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Financial translation is a branch of business translation that refers specifically to the translation of financial documents for international businesses. Financial translation is generally an exact translation exercise. Translators that provide these services are usually specialists in business translation who understand the financial environment in both the source and target country.

Financial translation, like any exact form of translation, is dependent on professional human translators and is not (yet) amenable to any form of computer-aided translation technology alone. Often the consequences of poorly translated financial translation are far greater in financial terms than any savings that might arise from avoiding using a professional financial translator.

Below are some examples of documents and business transactions that may need the services of a financial translator.

      • Corporations: annual reports, balance sheets, shareholder summaries;
      • Insurance: financial reports, regulatory documentation, terms & conditions;
      • Investment: bonds, equities, prospectuses, reports for local authorities;
      • Manufacturing: expense reports, market reports, order sheets and contracts, staff contracts;
      • Real estate: contracts, financial protection, income statements, insurance policies, listings, local regulations;
      • Start-ups: cash flow statements, financial forecasts, growth plans, income statements, investment summaries;
      • Tax & accountancy: audits, tax reports, expense reports, income statements, national tax regulations, other supporting documents.

How does someone become a financial translator?

There is no set path to becoming any type of translator. To get to be a financial translator, there are two main pathways. The first pathway is to train as a translator and then specialise as a business translator. It can take time to familiarise oneself with financial transactions, especially as a translator the differences in terminology must be understood in at least two languages.

Most professional translators who opt for this pathway generally acquire a degree in translation at a university or college. Each country has different regulations that govern the translation industry. In Australia, for example, most would be professional translators, whatever their specialisation, would find it difficult to find work without accreditation with the national accreditation authority, the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).

The second main pathway is to acquire the industry-specific experience first, i.e. in this example in a business environment in which financial documents and terms are commonly used. Many people with bilingual abilities may then decide at some point in their careers to switch to becoming a translator. The reasons why they may do this are many and varied. They may simply be a feeling of frustration or ennui with the business environment or a genuine desire to do something using the would-be translator’s linguistic talents. To become a translator, despite the financial background, is more than just being bilingual or multilingual, though. There are specific skills involved with professional translation and the person wanting to make the switch may need to undergo a course in translation and acquire a relevant certificate and possible accreditation before looking for clients.

Pros and cons of choosing either pathway to become a financial translator

The advantage of the former pathway is that the newly qualified translator can choose the specialisation in translation skills they really want and feel they are best suited for. The main advantage of the second pathway is that the newly qualified translator can almost immediately advertise their skills as a financial translator, something that would almost always demand a higher rate of pay than a more generalised translator with little industry experience.