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5 Common Mistakes To Avoid In Financial Translations

Posted by Anne Q. on May 27, 2020.

The development of the financial service industry doesn’t limit to a country or a region while missing out on numerous potential markets and customers. Spreading across the globe is vital. While entering a new market, translating and localizing your financial documents are as crucial as doing market research or planning strategies for your brands. Financial translations don’t have space for errors. Because just one small mistake in the numbers or letters can cost your business thousands or millions of dollars.

This article will give you an overview of financial translations. What types of financial documents should you translate? Which are the common mistakes in financial translations? And How to avoid these mistakes? You will find all the answers below.

Types of financial documents that are often translated

For companies with limited budgets, translating all financial documents might not be the perfect solution. The list below is the most commonly requested financial documents from our customers. It will help you decide which types of documents you should give priority to translate first:

    • Auditor’s reports
    • Cash Flow Statements
    • Business Plans
    • Prospectus
    • Equities
    • Financial agreements
    • Income statements
    • Balance Sheets
    • Government tax reports
    • Disclosures
    • Private and Public Offerings
    • Documents related to insurance
    • Regulatory documents
    • Annual Reports
    • Foreign exchange
    • Application forms
    • Bonds
    • Commodities


5 Common mistakes in financial translation

1. Punctual Mistakes

In the financial industry, the accuracy of numbers is everything. Only the smallest mistake in the punctuation of a number can have a huge impact on the whole documents. For example, in English 2,500 means two thousand and five hundred while 2.500 means two and a half. However, in other countries like Vietnam, Germany, or French, these numbers have a completely different meaning. 2,500 is two and a half and 2.500 means two thousand and five hundred.

2. Confusion between values

In some cases, to avoid misunderstandings, financial translators choose to write numbers in letters. Although this method can avoid the punctuation mistake, another problem arises – long and short scales. Numbers smaller than 1,000,000,000 (or 109) in both naming systems have the same meanings. But with bigger numbers, the two systems are different.

For instance, 1,000,000,000 (109) on the short scale means one billion, but in the long scale system, it’s one thousand million or one milliards. Meanwhile, 1,000,000,000,000 (1012) which is one trillion on the short scale is understood as one billion in the long scale. It’s confusing, isn’t it?

The short-scale The long-scale
1,000,000,000 (109) One billion One thousand million
1,000,000,000,000 (1012) One trillion One billion

Nowadays, English speaking countries, Arabic-speaking countries and some other nations use the short scale while most countries speaking Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Dutch, etc use the long scale system. That means when you need a document translated from a short-scale using country to a long-scale using country, putting the numbers in letters should be given extra care.

3. Mistranslation of message

Mistakes can happen to everyone, even the biggest companies. And it doesn’t necessarily a mistake in the numbers. Sometimes, it lies in the ambiguous message that is mistranslated. Take the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) for example. The mistranslation of a corporation’s catchphrase from “Assume Nothing” to “Do Nothing” costs it millions of dollars for rebranding.

4. Unclear instructions

In many situations, mistakes are not made during the translation process, but before the projects even start. You need to provide your translators with detailed instructions on how you want your documents translated and your expectation of the translations. Otherwise, with foggy instructions, there is a high chance that the translations will turn out with some unpleasant mistakes that could have been avoided in the first place.

5. Violate Confidentiality

What if your confidential financial documents accidentally leak out during the translation process? The leak of such sensitive information can become a mistake that takes millions of dollars away from your company. Confidentiality issues have always been a huge problem that you must pay extra attention to when translating your financial documents.


How to avoid mistakes in financial translations

1. Prepare clear instructions

For the best quality financial translations, you should invest time in creating detailed and clear instructions for your translators. You should consider putting the following information on your instructions:

      • Terminology and Glossary Lists of terms or words you want your translators to use throughout the translations to guarantee the accuracy and consistency of the whole documents.
      • Your expectations Do you want ready-to-publish documents or do you just need a simple summary to get the general ideas of the documents? You need to state clearly your expected outcome to translators before they start working on the project.
      • Design and layouts – Which types of files do you want for your translations – MS Word, PDF, Powerpoint, or others. Tell your translators your expected layouts and files’ formats in the guideline to save time for both sides.
      • Other notes – Additional important information depending on the content of your documents.

2. Make use of technology

CAT Tools is a powerful tool that is usually used during the translation process to guarantee the consistency of a translation as well as reduce your translation costs. They also provide a bilingual display allowing translators to check the numbers and letters more conveniently. Thus, with documents requiring such high accuracy like financial documents, the use of CAT Tools is highly recommended.

3. Work with experienced linguists

Translating financial documents requires a great amount of experience as well as expertise in the finance sector. As a result, when choosing translators for your financial projects, you should make sure that they at least meet the following requirements:

      • Be a native speaker of the target language.
      • Minimum of 3 years of experience in the translation industry.
      • Have a degree in the financing and accounting sectors.
      • Having work experience in financial companies is a plus.

After having some shortlisted candidates, your next step is testing to see if they can handle your company’s financial documents. The testing process should be conducted carefully and thoroughly to find the most suitable translator(s) for your projects.

If the recruitment and coordinating processes take too much time, you can always come to the second option: working with a professional agency. With years of experience in translating financial documents, GTE Localize has a pool of native translators who have worked in the translation industry for over 5 years. Our translators are also experts in the financing and accounting sectors, ready to help you with all your financial translation requests.