How to Find Translators and Interpreters

After arriving in Belgium, it might be convenient to have someone who can translate information, documents etc. from Dutch to your mother tongue or vice versa. If you have to present documents for official procedures (e.g. birth or marriage certificate, diplomas etc.) it might be necessary to have a sworn translation.

International House Leuven
15 December 2023

Difference between a translator and interpreter

A translator is someone who works with translating a physical document, certificate, or any other written information. Sometimes when submitting documents in an official procedure, you might not only need a translation from an online source, but from a sworn translator (beëdigd vertaler).

An interpreter, however, is someone who translates language in spoken interactions. Luckily, in Belgium an interpreter isn’t needed in Flanders if you speak in English, as many locals can communicate fluently in English. But if you are in a situation where English cannot be used, then it could be helpful to have an interpreter present.

How to find a sworn translator

Ask the authorities concerned whether you need a so-called sworn translator (beëdigd vertaler) when starting an official procedure at the city office (Stadskantoor), your employer, your school,.... A sworn translator is a translator who has taken a professional oath before the court. This translator is authorized to translate certain official documents and to provide them with a personal stamp, signature and affidavit.

How to find a sworn translator:

  • Lextra Lingua (website in Dutch and French only)
  • Info from the city of Leuven about translations and legalisation of documents
  • Find a commercial translating agency on the internet. Make clear arrangements on paper about price and deadline. Many translator work on a freelancing basis and can complete the whole process via email.
  • Federal Public Service
  • Unofficial (but very functional) list of court translators & interpreters Belgische Beëdigde Vertalers (website available in English)

How to find interpreters

When searching for an interpreter you could use a sworn interpreter or a social interpreter.

A sworn interpreter would be used in a situation where you are enacting an official government process, whereas a social interpreter could be used, for example, when visiting your child’s school or going to the bank.

How to find a sworn interpreter:

If you do not need a sworn translator/interpreter, several public and government agencies have the possibility to call in a ‘social’ interpreter on the spot or via telephone. If such an interpreter would be useful for you, inquire about the possibilities on site.

Online translation tools and tips

Several online translation tools exist, such as Google Translate or DeepL. Please be careful if you translate official or complex information, or information including a lot of jargon. Although these tools improve constantly, the translation might miss crucial elements.

There are extensions you can download to your browser for certain online machine translations. This makes it even easier to translate websites and documents. By downloading one of the translation extensions to your browser, you can, for example, file your taxes online, read emails, or read website with ease.