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Sworn Translation and Simple Translation: What are the differences?

Atualizado: 12 de set. de 2019

Made by few professionals and agencies (such as Prowords that is specialized in the service), sworn translations raise doubts and are not very well understood by the general public. In this post we explain the nature of sworn translations and the main differences between them and simple translations.

Sworn Translation

Simple Translations: What are they?

A simple translation consists in transcribing items from one language to another and can be made by any professional fluent in both languages. As much true as it may be to the original document, a translation has no legal value; that is, a document that has gone through a simple translation is not valid before official entities and institutions. In general, this type of translation is used for private purposes or in the routine of private companies for medium or low relevance purposes.

Sworn Translations: What are they?

A sworn translation makes a document legally valid in another country – in other words, a sworn translation has public faith nationwide. Generally, court decisions and documents addressed to official bodies and academic entities must go through a sworn translation. This is a work under rigid control, so many private companies choose sworn translations even when these are not required by law, in order to obtain more security in their documents.

In Brazil, sworn translations have been required since October 21, 1943 by Article 18 of Decree 13.609 of that date, establishing that foreign documents shall have their legal value only after being sworn translated:

Article 18 – No book, document or paper of any nature being drawn up in a foreign language may produce effects in departments and offices of the Federal Government, States and Municipalities, at any level, instance or Court or entities maintained, supervised or ruled by public authorities, without being accompanied by the respective translation made in compliance with this regulation.

Sole Paragraph – These provisions also comprise civil servants of notarial offices of notes and registries of titles and documents who may not record, draw up certificates or public forms of documents, in whole or in part, worded in foreign languages.

Documents issued in Brazil also must have a sworn translator in order to produce legal effects abroad.

Who can make a sworn translation?

As it is a regulated activity, a sworn translation can be made only by public translators who passed a public examination and are registered in their State Board of Trade. A public examination assesses the professional’s competence in the translation of a foreign language into Portuguese and vice-versa.

Each professional may work only under the jurisdiction of his/her own State, but their translations are valid throughout the national territory. ProWords works with experienced public translators and relies on qualified professionals to work in all Brazilian States.

Other differences between sworn and simple translations

Besides assigning legal validity to documents and being made by qualified professionals registered in the Board of Trade, sworn translations display other differences in relation to simple translations:

  • Offering translation or mention of seals, stamps and other elements present in the original text;

  • Starting with an introductory paragraph of the translator and the type of translated document;

  • Should appear in the professional’s Registry of Translations, a book controlled by the Board of Trade;

  • Having their minimum values set forth by the Board of Trade of each State.


As seen, a sworn translation is an activity controlled by governmental entities that assure their legality and provide public faith thereto. Since it is made only by professionals qualified in public examinsations, a sworn translation offers advantages such as credibility of their contents. Simple translations, in turn, may be indicated for non-official purposes, as they have no legal value; on the upside, simple translations have lower costs than their sworn counterparts and many times can be made more quickly. At ProWords, we have a highly qualified professional network of translators (sworn and others) in all Brazilian states.

To know more about this type of translation, read the post “Sworn Translation – What is it and how is it made?”.


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