The phenomenon of globalization encompasses all areas, and the financial sector is a perfect example. Because it is a sector with lots of sensitive information, financial documents must be translated to the highest standards in quality. Domestic and international banks, financial institutions and auditing firms predominantly use English for international communication. Even so, there are still key documents that must be translated into the native language of the markets where they will be used.

As a rule, documents of a financial nature include confidential content, which is why it is crucial to work with a professional translation agency of trust. When you need these types of services, be sure to look for a partner with the right profile, take some time to look into the company’s history and ask for references from other customers/partners who can attest to the company’s stated capacities. Ensure the company has the right tools for processing the materials you will be providing, and whether its level of computer security meets your requirements for protecting your documents. It could be wise and advisable to sign non-disclosure agreements with the company and/or with the translators.


Specialized terms in financial documentation are one of the biggest challenges for translators. Sometimes, terms are entirely different from one language to another, requiring special care with potential literal translations. Take for example this excerpt from the bilingual glossary of Banco de Portugal:

Cash-recycling machine, translated literally into Portuguese, for example, would be “máquina de reciclagem de dinheiro” (“machine for recycling money”). Still, the correct term is “máquina de depósito, escolha e levantamento” (“deposit, selection and withdrawal machine”). In addition to having a complete grasp of these concepts, the translator must have an in-depth understanding of the entire message and purpose of the document before translating it. This is because the same word can have different meanings in different contexts.

The English term “equity” is translated as “ações/títulos”(“shares/securities”): a financial instrument, for example, listed on the stock market or an investment fund component. But it can also be translated as “capital” when involving a company’s financial statements, resulting from the bookkeeping calculation of: (assets) – (liabilities) = (capital).

The polysemy in this area is a serious challenge. Subtle differences in interpretation can result in translations of a lesser quality that sound strange, or even on the verge of suspicion. This is an area in which transparency, integrity, credibility and uprightness are essential to achieving these values in actual practice. An inaccurate translation jeopardizes your reputable image and puts the customer in a detrimental position.

Another critical part of the translation process is determining which terms and concepts are untranslatable. In many locations, it is common to adopt terms directly from English, since they are more easily understood by the specialized target audience of the translated document. This means that the translation process should be specifically adapted to the documents to be translated and tailored to each customer.

Finding a translation agency who specializes in the financial field is a must. However, it is also essential to find a partner with a flexible attitude who is receptive to meeting the customer’s needs: adapting the process as needed, and seamlessly integrating preferred terminology.


This aspect should be the focus of any translator working in this area since, for the most part, these documents have numbers and calculations whose accuracy is crucial. Any mistranslation may result in severe mathematical and accounting errors. Numbers also have different formats, whether in terms of the characters themselves or how they are presented. In some languages, the characters, layout of numbers and their decimal points are different, requiring extra attention. Consider the following examples:

  • Numbers in Japanese, in addition to having completely different characters, are written from top to bottom and from left to right, as shown in the image on the left.
  • In Venezuelan Spanish, for example, the decimal point is a comma, i.e. one million is written 1,000,000, while in Peruvian or Mexican Spanish it is separated by a period: 1.000.000.
  • The English term billion, until recently, had two possible interpretations according to whether the author was American or British. The American system uses what is called the short scale, i.e. 1 billion is equivalent to 1,000,000,000. The British system, however, uses a long scale in which 1 billion corresponds to 1,000,000,000,000.
  • These days, English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic predominantly use the short scale, to the tenth power, out of convenience to avoid misunderstandings.
    But when translated into Portuguese, for instance, this question of scale is still highly prominent, since the number 1,000,000,000 is expressed in European Portuguese as “mil milhões” (“one thousand million”) and in Brazilian Portuguese as “um bilhão” (“one billion”).

Laws and regulations

When translating a document for a target audience native to or residing in another country, it is essential to research and be familiar with the local legal framework and bureaucracy to use language appropriate to regulations in force. Attention should be paid to certain market transactions which are potentially illegal in certain countries or regions. For this reason, extra attention should always be paid to checking these particularities on a constant, regular basis.

Time zones 

The phenomenon of globalization brings opportunities, together with constraints due to time zones. For example, a last-minute change to a quote done in Lisbon can be the deciding factor in a project award and the success of a business deal. If this change is done at 3:00 PM Lisbon time, it will be 2:00 AM and Sydney and 10:00 AM in New York. In such a scenario, the translation must be ready as quickly as possible, preferably during the business hours of the recipient of the quote.

The same applies to the annual reports and accounts of companies listed on the stock market, as disclosed to shareholders, or any other situation in which the provision of information has a critical and instantaneous effect on the companies' performance.

Only with a translation partner who understands the urgency and magnitude of the interests involved can you expect the flexibility, commitment and dedication needed to accommodate such demanding deadlines and, at the same time, guarantee that its technical, linguistic and specialized skills are applied to the 100th percentile.

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