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3 Myths about Financial Translators


Do you work at a bank, don’t you?

When one of my friends asked me a couple of days ago – a bit puzzled – why I do not work at a bank, she confirmed me something I already suspected. People have no idea of what I do as a financial translator, and probably as a translator too. I have read many blog posts about the myths and misconceptions on translators, the difference between translators and interpreters, and freelance work in general. Most people, even our friends and acquaintances, often do not know anything about our job or have a weird idea about translation.

 Myth # 1: Financial translators work at a bank

Although a lot of my clients work for a bank, financial or investment companies or mutual funds, I am a free-lance, independent professional and first of all… a linguist. A financial translator, as well as a technical translator specialising in other sectors, is above all a translator, a linguist, a person who has learned and speak foreign languages and may have studied translation techniques. Of course, you also need to know your field of specialisation, e.g. finance, macro and microeconomics, Stock Exchange mechanisms, balance sheet and income statement, and so on and so forth. However, you may work for different clients and specialise in finance and law, or other subjects (and you are not necessarily a lawyer to translate legal documents). In contrast, a finance expert does not necessarily know foreign languages and translation techniques. Probably he/she may understand English or Japanese, but it not able to translate into Italian.

 Myth # 2: You must know how and where to invest… you are a financial translator!

When I say that I translate financial documents, most people are convinced I am the wizard of the stock markets and very rich. Some years ago, I used to smile. Now, after more than 20 years’ experience, I would like to answer… Well, if you can translate a boiler manual from German into Italian, you do not call the plumber when your boiler does not work, do you? All joking aside, I try to explain that I read and translate a lot about financial markets, and I am up-to-date with market trends and investment fund performances. However, I read enough – for my job – to know that each investment company has its own view on market trends, applying various strategies for different needs. Like a plumber needs a spanner, a translator needs dictionaries.  I would ask a financial advisor for help, when I have to make an investment decision.

Myth # 3: Financial translations must be boring!

Each profession is sometimes boring, sometimes exciting. Financial translations are not different. As I said in my recent interview, when I went to school I wished to translate novels and romances. In the years, I have understood that finance and economics, as well as law and politics, are part of everyday life. Translating news on the US “shutdown” or on China economic recovery is probably more interesting for me and very much connected with real life.

In most case, a financial translator is also a free-lancer, an entrepreneur who must be translator, project manager, with marketing and accounting skills… but that’s another story.

I would really much appreciate, if you let me know what is your idea of financial translators.