Certify / Attest / Beglaubigen

I’ve been writing a lot in German about the use of the word ‘beglaubigen’ (certify) for translations, and forgetting to discuss how to translate some of these terms into English, as Adrian reminds me in a comment.

There is a Beurkundungsgesetz in Germany. It is all about notaries. I have translated it, sometimes, as Notarial Recording Act. Neither Dietl nor Romain has it, nor von Beseler – Jacobs-Wüstefeld. It is often translated as ‘Documents Act’, which I don’t much like.

German notaries either beurkunden or beglaubigen. If they beglaubigen (öffentliche Beglaubigung), they certify / witness a signature. Or attest. If they beurkunden (öffentliche Beurkundung), or record (the best word I’ve found, but not very transparent, unfortunately), they produce a whole document.

So I normally say:

|Beurkundungsgesetz|Notarial Recording Act|
|öffentliche Beglaubigung|notarial certification|
|öffentliche Beurkundung|notarial recording|

I don’t like to use notarization. Reasons: firstly, the term is associated in the US with a notary public’s witnessing of a signature, and so conjures up the idea of a different kind of notary. In addition, it is not clear whether beglaubigen or beurkunden is meant. – Of course, the word notarization works perfectly well in context, if one is careful – I’m just setting out my own objections.Now, what does authentication mean? I ask myself. Collins says ‘1. to establish as genuine or valid, 2. to give authority or legal validity to’
So it would be a synonym for certification. As would attestation – as you say, mainly used in connection with wills.

When it comes to the apostille and legalization, the Germans use the word Apostille. They also talk of Überbeglaubigung. I think strictly speaking they use it, for example, where the President of the Landgericht where I am registered as a sworn translation confirms that I have authority to certify a translation, which is not an apostille but is similar. So let’s say legalization = Überbeglaubigung.

I found a site saying ‘Why apostille with us?’ and giving some information, with graphics.

A topic for another time is: what is an original and what kinds of copies exist.

There’s a large sort of translators’ bible in German with 114 articles on all kinds of translation. It’s called Handbuch Translation, ISBN 3 86057 991 6 – dated 1998, but there may be a new edition. There is an article in there about Urkundenübersetzung by Klaus Fleck, who is responsible for the Doucet-Fleck DE>FR and FR>DE dictionary – I use the DE>FR to find Swiss German. He’s an interesting speaker. He lived in France from the age of ten and studied law in France, but lives in or near Munich. He, btw, refers to ‘beglaubigte Übersetzung’!

6 thoughts on “Certify / Attest / Beglaubigen

  1. Thanks for that, Margaret. You’re in good anti-notaris/zation company. City of London Scrivener Notaries have warned me off using the US term notarisation, mainly – I think – for the very reasons you give. ‘It’s notarial certification’ comes the plantive cry.

  2. I ordered the book on notaries and was told it would take many weeks to come. A few weeks later I was told it had come, was defective, and had to be sent back. It’s harder to get hold of than Harry Potter (well, for another 17 minutes).
    If there are only about 25 scrivener notaries now, and they don’t all do German, how many might there be with German?

  3. It’s easier – next time you’re in London – to pop round to Hammicks Legal Bookshop on the corner of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street and buy yourself a copy of Brooke’s Notary off-the-shelf for ‘just’ GBP 175.

    The ancient restrictive practice of only Scrivener Notaries being allowed to practise within a radius of 10/12 miles of the Royal Exchange has gone. I know one who qualified with German and Italian and is now living in Milan, but don’t know whether she counts among the 25. My own acqaintanceships suggest about 15 altogether would have German.

    ‘Regional Notaries’ – many with German and outside this radius – would also come into the picture.

  4. Well, I always go to Hammicks but am not going to London perhaps till December, and then they are sometimes shut for Christmas. What’s more, how heavy is the book?
    Yes, I was referring only to the scrivener notaries in the City of London, who tend to be listed separately although their monopoly has gone. The regional notaries I didn’t know about till a couple of years ago. But I think the links I gave in connection with English notaries cover those.

  5. The hard-bound book weighs about 1kg or 1/2 lb and is 670pp and includes notarial precedents from all over the world – some countries I’ve never heard of. It’s about the size of the slim-volume, yellow-cover UK-published Gibson’s Conveyancing of old you may have used before it went out-of-print about 20 years ago.

    Hope you’re not superstitious. It’s got a bright red cover, as refused by one ex-ITI member, a Glastonbury Festival veteran, who ‘felt bad vibes’ from a cherry red-cover Binz/Hess Lexikon des Insolvenrechts I bought for her in Munich at her request and have now ended up with. I admit that it’s not exactly a riveting Occult and Witchcraft read.

  6. Red sounds very nice. I don’t really know anything about the Glastonbury Festival but that does give me unpleasant vibes. Slightly better are the distant recollections of Gibson’s Conveyancing (I qualified in 1980 but did my Finals earlier). I think it is better to order some things by post. My suitcase gets rather heavy anyway.

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