Trends in certified translations

by | Dec 8, 2017 | Translators' Column

Historic developments and changes

Only a few years ago certified translations were a standard part of the work translators received from direct clients. However, in recent years the number of requests for certified document translations has been on a downward trend.

In 2011, for example, I had 70 individual clients placing orders for certified translations. Many of these required the translation of not only one but two or more documents. These ranged from birth, marriage, divorce and death certificates to change of name certificates, police clearance certificates, diplomas, qualifications and references. Some clients even required certified translations of their whole university course syllabus running to over 100 pages.

By 2013 the number of individual clients had decreased to 30; a trend that remained stable until the middle of 2016.

After the Brexit referendum in the UK, there was an initial flurry of requests for the translation of personal documents and certificates. These were due to 2 main factors. 1) The increase in applications for permanent residence in the UK. 2) More applications for citizenship in the UK and in EU countries.

After the first panic was over, numbers dwindled again. The average number of enquiries is currently stable once more at around 2-3 per month for this particular translator.

Iolante is expecting another search in translation for relocation/naturalisation after the terms for Brexit are known.


One of the reasons for this change is that many EU countries are changing their policies regarding official documents. They no longer insist on (certified) translations of the foreign language document but also accept documents in their original language.

To give you 2 examples: Germany accepts certificates issued in English without requiring a translation. Britain now accepts many German documents in the original language. Therefore none of the EU citizens applying for naturalisation or permanent residence requires certified translations of their birth certificates any longer.

Another reason is the so-called Bologna process. This was an EU initiative which started in Italy in 1999. Its aim was to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher-education qualifications within EU member states. The process also created the European Higher Education Area in 2010. In 2012 the Lisbon Recognition Convention was ratified by 45 member states of the Council of Europe and by several non-European members. It simplifies comparing higher education qualifications greatly.

What does this mean for translators?

It means that the number of people who are likely to require certified translations of their detailed qualifications is constantly falling. It follows that most translation requests now come from people who completed their education before 2000. People born from the 1990s onwards are less likely to need this kind of translation.

The future of certified translations

For translators working outside the UK, it looks likely that the need for certified translations will fall further in years to come.

For translators in Britain, the situation is far less predictable. No-one knows the effects Brexit will have. There are many open questions.

  1. Will EU countries recognise British qualifications in future?
  2. Will they accept official documents in their original language?
  3. Are there going to be new visa requirements? (These may lead to an increase in the demand for translated documents.)
  4. Will companies have to provide certified translations of product information for licensing purposes or for customs, VAT and other tax-related questions in future.?

The uncertainty will remain until March 2019 and possibly beyond, when the UK officially leaves the EU.

Accurate, confidential, efficient and reliable English-German translations

Professionally qualified German translator into English and English into German, offering first class translation services for commercial, industrial, governmental and private clients.

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