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Notary Bulletin

Three Questions To Ask Before You Notarize A Foreign-Language Document

While it’s possible to notarize a document written in a foreign language, it’s very important to take steps to ensure you aren’t being misled about the document’s content or the signer’s intentions before you proceed. Here are three important questions to ask before notarizing.

Question One: Can You Communicate Directly With The Signer?
Even though English is not the primary language of many signers, as a Notary, you need to directly communicate with them to ensure they know what they are signing and are willing to sign. If the signer speaks English clearly enough to communicate directly with you, or you are fluent in the signer’s primary language, there’s no problem proceeding with the notarization. However, do not notarize if you can’t communicate directly — even if a third party offers to interpret. You have no way of confirming if an interpreter is translating the signer’s words correctly, and an interpreter might have reason to misrepresent the signer’s wishes.

Question Two: Can You Read And Understand The Signer’s Signature?
In order to notarize, you must be able to read the signer’s signature to confirm the name matches any proof of identity the signer presents. You cannot notarize a signature written in an alphabet you cannot read. For example, if the signer uses Chinese characters and you cannot understand Chinese, do not notarize the document.

Question Three: Can You Read And Understand The Notarial Certificate Wording?
The last question to ask is whether the certificate wording is in a language you read and understand. You should never use certificate wording you can’t read — you have no way to know what information you are affixing your signature and Notary seal to! If the certificate wording is in a language you don’t know, you must attach the appropriate English-language certificate wording for the act requested by the signer, otherwise do not proceed with the notarization.


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Pauline Ilana

03 Sep 2014

Is very important this article

Maria E. Hollingsworth

20 Apr 2015

I am a bilingual Notary Public, I found this article very useful. Thanks.


29 Apr 2015

As long as you are able to translate the wording of the document (there is a translator program on google) to verify the content of the document, I feel safe.if I speak with them client and they have translated exactly what I typed and translated.

Carmen Hudson

31 Aug 2015

Thanks for giving us this article, very important to know.

N. Samuelson

01 Aug 2016

SANDRA JONES: You completely misunderstand what this article says. YOU do NOT need to be able to read and understand the document itself. The article advises that you need to understand only the Notarial Certificate. Let me give you a simple example, and for the moment, I assume you do not understand physics. Assume Albert Einstein comes to you with a document that contains a single line, and that line is a physics equation you do not understand. But he signs his name below it and asks you to notarize the document. Now, you search google and it can't help you. Question: will you say: because I do not know physics and this particular equation, I won't certify that Albert Einstein has affixed his signature below it?

Christopher Greene

23 Mar 2018

These three question were fantastic to cover!

Sonia Cunha-Goldner

25 Dec 2020

FIRST: Google is not a trustworthy translation tool, since it does not consider the context. SECOND: we notarize signatures, not the content of the document itself. It's the signer's responsibility to understand and agree with what he/she is signing, and the Notary's responsibility to confirm with the signer if he/she understands the content of document and his/her willingness to sign it. Thank you for covering these three points. I would just include one detail: if you need the document Apostillized, the Notarial Certificate must be in English, as per the Department of State in Florida.

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