The Linguist

The Linguist 56,3 – June/July 2017

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 22 of 35 JUNE/JULY 2017 The Linguist 23 FEATURES Translators working in finance also need detailed knowledge of the fields of law and business, as there is a clear relationship with the financial world and the associated stylistic registers. The types of documents a financial translator may be asked to translate are just as varied – from market commentaries and press releases to annual performance results, profit and loss statements, and financial statements. The financial translator is expected to navigate technical documents and terminology of all types with precision and consistency. It helps enormously if clients consistently use the same translator or team of translators working with the same agency, so that a translation memory, based on the translations supplied by numerous specialist translators, can be built up. The benefits of this should outweigh the ever-present pressure of competitive pricing, as it helps to ensure that the client's world view is faithfully transmitted. Another challenge that is particularly common in financial translation is time pressure. Reports often need to be released as soon as figures become available. Annual reports and financial statements often have specific release dates, so tight deadlines are non-negotiable. The benefit of this is that agencies can plan their resources and book the right translators and reviewers in advance. Agencies and direct clients place a great deal of trust in translators in a field where errors, ambiguities and confusion may have far-reaching consequences, not limited to loss of revenue. Professional translators will be aware of the different ways in which numbers are handled in financial texts, which may not be immediately obvious to monolingual financial experts. Slip-ups can occur as a result of something as simple as the conventions surrounding decimal places: in the UK and US, 6,666 would denote six thousand, six hundred and sixty-six; in many European countries it would mean six point six six six. Industry conventions Financial statements must be readily understandable and consistent in their original language, and it must be possible to compare them with equivalent documents from different reporting periods and different entities. Clear, standardised terminology must be adhered to. This introduces another layer of challenge for diligent financial translators, as it is often necessary to adapt terminology to maintain consistency for a specific client, so the contents of the translation memory must always be used with sensitivity. Not only must terminology be consistent across company documents but, where appropriate, it must also comply with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and endorsed by the European Union. When translating German financial statements, a key factor for a translator is understanding whether they were prepared in accordance with IFRS or HGB (Handelsgesetzbuch- German Commercial Code). This can be established from the compliance statement. Depending on the method, different terminology will generally be expected. Standard phrases are invariably used in UK IFRS financial statements, which can prove useful to the translator. For example, the phrase "a true and fair view of the consolidated financial performance of the Company" is used as part of the audit opinion and has become part of the standard terminology, although it could be expressed comprehensibly in a different way. The corresponding standard terminology in German is 'ein den tatsächlichen Verhältnissen entsprechendes Bild der Vermögens-, Finanz- und Ertragslage der Gesellschaft (und des Konzerns)'. Clearly, these two phrases are not equivalent – the German version does not specifically use the equivalent terms for either 'true' or 'fair'. However, a word-for-word translation would not be appropriate here – what is important is adhering to the expected industry conventions. In order to confirm such conventions, translators can use resources such as illustrative IFRS financial statements published by large accountancy firms. Terminological problems Translators must have extensive background knowledge of financial terms in order to make the correct terminology decisions. One term which can prove tricky without the requisite knowledge is the German Abschreibung, which is listed in paper and online dictionaries in English as both 'depreciation' and 'amortisation'. Yet the terms in English are not synonymous, with 'depreciation' referring to tangible assets and 'amortisation' referring to intangible assets. To establish the correct translation into English, the translator must understand the context in which it is used. The German terms Umsatzsteuer and Mehrwertsteuer (which both mean VAT) also cause a degree of confusion among translators. The usual German term for VAT is Umsatzsteuer (USt), but the term Mehrwertsteuer (MwSt) is still used on final consumer invoices. Both should therefore be translated as VAT in English, although 'turnover tax' is a term often encountered in translations into English, and in reference documentation supplied by clients. The website of the Bundesministerium der Finanzen confirms that VAT is the translation that has been officially adopted, and that 'turnover tax' is the historic term. Another pitfall in financial translation is the prevalence of abbreviations, which are frequently encountered in German texts. As with any document type, if careful and extensive research fails to yield results, the only valid course of action is to check with the client. I remember once spending a good while checking the meaning of the German abbreviation VBU (verbundene Unternehmen; 'affiliates' in English), which I had previously seen abbreviated both as VU and vbU, before referring to the client for confirmation. Financial translation is a challenging specialism that cannot be handled confidently without a firm grasp of the terminology involved. The translator must invest time in maintaining their knowledge, but the wonderful thing about being a freelance translator is that it's always possible to introduce variety to the working day by taking on projects in different, somewhat lighter fields as well. As legislation is amended and terminology evolves, a translator's knowledge needs to be expanded For writers' biographies for all feature articles, see page 34.

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