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Becoming a certified translator in the UK - help needed
Thread poster: LinguaAA

Sep 22, 2012

Hello everyone

I would like to ask a question.How can someone become a certified translator in the United Kingdom? I will be pleased if you help me about this subject matter.

Thank you

Ayşe Ateşoğlu


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:43
Member (2007)
+ ...
Some info Sep 23, 2012

Hello Ayşe,

It depends a little on what you mean by "certified translator". There's often confusion about what that term actually means.

If you want to set yourself up as a freelance translator in the UK, in all legality, then I believe there's nothing to do really apart from issuing invoices which conform to the requirements and starting to declare your income for tax and social security contributions. Hopefully, someone who actually works as a freelancer in the UK will confirm the details (I didn't get into this business until after I left there).

If by certified, you mean qualified, then there are no requirements as such - translation is a deregulated activity in the UK and you are free to set up without either qualification or experience. In practice, you need one and preferably both if you're to succeed, of course.icon_wink.gif But I see you run a translation company in Turkey, so I imagine you at least have experience.



Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:43
Italian to English
Registering as self-employed Sep 23, 2012

Hello Ayşe

In addition to Sheila's accurate advice, you would need to register as self-employed with HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs), as starting business without doing so can result in a fine. This also triggers the arrangements for paying National Insurance contributions (lower for the self-employed) which make you eligible for health and welfare benefits.

Details are here:


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:43
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
What do you mean by "certified"? Sep 23, 2012

The "certified translator" as understood in some other countries, where only translators certified by the state are allowed to translate official documents such as birth certificates and degree certificates, does not exist in the UK, though Members of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting are authorized to guarantee the correctness of their own translations. If someone asks for a "certified" translation or for a job to be done by a "certified translator", it usually turns out that what is wanted is notarized translation, i.e. one for which a notary public or solicitor has issued an affidavit. This does not actually certify the accuracy of the translation, as hardly any notary public or solicitor will be qualified to do this. It simply means that he(she) is satisfied that you are who you say you are and possess the qualifications you say you do.
Some documents for use in or originating from another country may also require an "apostille", obtainable in the same way, but more expensive. In my experience and affidavit costs GBP5-10 and an apostille about GBP65.


Lukasz Andrzejewski
Local time: 19:43
English to Polish
+ ...
double-checking Dec 4, 2012

As stated in the title, I felt a need to clarify. I am a Public Service Interpreter in the UK, and as such earn peanuts, after the government's decision to outsource all court interpreting to Applied Language Solutions for 5 years.

Now I was in need to translate a Russian agreement of a sale of a flat. It was needed to prove the legality of the source of funds to purchase a flat in London, and the solicitor required it to be done by a certified translator. The quotes I got (for around 1400 words) were between 100 and 160 quid. Excellent money, I thought, and went online looking for what exam I should take to join the ranks of certified examiners.

As I couldn't find the information, I turned for help to and here I now hear that the answer is none. Hence my need to clarify. If the document then is translated by a freelance translator, what stamp do they use to "certify" the translation? None? Anyone they like? What are such qualifications like the IOL Diploma in Translation for? Or, more importantly, can I act as a "certified" translator being a Public Service Interpreter?

Thank you


Lucia Collins
United Kingdom
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Community Interpreter VS Community Translator Dec 11, 2012

On my point of view to certify a document you need to be a Translator and not an Interpreter. If you train as a Community Translator or Community Interpreter, which covers life in UK System, nothing else, it would not really, qualify you; in my oppinion, to translate some kind of official documents Also in UK If you work for some agencies or the Sussex Interpreting Services they will often ask you to translate official documents as you are a qualified Community Translator and they will have the means to verify the quality of the work of their freelance workers.

As I have a Degree in Law and another one in Languages/Translation English-Portuguese, I feel qualified to produce a document but it is necessary full domain of your mother tongue, specialised dictionaries and good peers from sites like this one, where you can meet professionals with years of experience ahead of you...

I would not be greed doing such a work not being qualified as you can have serious problems later.

[Edited at 2012-12-11 18:44 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-12-12 16:03 GMT]


Jacob Lagnado  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Diploma in Translation is the one to get Dec 18, 2012

Since obtaining the Chartered Institute of Linguists Diploma in Translation over ten years ago I have always used this to certify the translations I do for clients which then go to various authorities such as the Home Office, courts, professional registers and a long etcetera. The certification includes a statement, signature, personal stamp and date. Within this I include my qualifications and contact details.

This has always been accepted, and one of the main reasons myself and others took the CIOL course and exam was to be able to do this - to 'become' professional translators. It is not easy - 30% was the average pass rate back when I did it! It is deemed to have postgraduate equivalence and I understand other translation qualifications such as at degree level are also acceptable for certifying purposes.

As others have mentioned, we do not have the 'official translator' status in the UK.

Hope that helps! Good luck!


Ines Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:43
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Another option is an affidavit Dec 21, 2012

A couple of times now I have been asked by clients generally as confused as everybody else on this subject to certify a translation. The only option I have found so far is to visit a public notary who will then issue a document stating that the translator is indeed who she or he is claiming to be based on ID documents produced, and that the aforementioned translator has sworn that the document has been translated to the best of his or her ability. The source and target documents are attached to the notary's statement and stamped. It is a rather expensive pleasure though.


United Kingdom
Local time: 19:43
translations of the documents in the UK without appropriate qualification Nov 7, 2013

Many thanks to everyone for providing some information on this topic.

Let me ask you a question in order to clarify one question. I have a community interpreter qualification, been interpreting in the UK for about 8 years.

Can I start doing some translations of the documents (e.g. birth certificates) without being a qualified translator ? Of course, I understand, that I need to be registered with HMRC and it's strongly recommended to get a translator qualification in the UK.

I've read the above mentioned comments saying, that translations industry is deregulated in the UK and there's no need in qualification and experience to do the job.

As I'm a bit confused, your clarification would be highly appreciated.


United Kingdom
Help with job hunting Mar 12, 2015

Hi, I've been really interested in becoming a translator/interpreter for the last couple of years now. I am only 18, however I am bilingual (half English and half Spanish) and am fluent in both languages at a native level. I would love to translate documents and letters and so on as a freelancer but do not know how to go about it? Am I allowed to set up a website advertising that I offer these services? Do I have to inform HMRC of my decision if I decide to go with it? Am I even legally allowed to translate such documents/letters without any official experience or qualifications? I feel as though I am fully capable and have helped out friends and family members with Spanish CVs and references and translated those documents for them (they work for an agency hiring people and some of their CVs are in Spanish).

I am wondering if I am in fact allowed to translate without said qualifications or official experience. Is it possible? I look forward to hearing any of your responses. This is something I am very passionate about.

Many thanks!


Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:43
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Translation is a freedom to work Sep 8, 2015

Alexandra50811 wrote:

I am wondering if I am in fact allowed to translate without said qualifications or official experience. Is it possible? I look forward to hearing any of your responses. This is something I am very passionate about.

Many thanks!

One of my Prozian friends reminded me that an interpretation job needs a location but a translation job now is free from location. We can work anywhere we prefer and Internet access is provided.

Alexandra, you need no official experience or qualification to do translation. The question is how to convince your [new] customers. This needs a number of marketing strategies.

Soonthon L.icon_biggrin.gif


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:43
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You can start, but the competition is tough - get some training Sep 8, 2015

Especially to Alecandra50811 and AlexR77

Anyone can call themselves a translator and set up a business.

If you are so successful that you earn money by it, then it will be taxable, so you do have to inform HMRC. And whatever you do, charge realistic fees for a realistic service...
In freelancing, you deliver a fully professional job to a client, or else it is useless, and it has the same value to them, regardless of who translated it.

You don't get a discount at the supermarket, just because there is a new assistant at the checkout.

There is a lot of competition, so you will need to specialise and find clients in your specialist field. You will need a specialist subject area as well as a wide enough knowledge of 'general' texts to be able to take those on when there is less to do in your specialist area, or when you need a change. You also need to do specialist work because that justifies charging the kind of money you need to live on. That is where the well-paid jobs are.

This is very true with Spanish and English, but you need a niche of some kind, even if your language pair is unusual and part of your niche.

In principle you don't need training, but in practice it is a great help. In a world where everyone else has a qualification of some kind, you need one too if you are to be taken seriously. Without serious training, you will not be able to read and translate a lot of the documents needed in industry, law, medicine, the EU...

Learning how and when to use a CAT tool is also increasingly important to translators, less so to interpreters.

Unfortunately university training is expensive in the UK these days, but look into distance teaching and online courses if you can't afford to take a full-time course at uni.
You may be able to study in Spain, I don't know, but being immersed in your languages is important too.

I don't live in the UK and can only comment very generally, but the Dip. Trans and membership of the CIoL and/or ITI are the way to go.

Best of luck!

Edited to add that taking an in-servide training in your specialist area is an excellent way of learning the language as it is spoken and written, and picking up a lot of little things you cannot learn from outside. Health services, catering and restaurants, wherever you can get in behind the scenes... Any kind of practical, paid work may also be a way of financing more academic studies.

[Edited at 2015-09-08 10:24 GMT]


Luisa Matatolu
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:43
Fijian to English
+ ...
What if your language isn't one of the ones offered in the CIOL Certifications? Sep 8, 2015

I speak English, Fijian and Tongan (South Pacific -- Polynesian and Melanesian languages) and translate for these pairings currently. I've been wracking my brains trying to figure out how to get a Masters in Linguistics or something Translation related but to no avail as my studied language needs to be one of the more popular languages. So am I correct in assuming I need to learn a 4th language to get some sort of accreditation? I'm quite open to learning other languages -- I find I have a natural affinity for it. I would like either a Middle Eastern language or Mandarin.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:43
Member (2007)
+ ...
As Christine also said, "There is a lot of competition" Sep 8, 2015

Christine Andersen wrote:
In principle you don't need training, but in practice it is a great help. In a world where everyone else has a qualification of some kind, you need one too if you are to be taken seriously. Without serious training, you will not be able to read and translate a lot of the documents needed in industry, law, medicine, the EU...

If you can't convince potential clients that you are at least as good as the other thousands of translators out there, why should you be the chosen one? Now, marketing skills can certainly help, as can demonstrating self-confidence and motivation, and you certainly won't get far without them. But a client will normally want something a little more tangible.

If you can show a degree in translation, the DipTrans or certification from a well-respected translators' association, then you're part way there even if you don't yet have relevant experience. Alternatively, if it's a legal text and you can show experience as a lawyer, or a medical text and experience in medicine, etc., then you can often get away with having either no translation training or something very limited. Many of us who have come into the industry as a second (or third, or...) career just have thee type of minimal qualification I show on my profile - a distance-learning introduction to some of the techniques required of a professional translator that a bilingual person wouldn't necessarily know. And you'll need some training in CAT tools unless youngsters nowadays find them intuitive. I certainly didn'ticon_smile.gif.

Actually, once you make the decision to become a professional translator, you should think of training as life-long. There's always something new to learn, something you can improve on. After all, you have at least two languages to keep bang up-to-date, plus the terminology of your specialisation areas in both/all languages, plus new IT techniques and facilities that you or your clients may wish/have to use. And then there's the mere fact of running a business and all the skills that are entailed in that. So, if you want to do something 'easy' that doesn't require training, and you think that being bilingual means that translation fits that bill, think again!


United Kingdom
Questions on becoming a professional translator in the UK Dec 12, 2015

Dear all,

First of all congratulations on this site.

I have 2 BA degrees in English and German Language and Literature. I also have an MA in a 3rd Language.I have worked as a translator on a voluntary basis for a University and again for a Research Center (although this was not part of my daily work).I am very passionate about this profession and I just found an opportunity at a translation agency.

They want me to sign a contract in order to work for them. In the contract it states I "need to maintain certification or registration". Do you maybe know what they mean? I will ask them of course, but I just wanted your expert opinion.

I found an Institute of Translation and Interpreting in the Uk where one can be registered. It also states what everybody in these posts has been mentioning, that translation is not legally regulated in the Uk. For some categories of membership, they need to approve your qualifications before you are registered for each category. For all members, there is a subscription fee.
I presume this is what they mean when they say registered?

My questions are the following a. if this profession is not legally regulated can someone work as a freelance translator if he/she issues invoices, pays taxes e.t.c.?

b. Can this Institute that ensures you are eligible or not be the one that can prevent or impede you to become a professional translator if it deems you unworthy of becoming a member?

Please, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against this Institute. It does its job and it should.

I am just trying to understand how the system works in the Uk.

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