Updated 4-20-16. It's essential to know what steps to take if you meet a signer who doesn't speak your language or if you're asked to notarize a document written in a foreign language.Take our quiz to see if you know the best way to resolve foreign language issues during a notarization. ANSWERS: 1. What states allow a signer to use an interpreter to speak with a Notary during a notarization? A. All U.S. states allow interpreters for a notarization B. California, Arizona and Florida C. Arizona only D. No state allows interpreters for a notarization Answer: C. With the sole exception of Arizona, state laws don’t allow using translators to interpret between a signer and a Notary because a translator might misrepresent what either the signer or Notary is saying. In all other states, notarization requires direct communication between you and the signer. If you understand the signer's language well enough to communicate directly with the signer and the signer meets all other requirements such as having proper ID, you may proceed with the notarization. 2. Is it a good practice to notarize a signature written in a language you can’t read? A. Yes, because a signer should always sign using their native language B. Yes, but the NNA recommends having an interpreter present C. No, because if you cannot read the signature there’s no way to confirm what is written there D. No, unless the signer swears an oath or affirmation the signer doesn’t speak English Answer: C. Some signers may ask to have a signature notarized that's written in another language, such as Chinese characters or the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. But in order to properly notarize a signature, the NNA strongly recommends that you are able to read it. If the signer writes using characters you cannot read and understand, you have no way of knowing whether or not the signer has accurately signed their name on the document. In fact, one state — Arizona — requires that Notaries only perform a notarial act if the signer signs in a language that the Notary understands. 3. If a document is written in a foreign language you don't understand, you may proceed to notarize if: A. The signer tells you what the contents of the document mean B. A third-party interpreter reads the document and explains the content to you C. The signer swears an oath or affirmation that the contents of the document are accurately represented to you D. The signature and notarial certificate wording are both in a language you can read Answer: D. Sometimes Notaries are asked to notarize a signature on a document and the main text of the document is written in a language you don't understand. You may notarize a signature on such a document if the signature and notarial certificate wording are both in a language you can read, and all other statutory requirements are met. (Arizona's Reference Manual also says that Notaries in that state should be able to read enough of the language to describe the document in the journal entry before proceeding.) Keep in mind that there is always a risk if you cannot read the document's language because there's no way for you to know if the document is being described accurately to you by the signer, and you will have to decide whether or not you're comfortable notarizing. If you feel comfortable enough to proceed with the notarization, be sure to note in your journal that the main body of the document was written in a different language. If you don't feel comfortable going ahead, you may refer the signer to a Notary fluent in the document's language. 4. If you are asked to certify the accuracy of a translation of a foreign-language document: A. You may not do so B. You may translate the document yourself and notarize the translator’s declaration C. You may notarize a translator's signed declaration stating the translation is accurate D. Both A and C Answer: D. Notaries are not permitted to 'certify' that a translation is accurate, and are not permitted to notarize their own signatures under any circumstances. However, if a third-party translator signs a written declaration that he or she has translated the document accurately, you may notarize the translator's signature on the declaration, provided all other requirements for notarization are met. David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.