Foreign Language Notary Guide

foreign language notary guideForeign Language Notary Guide

A foreign language notary guide is a tool to help notarize a document written in a foreign language, or for a signer who speaks a foreign language.  If the notary does not speak the foreign language, this helps to bridge the language barrier.  It is similar to a phrase book used by a tourist when traveling in a foreign country.

In Colorado, the notary may not use a human as a translator or interpreter.  This is because the notary would not know if the translator is being honest.  The notary must communicate directly with the signer.

Technology now provides some tools to assist with foreign language documents.  Google Translate is free software that can translate a document into about 90 foreign languages.  It is available at or can be downloaded as a phone application.

You can cut and paste text from a foreign language document, upload a document file, or enter a website address for translation.  That may be useful to translate a foreign embassy website.

It helps the notary to use reasonable care to confirm the title and purpose of the document.  The translated document is not notarized, so the translation does not need to be 100% accurate.  The original document in the foreign language is notarized.

The notary certificate can be in a foreign language if the notary speaks that language.  If the document is going to a foreign country and needs an apostille certificate attached by the Colorado Secretary of State (SOS), then the notary certificate must be in English.

Top 20 Foreign Languages

The top 20 most widely spoken languages in the United States, in 2011 and 2016 surveys, [Census Bureau, American Community Survey, Detailed Languages Spoken at Home by English-Speaking Ability for the Population 5 Years and Over] are:

1.  English only, 232, 230 million
2.  Spanish, 38, 40.5 million  Spanish Language Notary Guide
3.  Chinese, 2.9, 3.4 million  Chinese Language Notary Guide
4.  Tagalog (Filipino), 1.6, 1.7 million  Filipino Tagalog Language Notary Guide
5.  Vietnamese, 1.4, 1.5 million  Vietnamese Language Notary Guide
6.  Arabic, 0.952, 1.2 million  Arabic Language Notary Guide
7.  French, 1.3, 1.2 million  French Language Notary Guide
8.  Korean, 1.14, 1.1 million  Korean Language Notary Guide
. . . Ukrainian, 1.0 million  Ukrainian Language Notary Guide
9.  Russian, 0.906, 0.91 million  Russian Language Notary
10.  German, 1.08, 0.91 million  German Language Notary Guide

11.  Haitian Creole 754, 860 thousand  Haitian Creole Language Notary Guide
12.  Hindi, 649, 810 thousand  Hindi Language Notary Guide
13.  Portuguese, 674, 770 thousand  Portuguese Language Notary Guide
14.  Italian, 724, 580 thousand  Italian Language Notary Guide
15.  Polish, 608, 540 thousand
16.  Urdu, 374, 470 thousand
17.  Japanese, 436, 460 thousand
18.  Persian (Farsi, Dari), 408, 440 thousand  Persian Farsi Language Notary Guide فارسی
19.  Gujarati, 358, 410 thousand
20.  Telugu, tbd, 370 thousand

Other, Less Common Languages:
21.  Bengali, tbd, 320 thousand
22.  Thai, Lao tbd, 310 thousand
24.  Greek 305, 290 thousand
. . . . American Sign Language 250 thousand, estimated
27.  Armenian 240 thousand
28.  Serbo-Croatian 240 thousand
29.  Hebrew 216, 230 thousand
31.  Bantu (Swahili) 220 thousand
33.  Navajo 169, 160 thousand
34.  Czech 70 thousand
35.  Indonesian 60 thousand  Indonesian Language Notary Guide
. . . . Cherokee  22 thousand, estimated

If the signer does not speak good English, a foreign language notary guide that includes common notary questions and sentences may be a useful tool.  Below are some suggestions.  The notary may include others as needed for the situation, and then use Google Translate to generate a numbered list.  The notary can then point to the line number to select a phrase or question.  The signer could type an answer in Google Translate and then translate it into English.

Foreign Language Notary Guide

(copy and paste into Google Translate, translate into desired language)

1.  Hello.  My name is [John].  I am a Notary.
2.  I do not speak your language.
3.  What is your name?
4.  Please print your [name] on this paper.
5.  May I please see your identification?
6.  What type of document is this?
7.  Please print the document title on this paper.
8.  Have you read this document?
9.  Please fill in this blank space.
10.  Do you understand the purpose of this document?
11.  Are you signing this document voluntarily?
12.  Do you acknowledge that this is your signature?
13.  Do you swear or affirm that these statements are true and correct?
14.  Please sign your name here.
15.  My fee is [number] dollars.
16.  Yes
17.  No
18.  I do not understand.
19.  I do not know.
20.  Please repeat.
21.  Please speak slowly.
22.  Thank you.
23.  Nice to meet you.
24.  Here is my business card.
25.  Have a nice day.
26.  Good bye.
27.  Here is the name and phone number of a notary that speaks your language.
28.  I am not a notario publico.
29.  I am not an attorney.
30.  I do not give legal advice.
31.  I am not a civil law notary.

The notary should write the title and description of the document in the notary journal.  For example, a Power of Attorney in Spanish is called a Carta de Poder.  The number of pages should be shown.  Ask the signer to fill in any blank spaces before notarizing.

It is best to use the date format: July 4, 2015, rather than 7/4/15 (mm-dd-yy).  In many foreign countries, the date is in dd-mm-yy format, so 7/4/15 would be 7 Apr 2015.

A foreign language notary guide can be a useful tool for a notary to accommodate a foreign language speaker.

Disclaimer: This information is not legal advice.  For legal advice, contact a licensed, competent attorney.

Visit our website for Colorado Springs Mobile Notary services or Colorado Notary Training classes.

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