A Sworn (Certified) Translator in Poland – Rules of Professional Practice

If you have come across this page, you might have already heard of a ‘sworn translator’. Whether you have just learned you need to use a sworn translator’s services or are simply curious about who a ‘sworn translator’ actually is in Poland, the present post will give you a quick overview of this profession and let you gain an understanding of the rights, responsibilities and duties sworn translators have under Polish law.

Who is a sworn (certified) translator in Poland?

First of all, the profession of a sworn translator (or a certified translator – the Polish term tłumacz przysięgły is actually translated both ways) is a regulated profession. This means that the basic principles of its practice, as well as the related authority and liability, are regulated at the statutory level, namely in the Act on the Profession of a Sworn Translator. The path to obtaining a sworn translator’s professional license is not an easy one. To become a sworn translator, one has to pass the official state examination administered by the Examination Board at the Ministry of Justice, and then be officially sworn in (hence the name – a sworn translator) and entered into the register of sworn (certified) translators kept by the Minister of Justice. The primary role of a sworn translator is to serve the justice and administration systems of the state, the functioning of which sometimes largely depends on a sworn translator’s activities. It is up to a sworn translator to render foreign documents used in court and administrative proceedings into Polish and to interpret oral evidence given by foreign witnesses or statements made by non-Polish-speaking defendants. Furthermore, a sworn translator assists activities performed by a notary (like drawing up a notarial deed to record the sale of real estate) in case they involve foreigners who do not speak Polish. An important thing to note is that there is no distinction between sworn (certified) translators and sworn interpreters in Poland; all sworn translators are sworn interpreters at the same time, and they are entitled to provide both written and oral translation (interpretation) services.

Although the law does not explicitly refer to the job of sworn translator as a profession of public trust (this is a specific category of professions under Polish law), it can – based on the nature of the role played by a sworn translator – be regarded as similar to such professions of public trust as a notary, an advocate or a licensed legal advisor. This is due to the special function a sworn translator serves in legal proceedings, the trust that clients place in him or her, as well as the prescribed rules of professional conduct and liability.

Activities that a sworn (certified) translator in Poland is authorised to perform

The rules of a sworn translator’s professional practice are described in the Polish Act of 25 November 2004 on the Profession of Sworn Translator, specifically in Chapter 3 of the Act. The first of the provisions contained in this chapter lists the activities that a sworn translator is entitled to perform. These include the following:

  • preparing translations from a foreign language into Polish and from Polish into a foreign language;
  • checking and certifying such translations prepared by other persons;Sworn (Certified) Translator in Poland
  • preparing certified copies of letters written in a given foreign language;
  • checking and certifying such copies made by other persons; and
  • providing interpretation.

Notably, certified translation and interpretation services are indispensable in many proceedings before courts and public administration bodies. Certified translations are legally valid, and the authorities have to rely on them when resolving cases and issuing decisions.

A sworn translator’s duties under Polish law

Another provision specifies the duties of a sworn translator. These include:

  • Impartiality, special care and adherence to the rules arising from the provisions of law

Special attention needs to be paid to a sworn translator’s impartiality. Even though a certified translator’s service is ordered and paid for by a client, the translator may under no circumstances fulfil the client’s demands that would distort the meaning of the translated or interpreted document or utterance. The translator may not omit information that is unfavourable, add anything to the translation or translate in a way to benefit the client. This rule is of great importance not only in legal proceedings but also in economic transactions, where it is crucial to ensure certainty and reliability. A foreign businessperson who signs a contract translated into English by a sworn translator hired by their Polish partner should not be given any reason to fear that the document has not been translated accurately or that something might have been concealed.

  • Confidentiality

The second obligation, which is extremely important from the client’s point of view, is maintaining the confidentiality of the facts and circumstances that the translator has become aware of in connection with a translation assignment. Clients often ask whether a sworn (certified) translator ensures the confidentiality of their documents, which often refer to their private life and health or contain other sensitive data and trade secrets. Besides the obvious principles of professional ethics, the obligation of confidentiality is expressly provided for in the Polish Act on the Profession of Sworn Translator.

  • Improving professional qualifications

Furthermore, a sworn translator is obliged to improve their professional qualifications. It is not enough for a translator to master a language, prepare for the exam, pass it, and then just use the knowledge they have accumulated. A sworn translator must broaden their horizons all the time and keep up to date with changes in law. They also have to refresh their language skills on a regular basis. Without practice and revisions, the knowledge of any language fades, and this also holds true for the people who have passed the sworn translator’s examination, even though it might be the most difficult foreign language exam in Poland.

  • Obligation to translate for selected public authorities as part of statutory proceedings

One of the essential duties of a sworn translator is to perform a translation upon request by the court, public prosecutor, police or a public administration body, provided that the translation is part of proceedings conducted under a statute. Translating a local council’s website is not covered by that obligation, for example. What is more, the translator may refuse to provide such a mandatory translation due to some particularly important circumstances, like health issues. The distinction between mandatory and ‘free market’ translation is also important for financial reasons. In the case of translations requested by the public authorities as part of statutory proceedings, the translator is compensated at the rates specified in a relevant regulation of the Minister of Justice. The rates prescribed there are fixed and not subject to negotiation. In the case of ‘free market’ translations, the rates are determined by the sworn (certified) translator and his or her client, and the fee is not regulated in any formal way. However, there is a belief that the remuneration charged by a sworn translator should reflect the translator’s workload, knowledge, experience, additional education and skills. This is not to say that certified translation always has to be expensive, but very low prices that actually damage the market should be seen as inconsistent with the dignity of the profession (this is referred to in §10 of the TEPIS Sworn Translator’s Professional Code).

  • Keeping a repertory

A sworn translator keeps a repertory, which is a record of the activities they perform under the authority conferred by the Act on the Profession of a Sworn Translator. Proper keeping of the repertory is not so easy. Sworn translators are advised to read the guidelines for the review of repertories issued by the Professional Liability Committee. From the clients’ point of view, this obligation matters to the extent that they have to provide their personal details to be recorded in the repertory. The translator is obliged to identify the party ordering any translation, which means that the client has to provide their first name and surname. Another point to realise is that the cost of certified translation also covers the time needed to fill in the repertory (as well as the time spent on other formalities described below). This is one of the reasons why certified translation costs more than ordinary translation.

Certification of translations by a sworn translator in Poland: an official stamp or an electronic signature

The Act sets out how translations and copies of letters should be certified. There are two possibilities. The first is the use of a metal stamp ordered by the Minister of Justice at Mennica Polska S.A. The Act implies that only this kind of stamp has legal force, and the use of a similar one, e.g. an ordinary rubber stamp, is inconsistent with the law. The second and relatively new option is to certify a document with a qualified electronic signature. In this case, the original translation is made in the form of an electronic file (rather than a printout). More on certifying translations with an electronic signature can be found here.

The certification formula

Just a glance at a certified translation will let us notice some distinctive features of its format. First of all, the translated content is graphically separated from the remaining part of the document. What is more, the endings of particular paragraphs will typically be marked with a ‘-/-’ sign or ‘- – -‘ running to the end of the line (the idea is to ensure nobody adds anything later). Below the translation, there is the so-called certification formula. It consists of a few elements. First of all, the translator certifies that the foregoing translation is a true translation of the document. The certification formula should also state whether the translation was based on an original document (that means a document that had been physically shown to the translator) or a copy (a photocopy, scan, photograph, computer printout or fax). The sworn translator is required to specify the number at which the translation is recorded in the repertory. The certification formula is also supposed to state the place and date of certification as well as the translator’s name, number of entry in the register kept by the Minister of Justice, and the language they are licensed to translate. Very interesting considerations on what the certification formula should look like can be found in the article by A.D. Kubacki.

A sworn translator in Poland – professional review and liability

The activity of sworn translators is reviewed by province governors (wojewoda), whose jurisdiction is determined based on a sworn translator’s place of residence. The province governor’s review covers the correctness and reliability of keeping the repertory as well as the fees charged for mandatory translations provided to authorities. The province governor may request a sworn translator to present the repertory and to provide oral or written explanations regarding the activities they perform. If a sworn translator fails to comply with their obligations, they can be held liable, and legal measures can be taken against them pursuant to the Polish Act on the Profession of a Sworn Translator (chapter 4).

A sworn translator in Poland – conclusions

As can be seen, the rules of a sworn translator’s professional practice are intended to ensure that sworn translators carry out their activities in a reliable way, and thus to protect the interests of the justice system and the public. This protection is important in view of the competence a sworn translator can exercise as part of different legal proceedings as well as in private and business transactions.

I hope this article sheds some light on who a sworn (certified) translator (interpreter) is in Poland. If you are still in doubt whether you need to get a Polish sworn translator to provide a translation or interpretation service for you (whether for business or private purposes) feel free to reach out to us.

Should you need the assistance of a Polish-English and English-Polish translator (interpreter), we can offer the services of a professional sworn translator with a legal background and wide experience in translating legal (including real estate), financial and business content. We offer our services internationally.

Feel free to use our professional certified and ordinary translation services.

Sworn translator of the English language: Chorzów

Sworn translator of the English language: Katowice and the Silesian province

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