This type of request has been popping up with surprising frequency. Here’s how it usually goes down. A customer who doesn’t speak German gets approval for a loan from a bank, either alone or as part of a joint purchase, and everything is ready to go except for one thing: the bank sends the loan documents with a requirement for a statement from a court-sworn interpreter. The statement should declare that the interpreter has read out the terms of the loan to the client in English and that the client has understood them. Why is this requirement from banks causing such waves of panic in the interpreting industry?
The problem is with the statement itself – the second half of it, to be precise. A court sworn interpreter or translator can certainly attest that they have read out the terms and conditions of a contract in English and that they have done so accurately and completely, but they can’t possibly assess whether the customer has understood the terms, and they certainly can’t assume liability for it. Signing a statement with the interpreter’s name saying that the customer HAS understood the terms could push the liability for this onto the interpreter. Should the customer then later claim they didn’t understand the terms and withdraw from the loan, the bank could turn to the person who made the declaration to the contrary and could perhaps even demand compensation. For this reason, translators and interpreters are being warned by industry and legal experts not to provide these kinds of statements.
In a nutshell, the only person who can truly guarantee that a customer has understood terms and conditions of a contract is the customer themselves. Here are some alternatives:
- The interpreter can provide a certified written translation of the contract, and the customer could then sign a statement saying that they have read and understood the certified translation.
- The interpreter could sign a declaration saying that they have read out the terms in English accurately and completely. The client could then sign underneath to confirm that they have understood the terms.
If you’re having trouble finding a court sworn interpreter willing to help, talk to your bank and see if they’ll accept one of these alternatives.
Edit Apr 2018 – some banks seem to have realised that this is a problem and have changed their requirements. Now, it seems to be OK to simply get a certified translation along with a statement from a certified translator that simply says they have translated it and are certified. New blog post coming soon.