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Financial Translation—Where Math, Language, and Culture Intersect

Financial Translation—Where Math, Language, and Culture Intersect

Money flows in and out of countries and around the globe more rapidly and prolifically than even ten years ago. This is true not only for multinational corporations – even individuals and small companies buy, sell, and invest overseas. But while the flow is global, the languages, cultures, laws, and norms of financial dealings are not.

The content of financial documents is heavily based on universal numbers, of course. Even so, there is no room to be casual about the translation of financial statements, auditor reports, loan documents, government tax reports, or corporate annual summaries. Translation precision is essential with regard to everything from a country’s legal system to its cultural attitudes. In fact, flawed translation of a financial report from one language to another is useless or worse. Accuracy is mandatory.

Linguists who have specialized in finance for many years are the professionals you want handling your business and financial translation. Anything less is risky because the translator’s knowledge of financial transactions and the target market needs to be so extensive and thorough. In 2005, for instance, panic ensued in response to a translation error in an article about the Chinese Yuan (currency) and naturally it took some time to set things straight. Another example is the way that decimals and commas are used at different places within large numerals, depending on the country; meticulous proofreading of translated reports may be tedious but it’s not optional. Standard presentation of assets and liabilities in financial reports also varies in different regions, so even the order of translated material must be adapted for the target country.

The way to avoid trouble is to hire professional translation services. Every industry has its special vocabulary and complex ideas that must be understood in order for translations to be both accurate and effective at communicating the full range of information in a clear way. But in the industry of global finance and business, an additional challenge is presented by the speed of financial transactions, which can lead to explosive results if errors arise. And the ease with which an error can be made in international business translation is obvious to anyone familiar with the complexity of texts for public and private stock offerings, borrowing and lending, or foreign currency exchange, to name just a few financial transactions.

It is no simple task to stay on top of changes in this industry. How transactions are executed is changing as rapidly as what and where. Financial technology – Fintech – has swept through the industry, in the form of AI and Blockchain, digital wallets and payment interactions, online investment, cloud-based sharing of data, and other paradigm-shifting innovations. Traditional financial translation has its place, but nearly every country is involved with new Fintech that demands expanded translation capability, often at faster speeds.

Regarding the world of international finances, even Nobel-prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, does not pretend to know what trends might define the near future. He alludes to one of his teacher’s comments, that “…anyone who spends too much time thinking about international money goes a little mad.” It’s a field full of critical details but fluctuating truths. The good news is that interpretation and translation of international financial documents are tasks you do not have to master. They’re best left to financial translation experts, whose experience will preserve your sanity as well as your assets.

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