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Certified Translation vs. ISO Certified Translation

March 23, 2012

There is a lot of confusion about what certified translation means, a subject we addressed in a previous post. But a reader recently asked about the difference between a certified translation and ISO certified translation, so we wanted to take the opportunity to clarify the issue.

A certified translation is a translation–usually of an official document–accompanied by a signed statement by the translator or translation company attesting to the fact that the translation is a true and accurate rendition of the source document. Basically, the translation company affirms that the certified translation is a literal word-for-word translation and that nothing has been added, deleted or altered. At Morningside, we take this signed statement or “certificate of accuracy” very seriously. Every so often, clients ask us to make changes to a certified translation, like inserting words or re-arranging the text in such a way that the original meaning is altered,  which is completely verboten. We know that certified translations are often submitted as evidence to a court of law or regulatory agency like the FDA, and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize our reputation or our client’s — or ask our translator’s to commit perjury — just to please a client. Most of our clients appreciate this, and know that integrity and honesty should be the foundation of any business relationship.

ISO-certified translation is something different entirely. Morningside–along with a number of other translation companies–is ISO 9001:2008 certified. That means our quality management system conforms to international standards that are audited by an outside agency to ensure compliance. Our translation processes are ISO-certified, and this is the case whether we are preparing a certified translation, a medical translation, or a patent translation. When we prepare a certified translation, the critical difference is the signed certificate that accompanies the translation, and our vigilance in ensuring that the translation is 100% accurate and in no way departs from the original text. Of course when we prepare a non-certified translation of a brochure, website, or similar materials, a literal translation is not only unnecessary but counter-productive.