Yes, you read that right! And it’s quite intriguing to see a number of online posts, articles and even websites of law firms talking about “notaries public” (“NP”) in their civil-law jurisdictions, when in the US we have civil-law notaries carrying out the very same or similar acts as Notario in the civil law legal systems.  

So there comes the need for knowing the difference between a Notary Public in the US – which is a common-law notary – and a Notario in Spanish-speaking countries when translating legal documents. More often than not, the latter is mistakenly rendered as “Notary Public.” When translating the Spanish term, it should convey the role the Notario has in civil law countries, as NP is a common-law notary.

Given the substantial differences across common-law and civil-law jurisdictions, let’s examine the roles of the two capacities at the fundamental level:

US Notary PublicNotario
Unlike a Notario, a NP is in a lower-level post.Unlike a NP, a Notario is a law-trained professional or high-ranking official.
While requirements to become a NP vary from state to state, the applicant usually must be a US-citizen and resident in the state where he or she seeks commission.He or she usually holds a law degree or has a license to practice law in a given jurisdiction.To become a Notario, the candidate often needs to have several years of law practice, depending on the jurisdiction.
The duty of a NP is to certify the authenticity of the documents and parties thereof, which can include taking acknowledgements, administering oaths and taking depositions, among other activities depending on the state jurisdiction.He or she has broad range of duties, such as representing others before government bodies and signing documents (especially for real estate purposes).  

As the title of this post implies, there are several US territories or states where civil-law notaries are established (given their hybrid legal systems and history under civil codes). Notaries in Puerto Rico and Florida are similarly as described in the right column above. The National Notary Association notes that “A civil law Notary has training and duties similar to an attorney, and is authorized to prepare legal documents, authenticate transactions and advise participants in certain legal matters.”

In Louisiana, however, the aspiring candidate does not necessarily need to be law-trained, but having a license to practice law in Louisiana waives the general requirement of having to pass the state notary exam to become a Louisiana Notary, which the Professional Civil Law Notaries Association states is a “CIVIL LAW NOTARY and has broad powers usually reserved for attorneys in other states.  The Louisiana Civil Law Notary can draft, prepare and execute affidavits, acknowledgements and authentic acts. Louisiana Civil Law provides for much of our legal documentation to be passed by a Notary, a public official, who has qualified for a commission authorizing those powers.”

In a nutshell, a notario has legal advisory capacity and carries out a variety of legal transactions, whereas a NP has certifying or authenticating capacity. The proper Spanish translation for NP is Fedetario (público) (given its certifying authority). However, a NP in the UK is ironically a qualified lawyer, and often has prior practice as a solicitor. For more on this, I highly recommend checking out the Notaries Society in the UK, as well as Ruth and Fernando’s post in Spanish about the various roles of a NP in the US and UK.

Thus, I strongly advise rendering the Notario as “Civil-Law Notary” when translating to US English. When the distinction is not necessary in the document you are translating, simply “notary” will do. “Nonattorney Notary” is another term used by the National Notary Association that could work in some contexts (not that I personally use though, as it may not be proper for certain jurisdictions) for a notary that is not law-trained.

Like with most things, there are always exceptions to the rule. That said, I would love to hear what you think!



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Classbase: an excellent resource for translators handling academic documents and/or school records

I came across this site, while researching the grading system in Mexico, that I have found helpful when translating diplomas, transcripts, school certificates, syllabuses and other school-related documents for individuals:

On there you can find information on the education system, grading system, academic credentials and a list of universities in a given country. I certainly believe this is not only useful for those translating to or from Spanish, Portuguese or English, but also to or from numerous other languages as this site presents such information for over 200 countries and territories worldwide. Practically every country you could ever think of.

Let’s say you want to look up Brazil and need to figure out the difference between Ensino fundamental (I & II) and Ensino médio. By clicking on “Education System” for this country, you can view a description of each of the two education categories. This is what you would see:

Brazilian education system

It is widely known that, unless an evaluation service provider, translators usually cannot give target country (i.e. U.S.) equivalents of the grades, degrees or credentials in the translation, and that clients would need to contact a credentials evaluation service provider for that (though I’m sure there is an exception to this!) However, on this same site, under Grading System for any given country, graduates or clients requiring translation of their school records can even consult the GPA calculator to get an idea of the US equivalents of their source country school grades. One can consult and compare Brazilian grades, for example, on the Double Letter Scale:

Brazil_grade conversion

Pretty cool site and features, I must say. And quite up-to-date, seemingly.

Now over to you readers, thoughts on this site? Any other related webpages or resources you might recommend for translating said documents?

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New in the SpanPort Blogosphere

As I think about what to share and post in this blog, here is this buzzfeed page that popped up somewhere within my social media circle of multilingual friends:

17 Things You’ll Only Understand If You Studied A Foreign Language at University

This was just what I needed to make my day when I initially saw it. Too good to be true and hilarious! Especially for people that studied languages in the 2000s decade. If I ever need to remember the date when I started blogging or to remind myself why I ever studied Spanish as my major in college, I can at least get some laughter each time I read this again. Never a dull moment with buzzfeed, right?

Feel free to comment below topics you would like to see addressed in this blog. You can easily follow this blog and receive updates (every time a new blog post is published) by entering your email address in the box to the right under Follow Blog Via Email. Next post coming up shortly!



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