What is a Certified Translator
For guarantee of accuracy, quality, excellence and integrity of translation, which are among the basic requirements for translations submitted for most official purposes, look for the title of Certified Translator.
Under The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario Act, 1989, "Certified Translator" (C. Tran.) is the professional title reserved for translators certified by The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO), which is the only organization in the province mandated by law to confer certification to translators, interpreters and terminologists.
Those who hold such titles not only possess proven experience and outstanding competence in the designated language pair(s), but have undertaken to uphold ATIO's Code of Ethics, which offers peace of mind and recourse in the event of dispute or client dissatisfaction.
In addition, many certified translators including myself subscribe to comprehensive professional liability insurance, which serves as your additional level of guarantee.
What is Certified Translation
In Canada, both federally and provincially, when documents not originally in one of the official languages (English or French) are to be submitted for any official purpose (immigration, legal proceedings, professional licensure, academic pursuits, etc.), a "certified translation" (sometime called other variants such as "accredited translation" or "notarized translation", etc.) will most likely be required.
Logically, "Certified Translations" can only be provided by certified translators in the language pair(s)/direction(s) in which they are certified by a professional translation association (e.g. ATIO in the case of Ontario). One typical example is that Passport Canada requires all documents submitted for the purpose Canadian passport/travel document application must be accompanied by a "certified translation", which is defined as "a translation produced by a certified translator whose certification can be confirmed by verifying the translator's stamp or membership number with a professional translation association".
Requiring "certified translation" for all foreign-language source documents is the only way for the government and professional/official entities to ensure the accuracy and integrity of document translation. On the other hand, it is also critically important to take advantage of the expertise of certified translators if you want to convey your message in a foreign language, to avoid miscommunication, misunderstanding or even embarrassment.
What about so-called "industry certification", such as under CAN/CGSB-131.10-2008
Such "industry standards" are mainly designed to "certify" translation services, companies, agencies (or whatever else they are called), having no bearing on a translator's qualification or the translation he/she performs. In other words, it offers no guarantee that your document will be translated by a certified translator for a number of reasons: 1. certified translators are independently accessible on its association's website therefore not necessarily relying on translation agencies for business; 2. most certified translator tend to charge a fair rate that would squeeze the profit margin of agencies; 3. many certified translators simply do not want the feeling of being exploited by the middlemen.
The benefits of such "industry certification" primarily serves the purpose, for translation middlemen (services, companies, agencies, or whatever else they are called), of "improving your business and gaining a valuable competitive advantage in the translation marketplace."
Use a certified translator directly or go through a translation agency?
The sheer raison d'etre of translation agencies is to make money. When you go through an agency for translation, you lose out either way: if you require a certified translator, the rate you get from the agency will definitely be higher than that you get from a certified translator directly; if you lock in at a lower rate, you translation will likely be done by a non-certified translator who can put up with much lower rates.
Other than money matters, when you send a document to a translation agency for a quote, you can imagine what will happen: since most translation agencies cannot afford to therefore do not keep in-house translators, let alone certified translators, they can only send your documents out to as many translators on their database as possible for a quote, and eventually go for the most profitable one. Your sensitive and/or personal information will end up being shared with dozens of translators and may or may not be deleted from their computers after the quote flurry, to your complete ignorance.
On the contrary, a certified translator will personally assess your, give you a margin-free quote, and keep you personal and/or business secrets all to him/herself, under the requirement of their Code of Ethics.
For more information, please also read: ATIO's Position on the new Translation Standard