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Interpretation of documents in or to a foreign langauge

TRUE OR FALSE: If a signer and a Notary do not speak the same language, a third party interpreter can be used to translate between them during a notarization.

This question was posed by the National Notary Association in their March 3rd, 2011 publication of NationalNotaryNow.


Many states, including Florida, address this situation allowing for the use of interpreters. Page 37 of the Florida Governor's Reference Manual for Notaries (2001) states:


For a person who is signing a document written in a foreign language not understood by the notary

Remember, you are not responsible for the contents of the document, but you need to exercise caution in this situation. Follow these recommendations:

» Make sure that you can communicate verbally with the document signer or that a qualified, trustworthy translator is present.

» Determine, if possible, that the document is complete.

» Check the document for a notarial certificate. If the document does not have a notarial certificate, ask the document signer for instructions. If he directs you which notarial act is appropriate for his document, proceed by adding the correct certificate and completing the notarization. If he does not know, refuse to notarize.

» Complete the notarial certificate in English. The certificate may be translated into the language of the document, but the translated certificate should not be signed and sealed by the notary.

» If you are unsure about the notarization, you should refuse to notarize.


Tthe NNA offers the following answer:


ANSWER: False. Article III-C-3 of The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility states “The Notary shall not notarize for any person with whom the Notary cannot directly communicate in the same language, regardless of the presence of a third-party interpreter or translator.” A Notary cannot be certain whether or not a translator is misrepresenting a signer’s intent for their own reasons. In situations where the Notary and signer don’t speak the same language, the safest course is to refer the signer to another Notary fluent in the language.



The NNA is not  the ultimate authority on how a notary should perform their duties. It is up to each individual notary to completely understand their own state laws, policies, procedures and practices.


Article Details
Date Created March 04, 2011
Submitted by: KB Admin <KBadmin@pawnotary.com>
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