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Differences Between Legal, Judicial and Sworn Translation


What are the differences between legal, judicial and sworn translations? Many people do not distinguish between these three varieties and believe that they are just synonyms. From our experience as a language service provider offering a variety of services, we hope this article will shed some light in a clear and simple way, so read on to find out the differentiation between them.


Let’s begin with some definitions. While it may seem a little basic, a good definition can be useful for deeper comprehension.

  • Legal translation is specialised, and consists of translating texts that are related to the field of law from one language to another, be it a legislative text, agreement, manual, scientific article about legal themes, etc.


  • Judicial translation is the translation of any document that is part of a judicial proceeding; for example, birth or marriage certificates, identity documents, sentences, property deeds, lawsuits, etc.


Birth certificate

  • Sworn translation is the translation of any official document that requires the signature, stamp or seal of an authorised translator. The original document and a specific format has to be respected, in order for it to be considered an official document in its own right (This is a general definition, as every country has its own way of certifying translations).

Master’s degree


Now that we know the specific definitions of each type of translation, it should be easier to understand their main differences.

As explained above, legal translation is related to the discipline of law, whereas judicial translation focuses on texts which regulate the relationships between individuals or administration and judicial bodies, and those that could be considered texts for the application of law. This is the main difference between them. To make it easier, we can simply ask ourselves “Is it part of a judicial proceeding?”, and if the answer is affirmative we can be sure it belongs to judicial translation.

Focusing now on sworn translation, this can be singled out as the only type of law translation which is done by a duly authorised translator. Essentially, this is the main difference between this type of law translation and the other two varieties.

So what are the main purposes to certifying a legal translation? To verify facts, have these recognised in a foreign country, and to make the law of a certain country applicable to foreign citizens. Which documents need to be certified? Normally documents used for formal purposes such as employment contracts, births, deaths and marriage certificates, adoption records, and other official documents such as diplomas and notarial papers. Now one would be forgiven, at this point, for being confused, as we have also used birth certificates as an example of judicial translation. In fact, it is indeed a judicial text but when there is a need to verify the document’s officiality, the only person that can assist is a sworn translator-interpreter.

To summarise, while legal translation is the translation of any document fitted within any branch of law, judicial translation is the translation of any document that is part of a judicial proceeding, and sworn translation is the translation of any official document completed by a sworn translator.

Here at GlobaLexicon, we can help you with the translation of your specialised legal documents and ensure that we are delivering them to the highest quality. If you are interested, you can request a quote here:

We look forward to hearing from you!

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