In many ways, translating financial documents has the same challenges as most other legal work. Financial issues come with their own country-specific rules and regulations, so understanding the applicable banking laws of both the source and translated documents is just as important as being fluent in the languages of each. However, translating financial documents presents an additional hurdle—numbers.
Here are a few examples of challenges for accurate financial translations:
- Numerical-based documentation. Consider the banking and financial information surrounding your personal life: bank statements, invoices, purchase contracts, tax forms and reports, balance sheets, income statements, general ledgers, etc. Every country has its own methods of recording financial transactions that create a unique monetary language for its citizens. While many countries share some of these documents, even those that look very similar can have subtle differences only a translator understanding the documents would notice. Translating numbers, columns, calculations, and disclosures correctly and in a manner that will be accurately understood by everyone require expertise and painstaking attention to detail.
- Units of measurement. Fortunately, there are only two significant measurement systems in use throughout the world: the metric system and the US standard system. For U.S. documents, this means that any document containing units of measurement—whether weight, mileage, or size specifications—needs to be converted from one system to another. This can be particularly challenging for inexperienced translators. For example, the metric system uses an easy decimal-based system that works well on calculators like 10.5 meters. This converts to 34.44 feet. However, it’s easy to mistranslate this as 34 feet 4 inches, which it is not. .44 feet is actually 5.28 inches making the correct translation 34 feet 5.28 inches.
- Room for error. Without taking translation into consideration, we all know how easy it is to transpose numbers, forget a zero, or place a figure in the wrong column. When documents are originally created, those details are generally checked and re-checked because errors can make a significant difference. It’s just as easy for translators to make those errors, but it’s much more difficult for a second person to double-check the accuracy. This makes the level of professional experience in translating financial documents even more critical when this type of work is contracted.
- Security. Documents containing financial information can be especially attractive for hackers to steal. Often the information contains proprietary information related to proposed business ventures, pending contractual deals, or simply contains confidential data about banking customers. Any translator handling this documentation must use top-of-the-line security protocols for document storage and transmission.
- Time constraints. The financial world moves very quickly, and translators working with financial documentation must be fast and accurate. Unlike other kinds of documentation, the figures in financial statements and reports become more and more outdated as the days go by. A solid translator will work rapidly to meet deadlines with accurate work.
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