What is financial translation?

Financial translation is the act of translating, from one language into another, economic and financial texts. The practice encompasses a wide scope of text types; from specialised financial press articles and bond purchase agreements, to the annual accounts of stock corporations.

Undoubtedly, this field of translation can in no way be branded as “simplistic”. Often, we work with texts which are even challenging for the original author to understand in their own language.

A prime example of this is translating, from English to Spanish, a marketing brochure advertising complex financial products listed on the stock market. For example, a forward (seguro de cambio). Usually, it is the marketing departments within companies which sell financial derivatives and are often responsible for their translation. Often, specialised translators and agencies, like englishpanish, regularly find these texts coming across their desks and are swamped with questions by the marketing departments who are not sure how to go about their translations. These are questions about the text´s function, its potential variations depending on specific reference indexes used, etc. Also, there are the questions about the differences between financial contracts, such as spot contracts (contratos de contado), swaps or exchange rate options. The differences between these derivatives are very small and as such, they are often indistinctly used the wrong way.

These products are usually based on concepts from Common Law without any real perfect equivalent in the Spanish juridical system (in fact, many concepts are directly imported from English). This, coupled with the complexity of these products, often results in errors with terminology for even academic researchers and professors; many of which confuse similar but ultimately different financial products or incorrectly translate terms from English to Spanish. If this happens to experts in the field, what would be the final product of a translation with these types of challenges if you were to enlist the help of a translator or translating agency which wasn’t specialised in such a field?

Coming back to our example using English-Spanish as a language pair, without doubt we can assume that, in Spain, the UK and the USA there are specialised translators who are genuine experts in the field of economic and financial translation. As well as being licensed and certified in Translation, these translators are often also licensed in Law, Economics or Business. Some couple translating with teaching, being a lawyer or with accounting. There is, therefore, no excuse for leaving these financial translations in the hands of unspecialised translators: a fact which, unfortunately, happens more often than we think. We may, to a certain extent, excuse the case when a client themselves hires a translator without the necessary experience or training to do this type of work. However, there is no possible excuse when a client enlists the help of a translation agency and the agency, either due to carelessness or to reduce costs and increase profits (in the majority of cases), assigns the work to a translator without the required credentials.

But, without knowing how translation companies work, what can I really do about this? It´s as simple as asking the agency for the information and CV of the person in charge of your translation and checking yourself that they have the relevant studies and specialised qualifications pertaining to economic translation. Ask if the translation will be revised by a reviewer (you also could ask for the information and CV of the reviewer or reviewers, if the agency relies on multiple people). Ask for references and proof of previous experience, etc.

Whilst financial translation is, at its core, a translation, it requires the attention of a financial translator and not that of your “average translator”. Let´s look at a similar scenario to drive the point home: whilst a computer may well be a machine, it is seldom that we call a mechanic to come fix it when we have a problem. Common sense when you think about it.

Translated by Christian Copeland

About Francisco de Borja González Tenreiro

Born in Galicia, Spain. Degree in Law from the University of Santiago de Compostela, studies in Translation from Birmingham City College (Birmingham, UK) and in Philosophy from UNED. Expert in legal, financial and institutional translation and interpretation, with more than fifteen years of experience as a translator and interpreter in Spain, United Kingdom, United States, Portugal and Brazil. In his long career as a simultaneous interpreter he has been the Spanish, English, Portuguese and Galician voice for many well-known personalities coming from the world of culture, science and politics, such as the latest two U.N. Secretaries-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon and Mr. António Guterres. He has also been the editor-in-chief for several bilingual publications, an award-winning column writer and is the general manager and head of legal-financial projects for englishpanish.

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