The following applies in Germany: the official language is German (see e.g § 23 VwVfG, § 87 AO, § 19 SGB X). It also applies to notarial deeds that they are drawn up in German (Section 5 BeurkG). If the notary has sufficient command of another language, he can also draw up deeds in that language on request.
It regularly happens that those involved do not speak German (sufficiently) but, for example, Polish, Czech, Turkish or Italian. As a rule, everyone is able to communicate in English. Whether they are so well versed in this that they also understand English legal texts without a doubt is another question.
In these constellations, I am usually asked to draft a purchase contract in two languages, German/English, assuming that it can be certified in this way. It is not that easy. After Section 16 BeurkG the purchase contract must be read to the German-speaking participant and translated orally to the non-German-speaking participant. This means that an interpreter must be present at the notarization unless the notary himself is sufficiently proficient in the language concerned to carry out the translation work. The interpreter then expediently does not translate into English, but into the mother tongue of the person concerned.
oral translation during the certification
In practice, it works like this for us: I first draw up the draft purchase agreement in two languages, German/English, as requested, and send the draft to everyone involved for checking and orientation. In the certification with the contracting parties and the interpreter, I read out the German text of the contract in sections and the interpreter translates, also in sections. Any questions that arise can be discussed immediately and any necessary adjustments (in the German part) can be made. The contract also states that only the German text is authoritative, the English is for informational purposes only.
The necessary presence of the interpreter means that this has to be organized in advance. If I have any indication that this is necessary for one of the parties involved, I point this out and ask whether he would like to bring an interpreter himself or whether we, the notary's office, should organize it. For these purposes, we work together with translation agencies that can set up such appointments for almost any language with a little advance notice. The costs are currently between 500 and 800 euros net, although freelance interpreters often offer it a little cheaper.
written translation on request
If requested by the party concerned, the translation should also be made in writing and submitted to him for review; the translation should be attached to the document. As a notary, I am obliged to point out that a written translation can be requested and to record the granting of the notice in the deed.
The written translation (into the mother tongue of the person involved) can be dispensed with. If he doesn't, it becomes organisationally complex. In order to be able to attach it to the document, it must be available. This means that it should be prepared in advance, which of course makes adjustments in the certification situation difficult, because then the written translation also has to be changed. In addition, such work takes a certain amount of time. Automated translation using AI may be able to support this in the future. However, the problem is that as a notary I cannot check the result for correctness if I do not speak the language concerned, so that the involvement of a suitably competent person will still be necessary in order to assess and confirm the result.
Who is allowed to interpret?
Basically anyone who is proficient in the German language and the one to be translated into. However, certain persons are excluded, namely those who, analogous to the reasons for exclusion for notaries, seem to be biased. That is the case when the interpreter
- is involved as a further contracting party (e.g. one of two buyers),
- is the spouse, former spouse or domestic partner (current or former) of a participant
- or is or was related in a straight line or related by marriage or is or was related by marriage up to the third degree in the collateral line or is or was related by marriage up to the second degree,
- or acts as a representative for one of the aforementioned persons in the contract to be notarized.
An interpreter is also excluded if he or one of the aforementioned persons obtains a legal advantage through the contract.
Family members as interpreters are therefore problematic, but acquaintances and friends can definitely be considered. It is not necessary for the interpreter to work professionally as a translator or to have been officially appointed and sworn in. He can be sworn in by the notary or the parties involved can do without it.
In practice, we clarify the reasons for exclusion in such a way that I ask the interpreter and the parties involved whether one of the aforementioned circumstances applies. I will include the answers in the certificate. The interpreter appears at the head of the contract as a party to the contract, his ID is copied and filed like everyone else's (so he must have it with him and the ID should be valid), and after everything has been read out and translated, is the contract signed by the interpreter.
The further processing of the contract
can happen without the interpreter, ie he usually does not receive a copy (unless the parties involved want it) and is not in cc in the subsequent communication. This is not usually necessary either, as we can communicate with most of those involved in English. Those with whom this is not possible let their private environment help them communicate.