You're not the only one who doesn't know what a notary is! In fact, I didn't even know what a notary was until I became one! That's a long story! I'll have to fill you in on that on another blog!
A notary is a state official, who has been background checked, screened and commissioned, to act on behalf of their state. Due to the huge population, especially here in the state of California, there is no way a judge can see every person who decides to go into some type of contractual agreement so they give these powers to a notary. The notary's job is to be an impartial, credible witness, who verifies the identity of the signer(s) via acceptable means and ensures that person is coherent, has a general understanding of the document they are signing and are not being forced at the time of the signing. In Arian language,
"a notary gets the ID of everybody signing, makes sure everybody is cool with the document and nobody has a gun to their head when they sign!" (Arian, the Notary!)
A notary is NOT to explain a document/contract, they don't enforce it, they don't ensure it's fair, they don't ensure it's bounding in court, in fact, the notary doesn't even have to understand the language a document is written in! As long as the parties involved understand the document and are willingly signing, a notary can notarize it. I've signed many documents with Chinese letters; I attach an English Acknowledgement or Jurat, collect that money, and go on about my business!
That is all!
Arian, the Notary!