Guest post: Sworn translators and interpreters

Hello, readers! Hope you’re all doing fine.

Today, we’ll welcome our guest Jorge Rodrigues, a Brazilian sworn translator.

Welcome, Jorge!


Sworn Translators and Interpreters: What are they, how to become one of them, and what do they do?

It was a pleasure and honor to receive Caroline’s invitation to write a few words about sworn translations in Brazil, but not an easy task at all. I will do my best to provide her readers with at least the main insights regarding the profession. 

Beginning at square one, a Sworn Translator and Interpreter (the official title in Brazil is Tradutor Público e Intérprete Comercial – TPIC) is a professional translator and interpreter who seats and passes commissioning examinations (concurso público) held from time to time by the Business Registry (Junta Comercial) of each Brazilian state, and there are specific statutes governing their activities in the country, namely Federal Executive Order no. 13609/1943 and DREI Regulatory Guidance no. 17/2013. In addition to that, each Business Registry also issues its own specific statewide regulations regarding the profession and its technical and operational procedures. 

There are not any specific schedules for the commissioning examinations, and in some cases time spans between them may reach many, many years. In my specific case, I passed my examinations in English and Portuguese in the Brazilian northeastern state of Sergipe in December 2013, and was sworn-in and inaugurated in office in March 2014. 

As to the examinations, they comprise two phases: a written test containing a translation from the foreign language of your choice into Portuguese, and a translation from Portuguese into the foreign language. The legislation requires that the translation into Portuguese involves a technical document, such as a power of attorney, an excerpt from a charter party or from a company’s articles of association, for instance. For the translation from Portuguese into the foreign language, on the other hand, a good literary text must be used. My examinations involved a power of attorney into Portuguese and an excerpt from A Morte e a Morte de Quincas Berro d’Água (The Double Death of Quincas Water-Bray), by Jorge Amado, into English. The power of attorney was a relatively trivial task for me, but the “Quincas Water-Bray” thing was really hard – it almost burned my two brain cells down. 

About a month or so after the results of the first phase are announced, successful candidates seat the second phase of the examinations. It is an oral test before a bench of examiners, with three sections: reading aloud, sight translation, and a presentation in a foreign language with questions and answers in Portuguese and in the foreign language. The examinee receives two short texts, each of them a paragraph-long, and has a few minutes to read and analyze them silently. Then, both texts should be read aloud in the source language, which is section one of the test. Afterwards, each text has to be sight-translated orally into English and Portuguese, respectively. That is the second section. Finally, in the third section, a number between one and five must be chosen by the examinee. Each number corresponds to a topic with respect to which a short presentation must be given by the examinee, after a brief lapse of time for preparation. When the presentation is finished the examiners ask questions switching languages, one of them in Portuguese and the other one in the foreign language, and their questions must be answered accordingly. This was very stressful, almost painful for me, as I always get very nervous when I have to seat oral examinations. The load of subjectivity involved in this type of test scares me. But eventually it turned out all right. 

After successfully seating the commissioning examinations, some bureaucratic procedures are to be followed: documentation submission, enrollment, sworning-in, and the formal inauguration ceremony. Over a month to collect, gather, organize, prepare, and submit a ton of documents to the Business Registry. Hard work indeed! And many people think sworn translators make easy money. How unfair! Nothing could be farther from reality. 

Well, after inauguration, Sworn Translators and Interpreters are vested with “nationwide public faith” all over Brazil, that is, their translations and interpreting assignments enjoy full faith and credit throughout the country. Despite their work being valid nationwide, they have specific jurisdictions and venues: they can only work in the state where they passed their commissioning examinations and were enrolled and sworn-in. Except in cases of transfers to other states, which although possible are neither simple nor frequent. 

All documents issued abroad must be translated by a TPIC in order to be legally valid and lawfully binding in Brazil, and conversely it is advisable, although not always required, that these professionals also translate any documents issued in Brazil intended to be used abroad. TPICs can also be called to act in Court as translators, interpreters, surveyors, or expert witnesses, and to accompany process servers and bailiffs in various judicial service of process procedures. Common civil registry formalities, such as marriages and the granting of all sorts of deeds and documents, when involving foreign nationals must also be assisted by a Sworn Translator and Interpreter. In a nutshell: whenever and wherever a translation or interpreting assignment is supposed to cause legal effects, a TPIC’s assistance is required. 

Sworn translations must be printed on the Sworn Translator and Interpreter’s official paper, initialed, signed, stamped, bound in books and kept filed for official purposes, in a procedure very similar to that adopted by civil and real estate registries in Brazil. Such books are submitted to the Business Registry for validation and inspection from time to time or upon official request. Should the TPIC die, resign or be removed from office, their books must be placed under the Business Registry’s custody. 

As far as fees are concerned, each Business Registry publishes, enforces and from time to time adjusts a specific sworn translation and interpreting price list which is lawfully binding on them. Compliance with such price lists is mandatory, and any infringements regarding thereto may give cause to a TPIC’s removal from office. 

On balance, by and large it is a rewarding and gratifying career. If this is something that you would fancy doing, just go for it. Study hard, and the next time there be commissioning examinations somewhere in Brazil it may be your opportunity to join the club.

Thank you for accepting our invitation and for taking the time to write such an interesting and enlightening post, Jorge! It was a pleasure featuring you on our blog. 🙂

Please feel free to comment and/or ask any questions below. Jorge is also available to answer questions or doubts via e-mail (

About the author
Jorge RodriguesJorge Rodrigues is a professional translator of English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese since 1992, specializing in the legal, commercial, financial, business, corporate and marketing areas. English<>Portuguese interpreter. Translator and Interpreter with the Federal Courts of Brazil, translator with the Federal Court of Accounts – Brazil (TCU), Sworn Translator and Interpreter (TPIC) of English and  Portuguese, and surveyor of the Court of Appeals of the State of Sergipe (Brazil). Currently studying for a BA in Translation and Interpreting at Universidade Católica de Santos. Volunteer translator and reviewer with Translators without Borders, and active member of several translation and interpreting communities, such as (moderator), Translators Cafe, LindkedIn, Facebook, and others. Member of ABRATES, ATA, and SINTRA.

3 thoughts on “Guest post: Sworn translators and interpreters

  1. Jorge, I’m a sworn translator too (São Paulo) and I assure you I wouldn’t be able to provide such a thorough and well-written panorama of our profession! Congratulations!!


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