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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