for those criteria. There has never been a problem with certification of documents intended for submission in Canada, the US, the UK or Australia, because compared to those places the criteria for certification here are rather strict.

As far as third-party checking is concerned, there is no formal obligation of such in Austria or Germany as far as I know. Of course, if one declares that the work is done in accordance with the latest DIN standard that so many people argue about that is implicit.


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Nadescha Vester  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 08:55
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for information Nov 1, 2008

Hi Kevin,
Thanks a lot for this information. It is very useful indeed!
Best regards,
Nadescha


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