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Notarize Foreign Language Documents

In our global society, Notaries are increasingly asked to notarize documents written in foreign languages they cannot read. Generally, state laws do not expressly prohibit the Notary from notarizing a document that is not in the English language. However, depending on the circumstances, it may be inadvisable to notarize such foreign-language documents. The danger, of course, is that the document is being misrepresented to the Notary.

For any non-English document, the best option is to refer the signer to a Notary who reads and writes the language of the document.

If that is not possible, the Notary should only proceed if the notarial certificate itself is in English or another language the Notary reads and writes. If the Notary cannot read the certificate wording being used in the notarization, the Notary has no way of knowing how to correctly fill out the certificate or even knowing if it’s an act the Notary may legally perform.

It is important that the signer and the Notary be able to communicate in the same language without reliance on a third party who, intentionally or unintentionally, may interpret the conversation incorrectly. A Notary cannot know if a third-party interpreter — even when it’s a trusted attorney or employee at the Notary’s firm — is correctly relaying the signer’s intent. The signer and Notary must be able to directly communicate and understand each other in the same language. Only one state, Arizona, expressly authorizes a Notary to rely on an interpreter in discerning the intent of the signer.

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