The Definitive Guide to Translation in Bogotá

//The Definitive Guide to Translation in Bogotá

The Definitive Guide to Translation in Bogotá

The Definitive Guide to Translation in Bogotá, Colombia

Maybe you are planning to travel to the United States and you need to renew your visa, or you need to translate a sales catalog or a technical manual for your company. If you live and /or work in this wonderful city then at some point, you will most likely need to hire the services of a professional translator here in Bogotá.  Even if you don’t live here, then you still might wish to work with a translator in Bogotá.  Why?  Because the prices are favorable compared to the US and European markets and if you choose your provider carefully, you can end up with exactly the same quality at a lower price.  Furthermore, translation is a service that can be delivered electronically in most instances and therefore clients are able to work with translation providers based in different locations.

But, with so many options on the market, how can you be sure you’re choosing the best service? Do you need an official translation or a simple translation? How much will it cost?

If you are looking for the answers to these and other questions, please keep reading! This complete guide will help you understand the translation market in Bogotá and will also help you choose the best service to suit your personal needs or your company’s requirements.

What is a translator?

The work of a translator consists of receiving a document in its original language, and then re-writing the document in the client’s target language. A translator should have experience, education, and training that allows him or her to deliver an excellent, high-quality document.

Anyone in Bogotá could need a translation, for work or school, travel, or to learn something new. The demand for translators is constantly growing.

When someone needs the services of a translator, there are certain questions and concerns this person might have. Here we will clarify all the necessary steps for hiring a translator in Bogotá or in another city in Colombia.

What is the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

It is important to clarify that translation differs from interpretation.

interpreter bogota

Translation is done with texts or written documents. The work of a translator consists of understanding the meaning of a text in its original language and producing another text in the language requested by the client, conserving the meaning and message of the original document. Translation can be carried out to and from any language.

Interpretation is performed with verbal or auditory messages. The work of an interpreter consists of understanding the meaning of the auditory message or narration in one language, and expressing it verbally in a different language, conserving the meaning and tone of the original narration. Interpretations are also known as simultaneous or consecutive translations, depending on the exact type of interpreting being performed.

In Colombia, both types of services are offered: translation and interpretation. The most requested language combination is English – Spanish. However, you can also find translators and interpreters for other languages such as Portuguese, German, Italian, French, etc.

The same person can be a translator and an interpreter, but this person should have specific education and training to be able to preform each of these tasks. Simply being able to speak a foreign language to a high level does not qualify someone to perform well as a translator or interpreter.

Are all translations the same, independently of whom you decide to work with?

Most definitely not.  The quality and accuracy of a translation depends on the experience, training, and knowledge of the translator that is going to carry out the translation.

The quality of a translation done by a recognized agency in Bogotá that has experienced, certified translators and experienced professionals on its team would certainly be different than a translation done by a person that, despite knowing both languages, has not been trained as a translator and does not have the relevant experience.

What is the difference between an official translation in Bogotá and a normal translation?

If the document needs to be submitted to an official governmental office in a different country, then a simple translation would probably not be of use to you. You need a translation that has legal validity in order to submit it to a foreign public or private organization.

An official translator should do this type of document, and this person should be certified. In Colombia, the Universidad Nacional is the institution authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Relations to certify and grant the title of an official translator to an individual.

Simple, or “Normal” translations are those that don’t need any legal certification, since they are used for other things that don’t require legal or official validity.

Any type of document can be translated, and in the Colombian market, you can find translators that specialize in certain areas, such as law, science, and literature, among others.

Are there official translators for all languages?

No.  In Bogotá, there are official translators for the most common language combinations, such as French – Spanish, Italian – Spanish, and English – Spanish. However, for less common language combinations (ex: Latin – Spanish) there are not official translators in Colombia.

What can I do if there is not an official translator for the languages I need?

In this case, a non-official translator should translate the text or document. Then, the original document, along with its translation, should be sent to Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bogotá. The Ministry will then issue a certificate confirming that there are no official translators for this language combination in Colombia.

Non-official translations with a certificate from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be valid where an official translation is normally required.

Does an official translation mean better quality?

Not necessarily. The quality of a translation does not depend on if it is official or not. It depends on the experience of the translator and/or translation agency in Bogotá you choose to do the translation.

However, an official translation guarantees that the person doing the translation is certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and therefore has the knowledge and abilities necessary for doing a high-quality translation.

It is important to keep in mind that generally an official translation is requested when the document to be translated needs to have legal or official validity.

What are the risks of a bad translation?

There are various risks that a person or company could face to when hiring unreliable translation services. If the translation is done by someone that doesn’t have the knowledge or abilities to do the translation, the result will be an incoherent text, with spelling and grammatical errors. Even worse, the translated text might not have the same message as the original document, or the translated message could be unclear and cause the reader to misinterpret it.

Which is better, a translator from Colombia or from the United States?

translation colombia

When choosing a translator, you shouldn’t generalize if it is better to have a person with Spanish or English as their native language. What you should take into consideration is the language you want to translate your text or document into.

In other words, if your text is in Spanish and you need to translate it to English, it would be better to hire a translator from the United States. If you want to translate a text that is in English to Spanish, your best option would be choosing a Colombian translator. For this reason, hiring an agency for your translations can be more efficient because the agency will have translators who are native speakers of both languages, English or Spanish.

It is worth clarifying that there are some translators that have the same skills in both languages and would produce good translations. But, we would like to emphasize again the importance of the experience a translator or translation agency has.

Isn’t it cheaper to put the text in Google Translate?

It is definitely cheaper and faster to translate a text with the many tools found online. However, the translation done by these programs is unreliable for a text longer than a few words. This is due to the complexity of structures in languages and the importance of understanding the words within a certain context. These online translation tools don’t take into account aspects such as idiomatic expressions, technicalities, grammar, sentence structure, colloquial language, etc.

In the end, the text translated by online translation tools will not guarantee a coherent text or one that has the same meaning as the original text.

What credentials does a translation agency or translator need?

The agency should be authorized to function as a translation agency, according to the certification of existence and representation of the Chamber of Commerce in the city where it operates. It should also have official and non-official translators on its team that are professionals, with adequate training and education and above all that have verifiable experience as translators.

Any official translators working for the agency should have taken an exam at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia that certifies them as such.

What is an Apostille?

apostille bogota

An Apostille allows a document issued in Colombia to be recognized in other countries.

An Apostille is a way of legalizing a document that is signed by a public official in Colombia, in order to be able to present it as a valid document in another country. Its the way in which the Colombian government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, certifies the authenticity of the signature and the title of the public official that signed the document.

It is important to keep in mind that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs only apostilles documents issued by Colombian authorities. Also, in order for the apostille to be valid in other countries, the country where the documents are going to be presented should be party to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents (1961).

If you would like to see the list of countries that receive Apostilles, please click the following link:

What are the characteristics of a good translator?

A translator is not just anyone who knows a foreign language. A translator is someone who has trained and studied to be able to produce translations. We should keep the following characteristics in mind when hiring:

  • A translator should have total dominance of his native language and have a deep knowledge of the languages he translates from. The translator should be able to produce texts that have perfect grammar; he should have ample vocabulary in both languages, and should also have broad knowledge of the topics he’s going to translate.
  • A translator will keep in mind who the translation is intended for and conserve the same style throughout the whole text, whether it is a promotional, informative, or persuasive text. The translator will maintain the same narration style in the translation.
  • A translator should have a sense of responsibility for the text and the client, because the text is going to be read by someone else, and should be faithful to the original. It should have the same meaning and convey the same ideas as the original text. It should also be delivered in the same format in which it was received.
  • Finally, a good translator should be skilled in using basic computer programs, including Microsoft Office Suite: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, computer-assisted translation programs and resources, and other sources of information both on the internet and on paper, etc.

Please keep in mind that not all translators will have the necessary knowledge and experience to be able to translate your document. Because of this, it is very important that the translator or agency you choose is familiar with your topic and has proven experience translating texts similar to yours.

If you want to translate a legal, technical, scientific, or commercial text, the translator should know about these themes and manage the vocabulary needed for each case. If not, the translator will end up taking a lot more time to deliver the translated text and possibly, due to the complexity of the document, not even finish the translation.

Is it better to work with an independent translator or with a translation agency?

Clients can choose either of the two options.

When choosing an independent translator, the client has to find the translator and is responsible for choosing one who has the experience and training necessary to complete the desired translation.

On the other hand, if choosing an agency, the agency is responsible for doing this for the client. The agency will also ensure that the document passes through the hands of another professional translator who will revise it and correct it, so that you receive a faithfully translated final document.

In addition, if the documents to be translated are lengthy, the agency can divide the work among various translators, all following the same style, in order to guarantee a fast and timely delivery.

What are the standards for translation in Colombia?

As a minimum, translation agencies in Colombia should comply with standards for proper functioning.

In our country, it is Colombian Technical Norm 5808. The objective of this norm is: “This norm contains the definition and description of a translation service in its totality. It covers the processes essential to translation as well as other aspects related to the provision of services, including quality assurance and traceability. It is designed for the translation service providers as well as their clients who have a set of requirements and processes that allow for market satisfaction. It can be used for evaluation and certification of the conformity of a translation service.”

If you would like to read more about the norm, please click the following link:

Are there translators’ associations that regulate the profession?

In Colombia, there are two associations for translators and interpreters:

  • The ACTI or Colombian Association for Translators and Interpreters (Asociación Colombiana de Traductores e Intérpretes):

  • The CCT or Colombian College of Translators (Colegio Colombiano de Traductores):

The ATA, or American Translators Association, is the biggest association for translators and interpreters in the United States. It has more than 10,000 members around the world and was founded in 1959.

What does the translation process entail?

The translator follows a series of steps that allows the job to be done correctly and efficiently.

The first thing is to ensure the comprehension of the text to be translated. The translator should fully understand the document and also be able to follow the instructions given by the client.

Later, the translator will begin to draft the document in the requested language, translating simultaneously.

Finally, the translator will do a revision of the document, looking for errors in syntax, grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. that hasn’t been translated correctly.

The translation time depends on the size of the document, but it is estimated that a translator can translate 2000-3000 words per day, or edit and correct around 4000-6000 words per day.

When working with an independent translator, this person does both the translation and the revision. On the other hand, when working with a translation agency, one person does the translation and another translator does the revision. This way it is more probable that more mistakes are corrected, be it spelling, grammar, or problems with the message.

Will the translated document keep the original format?

A good translator will deliver a translated text with the same format as the original text.

One of the advantages of working with a translation agency is that it requires its translators to use the same format as the original text for the translated document, ensuring the client that they can use the translated text for the same purpose as the original text.

What is key in selecting the correct translator or agency?

You as a client should have various aspects in mind when choosing a translator or a translation agency. Please respond to the following questions as they will help you determine which best fits your needs:

  • How much time do I have for this translation?
  • Does the text need to be an official or simple translation?
  • Who is the text directed to?
  • How reliable does the translated text need to be?
  • What is my budget for this translation?

For example, if you do not have a deadline for the translation, or you do not need it to be 100% credible, or you have a small budget for the translation, you could find a translator that does not have very high fees and that isn’t obligated to turn in the document in a short time.

However, if your translation is urgent and you need it to be the as credible as possible, or if it is an official translation, the most convenient thing would be to hire an agency. This agency will assure you of the quality of the translation, as well as the delivery time. In this case, a higher budget is needed than in the previous example.

How are translations charged in Bogotá?

The prices can vary according to the translator or the agency. The price is estimated according to the length of the document, the format, and the difficulty of the vocabulary used.


We hope that this guide has been of great use to you! It is important as a client that you ask yourself what are your necessities before requesting a translation, and that way you can choose the right translator or translation agency that best fits your needs.

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