What You Should Not Do When Translating Finance Documents

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What You Should Not Do When Translating Finance Documents
What You Should Not Do When Translating Finance Documents

Just because you’re fluent in two or more languages, doesn’t mean you’d make a good translator. Which is particularly true when it comes to financial translations, where documents are filled with jargon that needs to be understood to translate them accurately. Indeed, just a small error in a financial translation could be devastating.

So, if you are looking to become a financial translator or you would like to hire one. Here are some of the common mistakes that occur:

Translating Too Literally

Although this isn’t the most common issue in financial documents, it’s still something that all translators should be aware of. That is, not being too literal with their translations. If any figurative language is used in the document, it’s important that you don’t simply translate this to another language, where it may make little sense. 

For instance, something like “dime a dozen” might clearly mean common in English but could mean something entirely different in another language. So, the translator needs to find an idiom in the chosen language that means the same, or simply translate it as common.

Be Wary of Fillers and Expressions

When you translate languages, you need to be aware of filler words and expressions that might not have an equivalent in another language. For financial documents, although most of the work is to the point, there are often introductory paragraphs that may contain filler language.

Here is where you need to be careful, as some words can simply not be translated as they are. For instance, in Swedish there is the word ‘lagom’ which roughly means “just right”. However, there is no true English equivariant for the word, so your translator will need to change the word to something else to make it work in English.

Be Wary of Cultural Context

Some words merely exist in a certain culture and have no other word in another language. For instance, haggis is a Scottish word for a spicy meat-based dish with oatmeal. Since there are other dishes similar, the translator would need to keep haggis in the translation.

This becomes important in translations for the financial sector, as banks might want their branding translated as well as financial documents. Here HSBC made a similar mistake in 2009, where their brand message of “assume nothing” was incorrectly translated to “do nothing” in other languages, which heavily affected their brand.

When a financial document needs to hold the same legality and meaning in all languages, extreme care must be taken over every word.

Formatting is Key

We all know that words differ from language to language, however, formatting can also differ. Which can be devasting in a financial document, where just a misplaced comma could drastically change the meaning.

For instance, many European countries use a comma rather than a decimal point, while other countries use a comma between thousands. For a translator that doesn’t know the differences in formatting, financial documents could easily become inaccurate.

While translating financial documents might appear simple, these are highly complicated documents that should only be translated by experienced experts. If you are looking for a translator, always choose a reputable company with a translator that has a financial background.

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