10 Things We’ve Learned in 40+ Years in the Financial and Legal Translation Industry
In rapidly changing markets such as finance and law, there are always new products and services as well as terminology that is continually being updated. To consider one example, Apple recently announced a new digital credit card and Facebook is looking to get into the digital currency game with plans for what it’s calling “Libra.” Every finance and legal translation company must stay on top of such developments because document translations in these industries are often complicated.
In the past 40 years, we have watched globalization enable banks and legal organizations to establish headquarters and offices around the world. While English remains the primary language of business, it is vital for financial and legal institutions to communicate and provide critical information in multiple languages. This means document translation services are key for businesses in the banking, investment, insurance, and legal industries.
Because financial translation touches on a wide range of topics and types of document in need of translation, it isn’t a project for a rookie translator. Financial and legal translations require a subject matter expert with years of experience working in the field. The terminology is so complex that even well-qualified and experienced translators may run into challenges.
You have a choice when it comes to your language service provider and if you want your project done right the first time, you must choose a legal translation company who has been around the block. Here are the top 10 things we’ve learned in the past 40+ years as a financial and legal translation company:
1. When it comes to financial terminology, the only thing you can count on is that it will change.
A lot of financial terminology is written in English all around the world, but there are also financial terms unique to other countries. However, the challenge for financial document translators is that some countries are slower to update their financial dictionaries. For example, many of the newest financial terms in English do not have equivalent terms in Russian.
If there is no equivalent term in the target language, it’s up to the translator to find a suitable description or explanation. This requires the translator to draw on her previous experience in the field to find a word or phrase that will convey the proper meaning.
2. The same is true for global economies and currency exchange rates.
There are a lot of moving parts in the financial document translation world. While clients may not realize how much these details can affect a translation, if translators do not stay current on what’s happening in foreign economies and what the exchange rate is at a given time, information will not be accurate. Context makes a lot of difference when the goal is to convey information accurately and quickly.
The term financial services encompasses a broad range of written content including insurance, investment, and banking. Translating documents in each area requires knowing a different set of terminology. In addition, financial concepts and language vary widely from country to country. This means a financial translator must be a subject matter expert. The translator must be knowledgeable not only in the target language(s), but also in ways to adapt the financial language for different audiences.
Some of the types of financial documents translated include the following:
- Service agreements and contracts
- Regulatory and compliance documentation
- Tender letters
- Trademark and Patent registration
- Financial reports
- Marketing materials
- Fund fact sheets
- Regulatory prospectuses
- Undertakings for the Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS)
- Key Investor Information Documents (KIIDs)
- Patents and Patent Applications
- Patient Diaries
- Product Data Sheets
- Annual General Meetings
- Earnings call
- General correspondence
4. Formatting can be a translation challenge.
Some countries also have very particular guidelines for formatting financial documents. While these variances may be slight, they can make a big difference when it comes to conveying the meaning of financial documents. Because the differences can be easy to miss, financial translators must be trained to recognize the ins and outs of each type of financial document translation.
For example, knowing the number formats and use of separators is essential to financial document translation. In Europe, most countries use commas where we in the U.S. would use decimal separators (e.g., $1,000.89 would be $1.000,89 in Belgium or Germany). The U.K. still uses the decimal point, however, because it follows the Imperial System. Liechtenstein and Switzerland use a point (ᐧ) as their decimal separator, but use an apostrophe (‘) to separate the thousands.
The decimal point is used in New Zealand, Australia, and other countries in Oceania. It’s also used in Canada, but in Canada’s French-speaking areas, the comma is used. In Central America, the decimal point is used whereas in several South American countries, the comma is used as a decimal separator. The decimal comma is used in Cameroon, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, while the decimal point is used in Nigeria, Kenya, and Botswana.
In Asian countries, the decimal point is used in several countries, such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, and China. But the decimal comma is used in Mongolia and Indonesia. Who knew language translation would require expertise in numeral formatting, right?
5. Confidentiality is as important as expertise.
Financial and legal documents often contain sensitive information that hackers and others would love to get their hands on. They may see plans for new products yet to be launched, for instance, or clients’ detailed tax information. It’s critical that translators understand that they are dealing with sensitive information and know how to keep it as secure as possible. Confidentiality is key to keeping a stellar reputation for professionals working in both the finance and legal industries.
6. Often legality comes down to language.
When we’re dealing with contracts and legal agreements, we all know how important it is to make sure the language is precise. Before consumers will trust financial or legal institutions, these institutions need to prove that they can be trusted. Much of the responsibility here falls on the shoulders of regulatory agencies, so the language institutions use in their documents have serious ramifications.
Why would a financial or legal institution choose lower-quality document translation services? Well, the answer is often “cost.” Believe it or not, even large corporations cut corners, but when it comes to audit reports, balance sheets, P&L statements, company terms and conditions, income statements, and patent documents (to cite a few examples), errors will escape notice if you don’t have an experienced team of translators on your side.
When expanding into global markets, you can save a lot of time being stuck in legal proceedings and save a lot of money spent on avoidable legal fees by hiring professionals to handle your policies and procedures upfront. There are all kinds of examples of court cases that came down to a disputed definition of just a word or two. Hire a good legal translation company and this will not be your fate.
7. Investors are always looking for more information.
This one is important if your company is seeking foreign investors. When potential investors make decisions about where to allocate funds, they often turn to annual reports, company press releases, and other presentations. And they expect to find this information accessible to them in their first language.
If this is news to you, you can breathe a sigh of relief because professional translators are experts at helping you convey relevant information to investors. Our legal and financial translators can translate Key Investor Information Documents (KIIDs), annual reports, and other relevant financial reports to help you communicate with stakeholders. We also provide on-demand phone interpretation for earnings calls and other important investor meetings, so everyone can communicate with ease.
8. Speed is your best friend with legal translation.
Legal dealings and legal documents often have strict deadlines. At DTS, we’ve always taken our deadlines seriously. In fact, this is one of the biggest reasons we’ve been successful over the course of 40 years. Lawyers (or their aides) often scan and send large documents in bundles or in data files or in several email exchanges all of which need to be translated.
In these cases, it is essential to find a legal translation company that can offer ways to reduce costs. It’s also important to find a translation partner with the ability to scale to meet those strict deadlines. A small translation company will not be able to provide a dedicated team of legal translators, editors, and proof-readers who can translate thousands of words while also maintaining the needed consistency across documents.
9. The value legal translators place on their work is the clearest credential.
When lawyers discover that there is no such thing as a centralized certification or credentialing agency for translators in the U.S., they’re often surprised. Obviously, having someone who specializes in medical document translations translate legal documents would be similar to having a lawyer take out your appendix. But there are some ways that lawyers can ensure that the translation agency they use won’t land them a mistrial.
To ensure quality and admissibility, lawyers may want to require affidavits. Basically, linguists can be treated like other expert witnesses. Additionally, court interpreters, legal transcriptionists, and legal translators have a code of ethics and are considered officers of the court in these situations.
As tempting as it may be to turn to Google Translate or other free online document translation services, since translators aren’t certified anyway, use of these tools can breach privilege. Entering sensitive information into a free online tool constitutes sharing client communications with an outside party. Also, such a translation could easily end up as public information online, as one Norwegian oil-and-gas company, Equinor (then Statoil), found out the hard way in August of 2017. In this case, Translate.com fed company passwords and contracts into Google search results. By the way, when you enter information into Google search, it technically becomes the property of Google. No self-respecting attorney would want to take this risk.
10. It’s important that legal and financial translators understand how a document will be used.
There is a big difference between a legal translation or financial document translation that will be used for court or regulatory purposes and one that will be used for informational purposes only. Knowing what the translation is for and who the audience will be ensures that the quality and cost of the document translations meet your expectations.
In addition, legal and financial documents can be quite lengthy. So there may be information contained within your files that doesn’t require translation. For example, cover pages, signature pages, address information, and handwritten notes may not be relevant for your purposes. Be sure to clarify exactly what you need translated with your project manager to save money and time.
Some of the types of legal documents translated include the following:
- Public hearings
- Proceedings at meetings / conferences
- Sworn statements
- Client tapes
- Examinations under oath
- Police interrogations
- Court transcripts
- Legal examinations
- Minutes of meeting
- Mediation briefs
- Legal pleadings
- Telephone conversations
DTS Understands the Financial and Legal Translation Industry
Translation clients often have short deadlines and we understand the need for a quick turnaround. DTS Language Services, Inc. is known for delivering translations as quickly and accurately as possible. We also believe that building a close working relationship is key to delivering your project as smoothly as possible. When we fully understand your needs, the translation process results in highly accurate documents using the terminology you expect.
We seek to connect you with the right subject matter expert to handle your financial or legal translation. Located around the world, all of our translators are native speakers and are available 24/7 to accept your project whenever you are ready. Our agency offers the gamut of document translation services, but we’re more than a legal translation company, we’re your financial and legal translation partner. Contact us, request a quote, or call us at 1- 800-524-0722 or locally at 1-919-582-0330.