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Legal translation v. Certified translation: What’s the difference between them?

Are legal and certified translations the same? Is a certified document always considered legal? Can a translation be certified and not legal or legal and not certified? In this article you’ll find the answers to those questions.


For over 20 years, we’ve been providing translation services for many Fortune 500 companies, 8 out of the 10 most important law firms in Argentina and 5 out of the 10 largest ones in the United States. Based on our experience, we’ve spotted some questions that usually arise when a client asks for a translation; for example, if there is any difference between a legal translation and a certified translation.

What’s the definition of certified translation? And the definition of legal translation? Are there any differences between them? Can a legal translation also be a certified translation, and vice versa?

Firstly, it must be noted that, whereas the definition of certified translation is related to the formalities the translation must meet and the entity to which it must be submitted, the definition of legal translation is associated with the contents of the document itself.

What is a legal translation?

A legal translation is the translation of a text that deals with legal issues; i.e. a legal text, according to its linguistic definition (which may pertain to the administrative, legislative or judicial field.)

Most of the time, these kinds of legal texts are written by lawyers or other professionals engaged in the practice of the law and must be translated by duly qualified translators, given that they usually include many complex concepts – for example: agreements dealing with real estate, wills, trusts, and deeds.

What is a certified translation?

Certified translations are defined in the Certification Rules of the Translators’ Association of the City of Buenos Aires (CTPCBA) as any translation from a foreign language into Spanish, or from Spanish into any foreign language, or from a foreign language into another foreign language, which is signed and sealed by a certified translator registered with the Translators’ Association, and that meets all the formal requirements prescribed in the applicable regulations.

The translation will then be authenticated in the relevant Translators Association, which will certify that the translator signing and sealing the translation is duly registered and still working and that the document meets all the formal requirements. This proceeding may take from 20 minutes up to 24 hours (depending on the needs of the client).

In order to be registered as a certified translator, you first need to earn your traductor público diploma and then get your signature duly registered to be able to sign and seal certified translations.

Differences between a Legal Translation and a Certified Translation

The differences between both types of translations lie in the formal requirements to be met and the entities to which the document is to be submitted, rather than in their content. In other words, a legal translation will not necessarily be a certified translation and a certified translation will not always be a legal translation.

While a translation is considered legal due to the topic with which it deals, any translation (having legal, technical, literary or scientific contents) that must be submitted to an entity that requires the signature of such document to be authenticated will be considered a certified translation if it meets the requirements prescribed by the Translators’ Association.

The TR Company S.A. is a translation company with more than 20 years of experience in the sector, with a consolidated and skilled team ready to give efficient solutions to language needs, meeting any required deadline.

We offer translations into Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, and Russian. All these languages are generally combined with Spanish, although they may also be paired with English.

Our areas of expertise include: Legal, Energy and Natural Gas, Oil and Mining, Financial Services, Media & Entertainment, Healthcare, Medicine and Pharmacy, Technology and Telecommunications, Hospitality, Traveling and Tourism, Transport and Logistics.

We specialize in the translation of treaties, laws, decrees, resolutions, claims, witness statements, economic reports, press releases, user manuals, bidding terms and conditions, engineering plans, and medical papers and articles.

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