Sometimes a Notary Public will be asked to “notarise” a document which is in a foreign language. This is of course possible but it can pose certain difficulties, depending on what is meant by the “notarisation” of the foreign language document. The Council of the Society of Notaries of New South Wales has stated that:

“[I]t is within the Notary’s discretion to decide when he should or should not require and English translation of a document in a foreign language which he is called upon to attest or do some notarial act, and that it is not his duty to call for such translation in every case. The Council has also expressed the opinion that, if a Notary is in doubt as to what his signature to such a document may imply in the express terms of the document, he may be able to satisfy his requirements by setting out in a memorandum at the foot of the document that it is signed etc. in his presence, and that he is not responsible for its contents, which are in a language in which he is unlearned.” – College of Law, “Continuing Professional Development: Seminar Papers: Notarial Practice” #CN130703_NOT1, 30 July 2013, at p. 13

Effectively, what this means is that the notary reserves the right to decline his services in relation to a document that is created in a language other than English, if that notary believes that his notarial act, as applied to that document, may give rise to liabilities that the notary would otherwise not assume had he been familiar with the particulars of the document before notarising it.

On the other hand, if for example the notary is being asked to witness the execution of a deed in a foreign language, and nothing else, the notary may provide his services, while also entering a memorandum to the effect that his notarisation is only in relation to witnessing the signature of his client. However, in the opposite extreme case, if the notary is being asked to authenticate a foreign language document, he may demand that the document be translated first by an accredited translator before providing his notarial services to the client. In the latter situation, an original or copy of the foreign language document as well as the accredited translation will both be appended as exhibits to the notarial certificate.

If you are uncertain whether or not the notary can be of assistance to you or our business, please contact us for further information in relation to your specific case.