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How do you become a sworn translator?

5 Dec 2017

With a degree in translation, appointed by a Court of Appeals, what are the steps to become a sworn translator? Are there specific courses, training and degrees required to take on the role of a sworn translator? Is this the job for you?

Discover how to become a Certified Interpreter Translator (EIT) and, with our advice, increase your chances of success!

What is the exact mission of a sworn interpreter translator?

A sworn translator (also known as an expert interpreter translator) is a ministerial official with authorization from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
They work with the justice system, police, customs, and the gendarmerie whenever a need arises for interpretation or translation. This includes custody, interrogation, investigation, hearings, wiretaps, file translations, etc.

They also work with administrative and legal cases, translating legal and official documents, in the case of criminal proceedings, for example.

As for the general public, a sworn interpreter translator intervenes on the certified translation of official documents: driving permits, civil certificates (birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, divorce certificates), diplomas, company statutes, accounting documents, wills, judgments, notary contracts, etc.

Their specific status makes them the only people authorized to certify the conformity of a translated document to the original. In order to certify the document, a sworn interpreter translator affixes his seal, signature, and unique order number on the translated and original documents.

Is there a training course to become a sworn translator?

There is no specific training program or degree for Sworn Interpreter Translators.
There isn’t even a required education level.
If you’re a French citizen and an adult with a clean criminal record, you can apply!

In order to earn this title, you must be selected by the Court of Appeals. Sometimes you will be running against a large number of other candidates.
So, what is the path preferred by the Court of Appeals?

4 steps to become a sworn translator

1- First, start by becoming a professional translator

In order to become a sworn translator, you must obviously master at least one foreign language. Ideally, your path should begin with a Master’s degree in foreign languages or a diploma from a specialized school.

2- Gain professional experience

Newly graduated with an interpreter-translator degree? Don’t rush things. You’ll improve your chances by gaining experience as a professional translator. Join a professional translation agency, for example. This will allow you to have more, and more diverse, experience.

3- Apply with the Public Prosecutor

At the beginning of the year, pick up your application file from the High Court in your district. Training, professional experience, motivation… scrupulously complete your application, giving attention to, and expounding on, every detail. You have to sell yourself!
Before March, return your candidature to the Public Prosecutor in the High Court. As a general rule, you must send your application in triplicate via a registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt, or drop it off personally, where you’ll receive an application receipt.

After a “morality inquiry” led by the police, you will generally be summoned to the police station or gendarmerie in order to verify certain information. Sometimes you may also be summoned to the High Court for any last complementary information related to the inquiry. Then, finally, the police will transfer your candidature to the post of Sworn Interpreter Translator to the Court of Appeals of your district.

4- Take the oath

Be patient. You won’t know until the end of the year if your candidature has been accepted. If you are selected, the Court of Appeals of your residence will summon you to take the oath.
You will have then obtained the title of Sworn Translator, valid across all of France, for a renewable duration of five years. You will then be on the official national list of sworn translators, presented in the directory of sworn interpreter translators in France, a judicial expert named by the Court of Appeals: https://www.directory-sworn-translator.com/

Is this the right line of work for you?

Here’s a look at the qualities required to become a sworn interpreter translator.
You must have proven integrity, obviously, as well as professionalism and rigor.
You must have an eye for details.
Respect for the institutions.
A taste for human relations, of course.
You must also make yourself available to respond to the requirements of the justice system: go to the police station in the middle of the night for custody requirements, head to the Courthouse multiple days in a row for hearings, etc.

Is it easy to become a sworn translator, or not?

The title of Sworn Interpreter Translator is often highly coveted and contentious; there are a number of candidatures each year and very few available positions.
Depending on your language pairs and professional experience, you may obtain this title on your very first candidature, or you may need to re-apply multiple times in order to finally unlock the title of expert interpreter translator.

How do you improve your chances to be selected as a sworn interpreter translator?

In metropolitan France, there are 30 Courts of Appeals and nearly 3500 sworn interpreter translators.

Each year, the Courts of Appeals name expert translators depending on their actual needs. In order to be part of the lucky few, here are a few tips that will improve your chances:

  • Analyze the local foreign population in your district (and elsewhere if you’re willing to move) in order to get a vision of what languages are sought after for translation missions.
  • Consult the lists in the Courts of Appeals that may lack interpreter translators in your language(s).
  • If you speak a rare language in a region of France where it may be useful, your chances to quickly acquire a position are significantly increased!
  • Sworn interpreter translators automatically retire at 70 years old. If you do a bit of research on the age of the expert translators in your district, you’ll be able to identify upcoming opportunities.