How to become a Sworn translator in Spain?

Without a doubt, sworn translation denotes a qualification that is respected by clients and the marketplace in general as well as a level of unquestionable ethical and professional commitment.

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Sworn translation entails a declaration on behalf of the translator of the authenticity and equivalence of whatever has been translated with respect to the original material. The sworn translator assumes responsibility for his work in a personal and non-transferrable manner. In fact, faced with possible discrepancies concerning the contents of a specific translation, the person involved is entitled to ask for it to be revised by experts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores).

Having said that, we will proceed directly to the necessary requirements and steps to be taken to obtain this highly-coveted qualification. There are two ways to obtain it:

1. Possession of a degree in translation and interpretation which proves – always with reference to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation – you have passed a fixed number of credits in specific subjects. See article 5 of the above-mentioned order “exemption from examinations”.

2. Official examination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation’s Office of Interpretation of Languages (Oficina de Interpretación de Lenguas del Ministerios de Asuntos Exteriores y Cooperación).

The relevant information about this examination is to be found in the Order of the 8th of February, 1996 (BOE number 47 of February 23rd, 1996). You may find this regulation on the BOE’s own website or in the section concerning sworn interpreters on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation’s website. The requirements to be admitted to the examination are clearly stated in the above-mentioned Order:

  • to be of age;
  • to possess a degree from a Spanish university (or one which is recognized by the Spanish government);
  • to possess Spanish nationality or that of any other nation in the EU.

We won’t go into detail here concerning those topics which the regulation makes sufficiently clear. Nonetheless, we feel it is important to point out that:

  • Official announcement of examinations: it is best to become thoroughly familiar with the MAEC’s website in order to be clear, above all, about the deadlines for presentation of one’s application. You can download the form from the sworn interpreters’ own section of the MAEC. It’s one single easy-to-fill-in form (you have to attach to the form the receipt proving payment of the stipulated amount relating to examination rights).
  • The examination: consists of 4 exams to be carried out in two phases (on different days). The first one, which is preliminary, includes three tests of written translation (two without the aid of a dictionary and the other with dictionary-tending to be on a legal subject). The translations presented are texts of a journalistic kind (about scientific, historical, political subjects…) and feature a high degree of difficulty. Here we might mention a piece of advice that we feel is essential if you are to be successful in the exam: the exams are intended to be carried out within a relatively short space of time. Therefore, don’t waste time making rough drafts or getting “stuck” on difficult expressions. What is needed, after a brief preliminary analysis, is “to get straight to the point” (if you don’t know something, it’s better to leave it out and go back later with the best translation you can come up with). One more thing: try to be clear and tidy in writing and presentation. There is a pause of about twenty minutes between the first two papers and the third which, as we said, is generally of a legal nature and done with the aid of a dictionary. Once this first phase is over, the Office of Interpretation of Languages makes known the results of those who are admitted to the so-called “fourth exam” to be held about six weeks later.
  • The fourth exam: is an oral exam which consists of a brief commentary with regard to a similarly brief text on a varying range of subjects (in general, they deal with current affairs). The candidate is allowed to read the text and to take notes-if she wishes-in order to answer a number of simple questions on the subject asked subsequently by the tribunal. There’s not much you can do to prepare for this exam: the best thing is to go in plenty of time, stay calm and take your time to read and thoroughly comprehend the text. Indeed, this last exam constitutes a formality which the MAEC reserves to confirm that the great preparation and culture you will have shown in the first exam corresponds with accurate mastery of the spoken language.

After all this, in two or three weeks, the MAEC publishes the definitive list of sworn interpreters which, subsequently, will be published in the BOE. Bear in mind that the appointment is not official until actual publication of the afore-mentioned list in the BOE. In any case, one step you can start to take after publication of the list in the MAE is to register your signature in the government delegation of the province where you intend to practice the profession (at the current time, you are required to present your degree, or a certified photocopy of the same, photocopy of your national ID card and three passport-size photographs, although it might be best if you speak directly to the relevant officials prior to taking the documentation). What’s more, this is the point at which you register the stamp of interpreter. That is to say, you have to take the stamp to the government delegation. The requirements and characteristics that this stamp must possess are very clear and are featured in article 7 of the Order of February the 23rd, 1996. One last piece of advice: once you are in possession of the qualification, send a letter to the Office of Interpretation of Languages along with your personal information and prices. If you don’t do so, you won’t appear on the official list of the MAEC’s translators.

To finish off, we wish you every success in the exams (if you don’t succeed at the first attempt, there’s always the next time exams are convoked: don’t give up hope) and, in the future, a successful career as sworn translators.

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