As a bi-lingual notary in California, some of my clients are not fluent in the English language. When I administer an oath for a Jurat, I sometimes get a “blank stare”, and I can tell that the client is not understanding what I am asking him or her. To date, I simply explain what the oath is for and what it is asking in Spanish, then readminister the oath in English. My question is: is it permitted by notarial law to administer an oath in a language other than English? The Handbook is not very clear.
If you translate anything, including an oath, you can change the meaning slightly, so I would say a notary should not translate an oath that was composed by someone else (such as the legislature). But looking at page 12 of the California notary manual, if you are just taking an oath that a document is true, and the oath is not set forth in the document (you’re just stamping or attaching a jurat), the exact wording of the oath is not specified, so you get to choose the language. It also seems that the wording of the oath of a credible witness, or proof by subscribing witness, are not specified either, so you could pick the language. But I would never translate an oath written by someone else. Also, I would not advise someone else about an oath they are composing for their purposes. I would only translate an oath where it is in the discretion of the notary to pick the exact wording. (Except, of course, I am not fluent enough with any foreign language to translate anything more than a street sign.)
Thanks for your input. I would agree that an oath authored by someone else might lose something in the translation. My second language is Spanish and I’m pretty fluent (having spoken it for more than 40 years). I was just asking about translating an oath I’ve been using for years that just sounds awkward in some instances where I’m not convinced that the afiant really understands the gravity of the oath he/she is taking.
IMO Page 18 of your handbook is clear: https://www.sos.ca.gov/business/notary/forms/notary-handbook-2011.pdf
“When notarizing a signature on a document, a notary public must be able to communicate with the customer in order for the signer either to swear to or affirm the contents of the affidavit or to acknowledge the execution of the document. An interpreter should not be used, as vital information could be lost in the translation.”
If you are able to communicate with your signer in their own language then I see nothing that says you can’t administer the oath or ack wording in that language. It makes sense – you’re communicating with the signer.
The only thing to be aware of, I believe, is that your certificates must be in English. THAT you may need to either check further in your handbook for that info or check with your SOS.
Linda is correct, there is no prescribed wording for the oath/affirmation. As long as you can communicate in the language of the signer, no problem. Yes, the notarial certificate must be in English.