The power of specialized translation in a global world

Legal and Financial Translation by t'works

Global trade is inextricably linked to communication exchange and without the translation of all relevant material, commerce between nations would be almost impossible. In fact, translation is a significant cog in the complex mechanism of globalization.

Trade is multilingual

Let’s take a couple of minutes to think about the close ties between globalization and communication. The momentum that global trade has gathered over the last fifty years has only been possible with the increasing capacity to quickly produce accurate and culturally apt documentation. Every item or service that is produced in one place and then delivered to another relies on the transfer of information between languages.

Today, for those of us fortunate to live in the more prosperous countries of the world, we barely question where everything we buy comes from. We have become accustomed to being able to purchase anything we could possibly want, either online or in person in the many shopping outlets at our disposal. Examples are plentiful but some of the most obvious might be:

  • In the UK and other countries of northern Europe, bananas and avocados are consumed in large quantities but are mostly grown outside Europe. Mexico is, in fact, the world’s leading producer.
  • An estimated 1 billion people use an iPhone, a device that is designed in the USA and most likely manufactured in China.
  • The majority of us wear clothes that were made in places like Bangladesh, Túrkiye or Vietnam.

Whether we think about it or not we are all reliant on global trade.

Although recent events in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have starkly illustrated that this free circulation of goods is something we shouldn’t take for granted, the global economy has remained robust and been able to readjust to new trading conditions.

Knock-on effects of g11n

Globalization can be defined as the transition of national economies into a global system of commercial interdependency. Over the course of the last century data shows that international trade increased at a rapid rate, with exports in 2013 40 times larger than they were in 1913. According to figures from the World Bank, in 2022 exports made up 30.7% of GDP worldwide.

The export of services has become more readily achievable in the digital age of the internet and multi-channel communication. Service industries now account for a significant proportion of global trade and for many countries, services now have a greater share of total exports than goods.

Of course, none of these exchanges can take place without the required paperwork and strict adherence to the rules and regulations of each country or region. The US government’s International Trade Administration has a webpage dedicated to a list of the documentation necessary for exports and provides detailed information on the regulations for trade with each individual country. A brief look at this is enough to send your head into a spin.

Providing all these documents in the right language is often non-negotiable. For every time we bite into a banana or put on a new t-shirt, there has been a trail of multilingual form-filling. Globalization has brought not only thriving economies; it has also radically increased the interaction between languages and the need for specialized translation.

Precision is key

When it comes to the types of translation required for trade to take place between different companies in different nations there’s no room for imprecision or ambiguity – the slightest error of grammar or terminology can have adverse effects. One of the most important areas to get right is the translation of legal documents.

Engaging in international business will undoubtedly necessitate the creation of contracts between the interested parties and whereas sometimes it’s possible to negotiate the use of a single language (English being the most common), often countries legally require contracts to also be drafted in a national language.

In China for example, although contracts are permitted in other languages, when a dispute arises, all legal documents are translated into the country’s official language, Mandarin Chinese, by an appointed state translator. To avoid mistranslation, it is therefore advisable to have Chinese language versions from the outset. Similarly in Argentina and Brazil, if a contract is presented in legal proceedings, it must be translated into the national language. In Mexico commercial agreements should be in Spanish and in Indonesia any contracts made with Indonesian entities not in the national language are void.

The accuracy of translated contracts is imperative and mistakes can be costly. Football transfers have been cancelled because of contract mistranslations and South Korea once even pulled out of a trade agreement with the EU because of translation errors. This really isn’t a laughing matter.

Protect your patents

Increasing globalization has also meant that the protection of intellectual property away from its original home has become much more commonplace. Patent applications continue to grow year on year and are an important driver of economic growth. Investment in the translation of patents has also grown as companies seek to protect their copyrights abroad.  

As patents are territorial rights and only valid in the geographical area they are granted, applying for patents in another country means undertaking a new application process. Translating all the relevant documentation into a local language for the filing is usually a requirement, but can vary greatly between countries.

Even the slightest erroneous detail can derail a patent application. Differences in formatting and vocabulary have been known to cause havoc. It could be that a comma is used as a decimal separator in some places whereas in others it is a decimal point. Margin sizes and line spacing can differ and occasionally characters and symbols can be handwritten. Overlooking any of these formatting conventions could mean the application is rejected.

The translation must have the exact same meaning as the original when it comes to patents. Any minor deviation can result in an invalid patent because the legal scope does not cover what was originally intended.

Getting the numbers right

Transferring financial information accurately is also crucial in international commerce.

The language of finance can vary considerably across borders and using the right specialist terminology is imperative. Financial reporting whether it be for a large multinational corporation or an expanding SME is often complex and it’s essential to have specialist knowledge to understand much of the associated documentation. And that’s just in one language! As with legal translation, if you’re a translator in the financial sector, it’s essential you know the field inside out in both your languages.

Cultural and economic differences can be at the root of variations in financial practice and what is commonly accepted in one country may not be in the next. In the USA, for example, real estate is often listed at its historic cost whereas in the UK the current market rate of property is used. Depreciation, goodwill, leases and deferred taxes can all be treated differently depending on the location and can all add to the complexity of finding translation equivalents. The translation of currency is a specialist domain in itself.

Understanding the figures in finance is the fundamental aim but that is only possible if the intent of the original document is faithfully reproduced. Specialist terms in one language might have no equivalent in another language – or there might be several. This, coupled with the fact that financial practices and terminology are constantly evolving, means financial translation is a particularly challenging discipline.

It is also highly advisable for a legal or financial translator to have industry-specific knowledge. In law this could be a particular legal field such as property or corporate law, and in finance this might mean specializing in banking or insurance or another related sector.

Don’t rely on AI

When you need a translation of any sort these days, it’s tempting to turn to one of the many AI-powered translation platforms that we’re now all so familiar with. While they can be useful for particular types of translation or as a tool to speed up language work, they still shouldn’t be trusted if you need high quality, accurate translation. For all the reasons we’ve given above, complex legal and financial translation is best placed in the hands of human expert linguists.

We explore this more in our blog on the crucial importance of getting legal translation right. Check it out here.

Expertise is everything

Translation is an integral part of international commerce but getting it right requires a high level of both linguistic expertise and specialized knowledge, particularly where financial or legal concepts are concerned. Which is why companies often turn to Language Service Providers (LSPs) to handle such technical and multifaceted projects. As well as being able to tap into a wide pool of both in-house and freelance expert linguists, LSPs also offer dedicated project managers and have the capacity to ensure data security and confidentiality, a top priority for companies worldwide with increasing digitalization.

So, whether you’re a legal department looking to translate a business contract or a private equity firm needing the translation of a financial statement you can rely on t’works to provide the people, the know-how and the cost-efficiencies in data secure environments. With t’works quality is assured every step of the way.

Contact us here.

Your personal contact

Marie-Laure Vinckx

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