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Translator in Denmark


Translation Landscape in Denmark

It is a truth universally acknowledged that translation is a profession bridging language barriers, enabling effective communication across cultures and borders. At its core, translation involves the conversion of written or spoken content from one language to another while preserving its meaning and context. Within the profession, various specialized fields exist, including legal, medical, technical, literary, and business translation.

But translation demands more than just fluency in a language. It requires a blend of linguistic prowess, cultural sensitivity, and subject-matter expertise. It is true that at the heart of translation lies the command in both the source and target languages, as is the ability to understand and convey nuances that might not have direct equivalents. But translation actually demands a deeper understanding. Whether it’s legal jargon, medical terminology, business discourse, or a literary text, a translator’s expertise ensures accuracy and precision in conveying complex concepts.

Even if you’re bilingual, you still need specialized knowledge to deal with issues like terminology or nuanced syntax. As opposed to being a simple swap of words, translation involves the painstaking construction of meaning to ensure that the target text conveys the same message as the original.

Professional translators bring expertise and precision to their work. They research, fact-check, and refine their translations to ensure accuracy, or they contribute their cultural knowledge and linguistic expertise to literary works. It’s not about mechanically swapping words; it’s about understanding, interpreting, and creating content that resonates in the target language. Translation professionals also recognize that an inaccurate translation can lead to misunderstandings, confusion, and even legal repercussions.

I have been a literary translator for the past 15 years, and I also have experience as a subtitler and a technical translator in the IT industry thanks to my major in Translation Studies. But in this article, I will share with you the knowledge shared by experts in the field, and together we will explore the translation industry in Denmark, the sectors that rely on translation services, certification requirements, misconceptions about the work, and how one can become a translator. I have had conversations with a few Turkish-Danish and Danish-Turkish translators, in addition to a representative from DACTI (Danish Association of Certified Translators and Interpreters), who is an expert in the field of legal Danish/English language pairs.

Fields, Certifications, Legalization

Healthcare and the legal industry stand out as particularly translation-dependent fields, particularly within the context of English and Turkish translation in Denmark. According to one Turkish translator, over the course of the years, the demand for Turkish translation has shifted away from education and social services and towards commerce, health sectors, and legal fields. But in general, many translators are also responsible for translating documents pertaining to consular matters, such as citizenship papers, official documents such as birth and death certificates, and various administrative documents such as residence papers and powers of attorney. Additionally, there was discussion regarding Russian and Ukrainian as languages that are in high demand. One of those who were interviewed provided an interesting example of translating SMS screenshots for Bulgarian clients because they needed to demonstrate that they had cohabitated in order to get married in Denmark.

In Denmark, the process of becoming a certified translator has also changed over the years. As of now, there is no government-led certification scheme for translators and interpreters. The Danish Act on State-Authorized Translators and Interpreters, which previously governed certification, was abolished in 2015. As a result, DACTI has introduced its own certification scheme. To attain DACTI certification, individuals must hold an MA or equivalent degree in translation and interpreting, and/or they need to pass DACTI’s admission test. Copenhagen Business School no longer offers MA programs in translation and interpretation; the University of Aarhus still provides programs in legal, economic, and technical translation, albeit of shorter duration. The translation courses offered by the University of Copenhagen focus primarily on literary translation.

A Turkish translator said that there is a historical context in the case of Turkish language translation. In the past, the embassy used to conduct exams for individuals who wanted to be included in the list of interpreters/translators in the directory of the embassy, but this practice ceased after 2000. But it is still possible to apply for entry on the interpreter list of the police, for example. More information about this process can be found on the website of the Danish Police (see useful links at the end of the article).

When it comes to the certified translation process, this typically involves several steps. First, the translator translates the original text and has a colleague proofread it. Next, they print both the original and the translation, along with a certification page. The certification page is then stamped and signed by the translator. Finally, the original, the signed certification page, and the translation are assembled in that order and bound together using red tape, completing the certified document.

Prior to the 2015 Act’s abolition, state-authorized translators in Denmark had their signatures automatically validated for apostillation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, today, all certified translators must take an additional step by having their translations legalized or certified by either a Notary Public or the Danish Chamber of Commerce.

What is Translation & Who can Translate 

Above I delved a little bit into the technical aspects of the translation processes, but if we are to look into the more practical matters and how translation is regarded and what one needs to do in order to become a translator, there seems to be different challenges and things to keep in mind. Let’s say you are an individual without prior experience in translation, but come from a different educational background than what you should expect if you wanted to dive into this professional area.

For instance, as one interviewee highlighted, having expertise in legal translation provides some insights into related fields such as the construction industry, IT, or unemployment benefits in their experience. Still, the transition from different fields into translation becomes more challenging when considering entirely disparate areas, such as literary or medical translation. In such cases, even being a translator in a certain field and knowing two languages proficiently might not suffice, as the nuances and intricacies of each field necessitate a deep understanding of their unique jargon, concepts, and in some cases industry-specific knowledge.

As another interviewee emphasized, the ability to navigate these transitions often hinges on possessing the requisite technical know-how and a relevant educational background. Translation work in highly specialized sectors, like medicine or law, demands not only linguistic proficiency but also a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.

After graduating, one interviewee spent a decade working at a law firm in Copenhagen, which had its own dedicated translation team. This hands-on experience allowed her to develop her skills and expertise in legal translation. In highly specialized contexts, having professionals who are not only proficient in languages but also well-versed in the relevant field ensures the accuracy and precision of translated documents. She emphasizes the importance of language skills, even for individuals with medical or law degrees aspiring to become translators. She suggests that acquiring language skills through language courses or similar means is a fundamental step in the journey to becoming a proficient translator.

Perceptions and Misconceptions

Let’s also delve a little into the perceptions and misconceptions surrounding this field of work. As from the different answers to this topic, the perceptions of the translation profession seem to vary. While some individuals hold it in high esteem, particularly those who recognize the value of precise and accurate language skills, others tend to view it as routine work and not a highly reputable profession in high esteem. Common misconceptions about translation work in Denmark include the belief that AI and machine translation can fully replace human translators, a notion that some people question translators about. Post-editing machine translations is not uncommon among Danish translators. Many individuals mistakenly assume that knowing a foreign language automatically qualifies them to be translators, but those who have attempted translation often realize the complexity and time-consuming nature of the work.

Furthermore, the misconception that translation is solely about rendering words from one language to another is prevalent. In reality, as emphasized by all the interviewees, effective translation involves conveying the intended message clearly and concisely in the target language, requiring more than just word-to-word conversion. Fortunately, in Denmark, there seems to be generally an understanding of the importance of proper education and language skills in translation, which helps counter some of these misconceptions.

Becoming a Translator in Denmark

Formal education options in translation in Denmark are somewhat limited, with shorter duration programs available. In the absence of comprehensive university degrees in fields like legal, economic, and technical translation, aspiring translators might need to seek broader language education and supplement it with specialized knowledge in their chosen domain.

On the other hand, the language proficiency and immersion in the subject matter is also important. For those who lack formal education, developing a deep understanding of the languages involved, along with a keen sense of the cultural and ethical aspects, is crucial. One interviewee pointed out that especially in the fields of health and law, it is ethically important that translators do not view this work as just a “job”, but a service that can significantly affect the lives of individuals and it needs to be carried out meticulously.

An article written by DACTI states that in Denmark, there is a general lack of knowledge about the professional qualifications that are required to provide competent translation and interpreting services. Over a number of years, the profession’s status as a recognized professional group has been weakened by the Danish state which, for example, has removed the authorization, repealed the State-Authorized Translators Act and removed the licence to practice as a translator as at 1 January 2016. Also, over the past 15-20 years, language training courses at university level within the fields of translation and interpreting have been significantly reduced and closed, and today, no official training courses are offered within interpreting, and there is only very limited training to be had within the field of translation

In order to maintain the required professional standards in relation to translation and interpreting services in Denmark, one solution could be to offer professional training at a sufficiently high level and set up certification and a nationally approved list of translators and interpreters, where candidates are accepted on the basis of defined competence requirements to ensure that only approved/certified translators and interpreters offer these highly specialized services.

Hopefully this article provides some basic info about the translation areas, how professionals work within the field and how the field would benefit from proper educational frameworks. Translation is a very specialized field of work and the idea that anyone can translate if they so wish is as true as the idea that anyone can construct a building without prior knowledge.

I’d also like to thank the professional translators who agreed to be interviewed by me and who put in a lot of work to provide a broad overview: Henriette Faber, Zahide Tanırlı Kayaalp, Abdulgani Çıtırkaya, İlhan Esen.

Useful Links

For more info how or when a document needs to be legalized/certified/apostilled you can refer here (Danish): profession/hvad-er-legalisering/

For more information about translation and interpreting in Denmark, please visit https/ (Danish) which offers a comprehensive list of reports, surveys and press clippings from 2011-2022.

For more info about inclusion in the Police’s registry of interpreters: (Inclusion on the register of interpreters is not a guarantee that you will be assigned tasks for the authorities as an interpreter)

Danish Society of Interpreters (Tolkesamfundet) website:

Cicek Eris
Cicek Eris
Born in Istanbul in 1986, I graduated from the Department of English Translation Studies. Since then, I have translated over twenty literary works into Turkish, including children's classics like Andersen's Fairy Tales, Robin Hood, and The Railway Children. Since 2011, I have also been working as an editor for various publishing houses. In 2021, I relocated to Copenhagen and in 2023 began curating a cultural events newsletter primarily aimed at the international community living in Denmark.

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