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Everything you need to know about legally recognised expert translators

11 May 2023

Calling on the services of a recognised expert interpreter-translator can be very useful in certain situations. Official translation of a marriage certificate, interpreting a statement from a non-French-speaking client, translating various documents during a trial… The tasks of appointed expert interpreters are varied and each expert is specialised in a number of languages (one or more) and a specific field.

What tasks are confided to legally recognised expert translators?

Legally recognised expert translators in brief

Legally recognised expert translators are sworn translators specialised in the judicial field. In practice, these are interpreters or translators who assist the judiciary when necessary: in writing, when an administrative document is in a language other than French; or orally, as an interpreter when a person does not speak French for any legal procedure.

The court-appointed expert translator is appointed by the judicial authority and has taken an oath. They are auxiliary members of the courts.

The official title is then “Expert translator and/or interpreter at the Court of Appeal of…” or “Expert approved by the Court of Cassation” followed, where appropriate, by the field of specialisation practised.

A sworn translator at the service of the courts

The legally recognised expert translator has two main tasks:

1. Responding to summonses/requests from a court or judicial authority.
As his role is to assist the judiciary, the court-appointed expert translator will have an important, albeit often discreet, role during trials, interrogations, hearings, etc., when a document useful to the case is not presented in French.

These summonses are varied: they can be translations of documents to prepare a legal file, to translate evidence during an investigation, interpreting during questioning at the police station, during an appearance, at the investigating judge’s office, etc

2. Meeting the needs of private clients.
Private clients may be individuals who need a document translated and certified as true to the original for a marriage contract, for example. But it can also be at the request of a company’s legal department for the creation of a branch abroad, calls for tender, etc. Lawyers and notaries also regularly call on legally recognised expert translators in the exercise of their functions.

Documents that may require a certified translation:

For these specialised sworn translation missions, the legally recognised expert translator can produce certified translations of various documents:

  • Diplomas
  • Notarial acts
  • Bailiffs’ acts
  • Administrative documents and files (birth certificate, driving licence, passport, identity card, civil status certificates, divorce decree, etc.)
  • Contracts
  • Adoption files
  • Succession files
  • Legal files of a company (for foreign tenders or the creation of a subsidiary)
  • Annual reports
  • etc..

Read also : Is a sworn translation required for bailiff’s documents to be served internationally?

To be valid in a court decision, these documents must be written in French or be accompanied by a certified translation. The original must always be presented, and the translation must also be original, as copies are not accepted.

As an interpreter, this expert can also be present during a hearing, an investigation, an interrogation, but also during a marriage if one of the spouses does not speak French.

Prerogatives and training

What training do I need to become a court expert translator – interpreter?

There is no specific training to become a sworn translator or a court-appointed translator, nor is there a required diploma. However, it is possible to follow a university course in languages or a specific field before a Master’s degree in translation in order to maximise your chances of being ready for the job.

An expert in their field

In addition, in order to be an expert, the translator must have practised (or continue to practise) a trade or activity related to his/her field of expertise. They also have an obligation to undergo continuous training in this field in order to keep up to date with new developments.

Application, oath and re-registration

Each year, translators and interpreters wishing to be experts before a court of appeal may submit their application to the public prosecutor at the district High Court. Each candidate whose candidacy is validated must take an oath “to assist justice, to carry out his mission, to make his report and to give his opinion on his honour and conscience” before the court of appeal.

Every 5 years, a re-registration file must be submitted, following the same procedures as the first application.

Experts approved by the Court of Cassation

In order to be recognised as an expert by the Court of Cassation, expert translators-interpreters must have been registered for more than 3 years on the lists of the Court of Appeal.

Good to know: expert legal interpreters and translators approved by the Court of Appeal are recognised throughout France.

What are the fees for a legally recognised expert translator?

For a criminal case

When a court-appointed expert translator is involved in a criminal case, the fees are set by the Ministry of Justice. They may therefore vary according to the size of the file, the number of documents to be translated, the source or target language, the need for interpretation, etc.

For a civil case

For a translation for a private individual or a civil case, on the other hand, the rates are not regulated. If you want to use this professional to translate your driving licence or diplomas before travelling abroad, for example, the costs can vary from one translator to another. The translator, as a freelance professional, will therefore provide you with his or her fee schedule. Don’t hesitate to ask for a quote before making a final decision!

For a criminal case or a case with a civil client, you may need to call on the services of a legally recognised expert translator. Depending on the skills needed and the target language, you will not work with the same person. The easiest way to find an expert translator? Call on an expert company, which has a network of professionals on hand to respond with the specific skills you require.