How Google Fails to Translate Financial Documents to Spanish
Updated: Jul 20
2019 marks ten years since we started to specialize in English to Spanish translations for the finance and insurance industries, and occasionally we are still asked why we do not use a general automatic translation software instead to save our clients some cost. After all, Google Translate is free, isn’t it?!
The short answer is that it takes longer to edit a translation by a machine than to translate it from scratch, and the outcome still reads unnatural for publication. Without a doubt, general automatic or machine translation has improved significantly over the years and will continue to do so and work effectively for more general texts, and in particular when, say, accuracy or the company’s brand are less important. For highly specialized texts in many fields, however, machine translation can be a recipe for disaster. Based on our experience, below are ten reasons why Google fails to translate financial documents to Spanish properly. 1. Acronyms The use of acronyms and abbreviations is very common in financial documents, for example NYSE, ISDA, M&A, GAAP, ‘C.O.D’ (cash on delivery) or ‘LBO’ (leveraged buyout). Sometimes, it makes sense to keep a well-known English acronym in the Spanish text, whereas translating international acronyms is usually a must. Occasionally, it is advised to keep the English acronym, spell it out and include its corresponding translation in Spanish. Machines, however, cannot make this decision. Fundeu has a great entry about it. 2. Complex syntax The language of economics uses complex syntax, impersonal sentences and very long phrases that are not particularly cohesive. It relies heavily on the passive voice and a telegraphic style. This telegraphic style would not work in Spanish. 3. False Cognates Financial texts are full of what we call “false cognates” in linguistics. This is a challenge for machine translation. For example, “default” is not “defecto” but “impago”; “public company” does not translate as “compañía pública”, but “sociedad anónima”, “forensic” (in accounting) is not “forense” but “peritaje”; and “controller” is not “controlador” but “contralor” or “supervisor financiero.” 4. Highly Specialized Terminology Financial documents use highly specialized terminology, which is necessary to explain complex financial operations related to investment funds, technical analysis, venture capital, money markets, securities markets, derivatives as well as mergers and acquisitions. 5. Implicit Concepts Financial and economic texts in English frequently contain many implicit concepts. In addition, verbs and nouns are suppressed and still convey the message perfectly. We could not do the same in Spanish without losing the meaning. Spanish is wordy and explicit. 6. Irony Believe it or not, the language of economics can have a highly ironic tone, especially when covered by the press. And while automatic translations are sometimes a joke, the intention is to keep the irony in the Spanish text, something that a machine cannot do. 7. Metaphors Financial documents usually contain numerous economic metaphors, for instance "red warning lights are once again flashing on the dashboard of the global economy (meaning that the economy is a broken-down vehicle)” or "markets are being run over by a tsunami (suggesting markets are in a very bad situation)”. Metaphors cannot be translated directly; they need to be adapted. Also, different Spanish-speaking countries may have different metaphors. Let’s remember that different social, cultural, linguistic and political backgrounds make people perceive reality in a specific way. 8. Neologisms Unlike some other fields, the language of economics in financial and business documents is very dynamic. It is always evolving. New products and services – and new terms - are constantly being created. They are so new that they won’t be found in any translation software. In many instances, the Spanish language will end up borrowing the English term to achieve effective communication. 9. Polysemy The language of economics in English is polysemic. In other words, one word can have a variety of meanings depending on the context. For instance, “equity” can be translated as “patrimonio neto” or “acciones”, and “hedging” as “estrategias de la cobertura”, “cobertura de riesgos”, “cobertura de operaciones a plazo”, “cobertura de futuros”, “garantía de cambio” or “compensación de riesgos”. 10. Widely Used Anglicisms It is not uncommon to see English terms appear in documents originally written in Spanish. It would be strange to translate “due diligence” into Spanish in some instances, and a machine cannot make this call. This interesting article covers lexical and semantic features of financial texts, if you are interested in more information. Are you looking to translate financial documents to Spanish? We will be glad to help. Please give us a call at 480.626.2926 or visit us at www.languageconceptsllc.com. Language Concepts is a leading provider of English to Spanish translations in Phoenix, Arizona and nationwide. We provide comprehensive and certified translation services to advertising agencies, educational institutions, financial and insurance companies, food and beverage companies, market research companies, medical and health care providers, nutraceutical and direct selling organizations, media and marketing companies, television networks, among others.