When I first found myself in a notary’s office, it was a shock. He was in full garb – robes, a gold and scarlet waistcoat, a traditional baroque wig with a ponytail. We were ushered silently into an enormous conference room with a chandelier – I felt a bit like I had landed on stage at the opera house and I’d forgotten my costume.
I’ve since been in hundreds of notarial offices, in fact, I’m pretty sure I have now visited most of them on Kurfürstendamm in Berlin.
There are nice notaries, casual notaries, hostile notaries, funny notaries, young notaries, old notaries, notaries that take themselves very seriously and notaries that enjoy taking the time to explain concepts to their clients, even notaries with custom-built mannequins of themselves in their waiting rooms. Some wear jeans and some wear robes.
But they all have one thing in common. They tend to cringe whenever they realise an interpreter has to be involved. It’s not the nicest way for me to walk into a room, seeing their face when they realise you’re there. The reason is: it slows them down. Considerably! A notary can read a contract at the speed of light, but introduce another language and suddenly everyone is sitting in the office for hours.
To add to this, every notary I have met has a horror story about an interpreter. Unprepared interpreters have been reduced to tears in notary offices. Well-meaning friends and relatives who are perfectly fluent in both languages have tried to do these contract read-throughs and failed miserably. You need someone who is familiar with the content, or they will flail. And if a notary is not convinced that the interpreter is competent, they can just ask you to reschedule the appointment and bring someone else. At your expense, of course – if you’re buying property, you pay the fees involved with executing the contract, which includes all notary fees.
Years of working with notaries have allowed me to put everyone in the room at ease. I interpret simultaneously by default – this means I talk over the top of the notary. It means the appointment will take half the time it otherwise would. When I suggest this, I usually see a flash of relief on everyone’s faces – they know that we’ll all be out of there by dark.
I bring detailed notes and I follow the German contract as I speak, making sure that the content hasn’t changed and I help you answer your questions, which will always crop up as we go along. I speak quickly and clearly at a volume that’s comfortable for you. The notary and I adapt our pace and rhythm as we work, which is actually quite a pleasure when it works well.
Once everyone is satisfied, we sign. As an interpreter, I am bound by law to interpret faithfully and completely, which means I sign too. Then you go and celebrate.
You can take me with you to your contract signing and I’ll make sure you feel confident and well-informed when you sign on the dotted line. Find out more here.
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