Notarizing your Foreign Language Document

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Notarizing your Foreign Language Document

“The bank refused to notarize the document because it is written in Hungarian”, said the exasperated client to me. “No Problem” for was my reply. There is no requirement for the notary to be able to read the document, none whatsoever. Consider a 765 page document regarding the sale of a Supertanker – do you think the notary will read it prior to notarizing the signature on the last page? Well, if they are not going to read all pages of all documents – why would they want to be able to read some pages of some documents? I doubt if I will ever know.

There are some interesting considerations regarding languages involved in the notarization process. But none have anything to do with the actual document. The main language requirements are related to the required oath given by the notary. The notary must be able to give the oath directly (no interpreter allowed) to the person whose signature will be notarized. The person signing must be able to read the document in order to swear/affirm that the document is truthful/correct. That is the relevant language consideration – the document could be in Braille or Latvian – it does not matter to me.

Part of some notaries’ refusal to handle this situation is their employer’s desire to avoid the possibility of being involved in a lawsuit. Some banks will not notarize a Power of Attorney, some refuse a Bill of Sale – the reasons are the same; avoiding being involved in litigation. If the notary can’t read any of the document it “might” be a prohibited (by “bank” policy) – thus all “unreadable” documents are often refused. At that is never the case. While the notary has no requirement to read the document – if – at a glance – the document is “improper” – for example a contract to commit a crime; all notaries should refuse to notarize. However, there is NO requirement for the notary to determine that the document is lawful.

It is a “best practice” to prepare foreign language documents in both languages. Most times this is done by formatting the document into two columns with English on one side and the other language on the other. One advantage of doing this is that it allows the affiant to sign twice. The signature on the English side will be compared to their ID – the other language is not. Thus, it is the English signature that is being notarized – and most ID documents in this country have English signatures. However, I personally would accept a Chinese signature if it matched the signature on a Chinese passport and the picture of the passport holder looked like the person signing the document in front of me.

However the Notary Section DOES need to be in English (in NY for sure, probably in most other states too. There are two formats of notarization commonly used. The Jurat “sworn to and subscribed before me”. The other is the Acknowledgement. “This instrument was acknowledged before me. Both require the Venue (State & County), and the date. Most professional notaries can provide either form, some can also stamp the form directly onto the document. The Jurat requires the notary to witness the signature. The Acknowledgement can be pre-signed and the notary just asks the person (with ID) if they signed it. In both cases an oath is given.


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Harry Norman, REALTORS® - Atlanta, GA
Associate Broker

Good morning Kenneth Edelstein 

Thank you for sharing your information with us.

Have a great day 11/27/2017.

Nov 27, 2017 06:13 AM #1
Kenneth Edelstein - Manhattan, NY
The only A+ Accredited BBB NYC Notary

Mr. Acosta,

If you work with notaries you will probably like:

Have a safe and healthy day.



Nov 27, 2017 06:21 AM #2
MichelleCherie Carr Crowe Just Call...408-252-8900
Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty - San Jose, CA
Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years

Ken, thank you for an entertaining and useful post on notarizing foreign language docs.

Nov 27, 2017 11:25 PM #3
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Kenneth Edelstein

The only A+ Accredited BBB NYC Notary
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