What must companies in the finance and banking industry consider when translating financial documents?

Translation is becoming an increasingly more fundamental part of many business’ day to day operation, as more and more businesses decide to globalise and face the challenge of transcending not only national but also linguistic borders. This is made easier and much more immediate by the fact that a lot of banking is being done online.

There is no escaping the fact that finance and banking is an inevitable part of business interaction, and can be a delicate aspect of translation.

In this post, we will talk about why it is essential for companies in this industry to hire professional translators for translations of this genre.

First of all, let’s look at the kinds of documents companies may require to be translated…

•         Contracts & Agreements

•         Investment Reports

•         Disclosure Agreements

•         Annual or Bi-Annual Reports

•         Balance Sheets & Income Statements

•         Prospectuses & RFPs

•         Tax & Shareholder Reports

•         Investor or Shareholder Information

Companies requiring these kinds of documents to be translated could be large banks that operate internationally, accountants working with foreign customers or even law firms.

So what kinds of challenges can these documents pose in translation?

First and foremost –terminology. These kinds of documents naturally contain a lot of financial language, which consists of technical terminology that you would not hear in everyday use. Further problems can arise when a term doesn’t have an equivalent in the target language, which is common when translating from English. Professional translators, particularly ones specialising in this field, will have sufficient knowledge not only of the terminology itself, but also of the appropriate terminology to use in the target language that will mean the same thing. It is also important to know not only what language but also what country you’re translating for, as there may be terminological differences, such as between UK and US English. For example, a ‘Building Society’ in the UK is called a ‘Saving and loan Association’ in the US, and what the UK calls a ‘Current Account’ is a ‘Checking Account’ in the US. A professional translator will know which terms to use, and keep it consistent. They also have the linguistic abilities to get around lexical problems.   

Then there’s the challenge of keeping up with new terminology. Banking and Finance is an innovative industry with new concepts, products, and terminology being introduced all the time. To make it more complicated, the world of finance and banking is constantly adding new words to its already large list of financial terms. Professional translators build up glossaries and translation memories and have a lot of resources as well as the research skills to keep up to date and know they’re using the appropriate terms.

Abbreviations and acronyms are abundant in financial texts, and can be very specific to the sector. It is essential that these are translated accurately. Sometimes, it can be replaced by an equivalent abbreviation, for example FCF (free cash flow), would be FCL (flujos de caja libres) in Spanish. Some abbreviations in English, however, go unchanged in Spanish, such as NPV (net present value) or ROI (return on investment). It is important to follow the linguistic tendencies of the sector.

It is also very important to avoid misunderstandings. We’ve all witnessed dodgy translations when we’re abroad, particularly on things like menus or signs in public toilets. At best, these kinds of mistakes are either unclear or amusing. However, in the financial sector, there is no room for mistakes. Just as accountants and bankers must be extremely meticulous with the numbers they deal with, a translation will also respect this sensitivity and need for accuracy. There are all sorts of mistakes that can occur in a translation involving numbers that you may not be aware of. For example, in numerical terms, a comma in Spanish, French and German is used where in English we would use a decimal point, and vice versa. Meaning 1,500 in Spanish does not represent one thousand five hundred, but rather one point five! Quite a difference… What’s more, the value of numbers also varies between languages; in Spanish, ‘un billón’ is one million millions (1,000,000,000,000), whereas in English a billion would be one thousand millions (1,000,000,000).

Again, two very different numbers…

An important aspect to consider is the highly confidential nature of financial documents. A translation company will have strict rules and contracts protecting the content of translations from disclosure and confidentiality breaches, meaning you can rest assured any sensitive information is in safe hands.

To sum up, any document dealing with either individuals’ or large corporations’ accounts and transactions requires professional, confidential and careful treatment. LexGo Translations has experience providing all kinds of entities with translations of their financial documentation. If you need this kind of service from professional translators you can trust, contact us at proyectos@lexgotranslations.com.

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