Where to Translate Legal Documents in Singapore

Last updated on July 16, 2018

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Documents which are not fully in English have to be translated into English if they are to be received, filed or used in court.

(Documents do not just refer to words on paper or electronic form. They may also include pictures, screenshots of text messages, receipts, and even videos.)

As the court only requires documents to be translated if they are to be received, filed or used in court, documents obtained during the discovery stage of a trial may not need to be translated if it is uncertain whether these documents will be received, filed or used in court.

Who is Qualified to Translate Legal Documents?

Only court interpreters and qualified persons may translate legal documents.

Judges and Assistant Registrars may not proffer their own translations, even if they disagree with how certain words or phrases have been translated. This is because they are neither court interpreters nor persons qualified to translate text.

How to Get Documents Translated

Court Interpreters

Documents to be used in Supreme Court proceedings (and not for any other purpose) can be translated at the Supreme Court Translation office. This service is only available for translation of documents from Chinese, Malay and Tamil to English.

The court interpreter will also certify the translated document. The translated document and certificate are to accompany the original document when the original document is received, filed, or used in court.

How to have a court interpreter to translate your document

Make a request for translation at the Supreme Court Translation office in person at least 4 weeks before the date the translated document(s) is required. The court may decline to accept a translation request for any reason, such as where the original document contains specialised technical terms.

Court interpreters charge S$45.00 per page or part thereof for their services.

More information on the Supreme Court’s translation services may be found here.

Qualified Persons (Private Translators)

Alternatively, you may approach private translation services to have your legal documents translated.

The translation obtained from a private translator must be verified by an affidavit made by a person qualified to translate the original document. This affidavit must accompany the original and translated documents when the original document is received, filed, or used in court.

The Rules of Court and the Supreme Court Practice Directions do not state what qualifications private translators must have in order to translate documents for court purposes. Therefore, the qualifications of private translators may be a point of contention when parties dispute the translation’s accuracy. In this situation, expert witnesses may be needed.

The cost of private translation services differs from provider to provider. The fee payable may depend on the following considerations:

  • Language of the original document;
  • Number of words to be translated;
  • Whether there are any technical terms; and
  • Whether the private translator charges a minimum fee.