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Apostille, Certification, Legalisation – What does this all mean?

05 June 2019 - Posted by Helene Walters-Steinberg

I often work on the translation of official documents (for nationality applications among others) and the terms above regularly come up in my conversations with customers. As these are all very similar processes, it can be rather confusing to figure out which one is needed for each specific circumstance. So, what exactly is an apostille, a certification or a legalisation – and which one do you need? And where do certified translations fit in?



The Apostille is an official government-issued certificate added to documents so they will be recognised when presented in another country. This certificate is affixed to the back of the original document, is embossed with the FCO apostille stamp and attests that the document is indeed authentic. Apostilles are accepted by any country that has signed the Hague Convention, a list of which can be found here. Unfortunately, this does not include Algeria, Canada or Senegal, among others.



If the country that issued the document has not signed the Hague Convention, then the document will need to be certified. This may vary depending on the country but will typically require a certification from the issuing authorities as well as a certification from the receiving authorities. For example, to certify a Canadian birth certificate for a French nationality application, the birth certificate must first be certified by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and then by a French Consulate in Canada.



Legalisation is the process of certifying a document, whether it is done through an apostille or a different form of certification as described above. Any official document intended for use in a foreign country will need to be legalised.


Certified translation

This is a translation of an official document accompanied by a statement by the translator attesting that the translation is “a true and faithful rendering of the original [language]”. The translator must be a qualified professional registered with professional translation associations and, in some instances, with their Embassy.

So how do I get my document legalised?

The first point of call is the country in which the document was issued. For UK documents, you can order the legalisation online at at For French documents, you should email the Legalisation Office within the Europe and Foreign Affairs Ministry. For other countries, I recommend contacting your local embassy or consulate, which should be able to explain the process to you.


I need a certified translation of a legalised document. Which one should I get first?

Generally, you should first have the original document legalised before getting a certified translation. This allows the translator to mention the legalisation details in their certificate of translation (this is a requirement for French nationality applications).

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The Importance of CPD for Translators

14 May 2019 - Posted by Hélène Walters-Steinberg

What is CPD?

CPD stands for Continuous Professional Development. It is a process of intentional learning, through which learning and development is recorded and reflected on.


Why do translators need CPD?

Translators need to refine and expand their existing translation skills and subject knowledge to continuously produce high quality translations. This can be done by taking courses (online and in person), attending conferences and language shows, learning new technologies, reading reference books and subscribing to news from industry experts to keep up to date with commercial and linguistic developments.


Are all translators required to undertake CPD?

While there is no specific obligation to undertake CPD, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting recommends that all its members undertake 30 hours of CPD.

The training platform eCPD webinar has published a CPD manifesto for freelance translators that sums up the fundamental commitments they should make towards CPD:

  •          I believe in the highest standards of professional conduct in my translation or interpreting business.
  •          I am committed to a process of life-long learning in my chosen profession.
  •          I comply with the generally accepted rules of professional conduct.
  •          I plan my CPD on an annual basis and take responsibility for maintaining my learning objectives and career goals.
  •        I keep a record of the CPD I undertake and am happy to provide details to my clients.
  •         I think about each course, workshop, and presentation that I attend and assess its value within my CPD plan.
  •          I reflect on the opportunities that the course, workshop or presentation in question has opened up to me.
  •          Each year I review and reflect upon the CPD I have undertaken during the year, and build on what I have learned to plan my next learning objectives.
  •          I incorporate the knowledge I gain from my CPD activities into my work and ensure that my clients benefit from my enhanced expertise.
  •          I strive to enhance my own standards through consistent CPD.
  •          I believe that my commitment to CPD is beneficial to my clients because they know that I am a committed professional who is constantly maintaining and enhancing expertise.


What is your stance on CPD?

I firmly believe that CPD is necessary for all professional translators as it is the only way to continuously provide high quality translations. The CPD manifesto is included in Authentic Translation’s Code of Conduct.

Click here to download a list of the CPD activities I have personally undertaken for 2018-2019.

Why do translators need a CPD plan?

A CPD plan allows translators to outline their goals for CPD over the upcoming year. For instance, last year my CPD plan focused largely on technology and my objective was to master new tools to make my business more efficient. This year, my CPD plan focuses on legal translation as I will be undertaking a ten-part webinar series on legal translation as well as attending in-person training for legal translators.


How can translators prove they have undertaken CPD?

Translators who are members of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting will receive a CPD Award if they log 30 hours or more of CPD in a financial year (April to April). You can download mine here.


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The Certified Translation Process

02 May 2019 - Posted by Helene Walters-Steinberg

Following my previous article on the translation process for French nationality applications, today’s article will focus on the general process for certified translations, from obtaining the original documents to receiving the translation.


The first step is to apply for a certified copy of the document you need to have translated. You may be able to use certified copies you already have to hand, but make sure to check whether there is an age-limit for the documents (for example, the French authorities require that all certified copies of French documents be less than 3 months old). It is also important to check whether the document needs to be legalised by the issuing authorities, which should generally be done before you send it to be translated.


The next step is to find an accredited translator for your certified translation. If you are translating into English, certified translations may be provided by full members of the Chartered Institute of Linguists or the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (you can click on the hyperlinks to go to the list of members for each Institute, and then refine based on the language required). If you need a translation into French for the Belgian authorities, you may also use one of the translators on the lists above. For translations into French for the French authorities, the translator must be registered with the French Consulate in London and appear on this list. For other countries, I recommend contacting your local Consulate or Embassy to check their requirements. If you find yourself with a long list of potential translators, I would recommend contacting the translator closest to you so that you can provide them with the physical documents if needed.


Once you have received your documents and found a translator, you can provide them with the documents to be translated. Certified translations can often be produced from clear scanned copies, but the translator may need to see the physical document if the scan is poor quality or difficult to decipher.


The translator will then translate your document into the desired language, respecting the original formatting. Although the certified translation process may seem simple, deciphering handwritten documents and reproducing the formatting can take longer than the translation itself! In addition, there is often very little context so finding the exact translation of a profession listed on a marriage certificate for example can be quite time-consuming.


Once the translator has produced the translation, they will generally send you a PDF proof so that you can confirm that they have correctly spelled all the proper nouns. After receiving your confirmation, the translator will print the final translation, which will then be stamped and signed. All certified translations are accompanied by a certificate of translation that presents the translator’s credentials and contact details, should the receiving authorities have any queries. This certificate of translation will bear the seal of the professional organisation to which the translator belongs and will also be stamped and signed by the translator to ensure its authenticity. After this, all that is left is for you to collect your certified translation and certificate of translation or to wait for them to arrive in the post.

Example of ITI certification seal

Image: Example of a certified translation seal


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Document Translation for French Nationality Applications

01 February 2019 - Posted by Helene Walters-Steinberg

As Brexit draws nearer, more and more people are trying to become citizens of another EU country. If you are a UK national married to a French national for over five years and if you can prove that you meet the French language requirements, you can apply to become a French national.

Disclaimer: As I am not a specialised immigration lawyer, I cannot answer legal questions. I can, however, help you with any translation questions related to the French naturalisation process.

What documents do I need to have translated for French naturalisation?

Although additional documents may be needed in some cases, you will need to have the following documents translated into French

  • Your birth certificate
  • Your parents’ birth certificates (if your birth certificate does not mention your parents’ place and date of birth)
  • A police check in the form of a Police Certificate that you must then get legalised by the Legalisation Office 

You will also need to provide proof that you and your spouse have lived at the same address for the past 4 years (utility bills, bank statements, etc.), but these documents do not need to be translated.

What is the translation process?

  1. Obtain your documents from the relevant authorities
  2. Get your documents legalised (see next paragraph for more information)
  3. Contact a professional translator registered with the French Consulate in London for a quote.

What documents need to be legalised?

According to the documentation provided by the French Consulate in London, UK birth certificates do not need to be legalised. However, if you were born or married abroad, your document will need to be legalised. For most countries, this procedure is straightforward and carried out by the country that issued your birth certificate (check if your country has ratified the Apostille Convention).

If your country has not ratified the Apostille Convention, you will need to follow the legalisation process specific to your country. In the case of Canada, for example, this means that your birth certificate will need to be certified by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and then by the French Consulate in your province. If you are not sure what type of legalisation you need, you can check the rules for your country here (A= Apostille, D = exemption and L= Legalisation).

All police certificates must be legalised by the UK Legalisation Office.

Please note that the documents must be legalised before the translation as the translator will need to see the Apostille/legalisation certificate and quote its details on the certificate of translation.

Who can translate my documents for French naturalisation?

Only translations performed by professional translators registered with the French Consulate in London will be accepted. You can find a list of translators here. I recommend only contacting the closest translator to you.

Do I need to provide the physical document or is a scanned copy sufficient?

You can physically bring the documents to the certified translator or send a clear scanned copy. You will receive a physical copy of the stamped and signed translation along with a certificate of translation listing the translator’s credentials and contact details. For handwritten documents, the translator will generally send you a PDF proof before issuing a physical copy, to check that all the proper nouns have been deciphered correctly.

Will I need to provide any other documents?

You will need to provide proof of your French language skills, such as a diploma issued by a French educational establishment or TCF/TEF test results. The required level is currently Level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. These documents do not need to be translated.

If you were married previously, you will need to provide a copy of your marriage certificate and proof that you are divorced/widowed, translated into French.

If you have lived in a country other than France or the UK for more than 6 months over the past ten years, you will need a police check statement from that country, translated into French. This will likely also need to be legalised by the authorities of the issuing country.

For more information about applying for French nationality, please see the website of the French Consulate in London.

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American English: How have we gotten here? A lecture by Susie Dent for

30 October 2018 - Posted by Helene Walters-Steinberg

This weekend, I was privileged to be able to attend Susie Dent’s lecture on American English. Organised by the Chartered Institute of Linguists, this was the second David Crystal Lecture, given by the winner of the David Crystal Trophy for outstanding contribution to the field of languages. Lexicographer Susie Dent of Countdown fame opened the lecture explaining that, while Countdown does not allow American spelling, it does allow American words, causing her to receive a lot of critical letters from unhappy viewers. After determining through a quick show of hands that a wide majority of the audience was in favour of ‘traditional’ British English, she then vowed to make us change our minds.

She started by explaining the origin of the word 'bugbear', which used to refer to an imaginary beast invoked by parents to scare children into doing what they were told. American English, a bugbear for many, is seen as lacking the sophistication and subtlety of British English. However, American English can also be considered simpler and cleaner than British English. 

There is a myth of standard English (‘standard’ originally meant a physical flag that was the rallying point for a city or a country and came to represent authority), which is thought to be English as it should be spoken and written and which must be protected from foreign influence. However, English has borrowed from other languages for centuries, creating new expressions based on foreign languages and cultures (for example, the Anglo-Dutch wars in the 1600s gave rise to the expressions ‘Double Dutch’, meaning gibberish, and ‘going Dutch’, which originally referred to situations where one party was too miserly to pay for the others). 

Moving onto the topic of spelling, Susie pointed out that the spelling of the English language is notoriously chaotic and that there are more exceptions than there are words that follow the rules (amusingly, the famous ‘i before e except after c’ rule only works for in 20% of cases!). Spelling was first standardised in England when printing appeared, at a time when the North and the South of the country both spelled things differently. At the time, William Caxton, the man who brought the printing press to England, hired Flemish typesetters. They added silent letters where they would have appeared in Flemish (for example, the current word ‘ghost’ used to be spelled ‘gost’ until the silent ‘h’ was added to make it closer to the Flemish ‘gheest’). But silent letters were also in existence previously: medieval scribes sometimes added them to bring words closer to their Latin origin (transforming ‘dowt’ into ‘doubt’ to bring it closer to the Latin ‘dubitus), although they were mistaken about some of the etymology (‘island’ was thought to be related to the word ‘isle’, hence the silence ‘s’, but it was originally a Viking word).

Going back to the topic of American English, she explained that some of the spellings we now consider to be American (‘honor’ instead of ‘honour’, ‘center’ instead of ‘centre’) were actually used more often by Shakespeare than their so-called British variants. Shakespeare also opted for the -ize spelling, which is still the style recommended by the Oxford English Dictionary today, as it is closer to the Greek etymology. The shift from -or to -our only became enshrined in the dictionary towards the end of the 17th century. However, the spelling is not consistent, as in the case of ‘honour’ and ‘honorarium’ or ‘labour’ and ‘laborious’.  

Some of American English’s divergences from British English were deliberately chosen through political will. As the American colonies separated from England, language became a battlefield. In the words of linguist Lynne Murphy, “rejecting the King’s English was another way to reject the King”. By simplifying the way words were spelled, the former colonies showed their linguistic independence and united around their new national language. In addition, many of the families on the Mayflower became inventors by necessity as they encountered new people, flora, fauna and phenomena. They borrowed from American-Indian languages and cultures (creating words such as ‘rattlesnake’ and ‘moccasin’ and the expression ‘to bury the hatchet’), re-used English words (naming places ‘New England’, ‘New York’, etc.) and invented words of their own (‘hollow’, ‘neck of the woods’). As time went on, American and British English evolved separately, leading to different accents and words. 

The cultural power of the United States means that we now use Americanisms constantly. However, it is a two-way-street. For example, American English has recently integrated the words ‘wanker’ and ‘gobsmacked’! 

To conclude, Susie Dent explained that the nature of language makes it messy and prone to change. Typos, hiccups, misunderstandings and political radicalism, among others, cause languages to grow and evolve. The only language that doesn’t evolve is a dead one!

Very excited to meet my linguist crush!
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