Volume 6, No. 3 
July 2002

Guadalupe Acedo D.
Guadalupe Acedo Dominguez
Patricia Edwards R.
Patricia Edwards Rokowski, Ph.D.





Reader Survey Results

Index 1997-2002

  Translator Profiles
Aerial Trap and the Lao People's Republic
by Peter Wheeler

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
What Every Novice Translator Should Know
by Antar S.Abdellah
Translation Economics 101
by Danilo Nogueira
Translator Education
Quality Assurance in Translator Training
by Moustafa Gabr 
Positive Transfer: A Neuropsychological Understanding of Interpreting and the Implications for Interpreter Training
by Lin Wei, Ph.D.

  Financial Translation
Implications in Translating Economic Texts
by Guadalupe Acedo Domínguez and Patricia Edwards Rokowski, Ph.D.
Saisir les subtilités qui existent entre l'anglais et le français ?
by Frédéric Houbert

English to Japanese—to What Extent Can Translation Be Accurate?
by Angela Loo Siang Yen

  Science & Technology
A Translator’s Guide to Organic Chemical Nomenclature—A Fond Farewell
by Chester E. Claff, Jr., Ph.D.

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor

  Translators’ Tools
Translators’ Emporium

Translators’ Job Market

Letters to the Editor

Translators’ Events

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies

Translation Journal
Financial Translation

Implications in Translating Economic Texts

by Guadalupe Acedo Domínguez and Patricia Edwards Rokowski, Ph.D.
University of Extremadura, Spain


lthough the general tendency is to consider translation as something that anybody can do with the help of an adequate dictionary, the fact is that producing a written text using another text as a basis is a much more complex phenomenon than what is commonly believed.

we believe in the necessity of giving translation the importance it deserves, rather than considering it a mechanical process that can be carried out with the help of a dictionary alone
The aforementioned complexity becomes even more evident when the text in question deals with specialised subjects such as finance, banking, or the like. In this particular case, when words belonging to the so-called General English appear next to specific terms and within a specific context, they contain nuances that must be accounted for in the final translation.

We cannot give this paper the scientific rigor it deserves without previously dealing with a fundamental concept of "text." According to Halliday and Hasan (1976), "the word text is used in linguistics to refer to any passage of whatever length that does form a unified whole." We add however, that not all textual segments share the same internal structure and the same features; the context in which they are immersed will determine, to a great extent, these differences.

The set of terms gathered together in a text and considered more or less specific establishes a helpful context for the reader to interpret and subsequently to translate. In other words, the translator will be able to process and understand the information he/she has at his/her disposal.

Such a contextual aid becomes much more evident when translating a text of an eminently economic or financial nature, making it practically impossible to analyse outside its context.

Therefore, the nuances added by the contextual area will have the specific mission of confirming the correct meaning of a given term, while the rest of irrelevant entries that can be found in a specific dictionary or encyclopaedia should be ignored.

This highlights that a translation, apart from being cohesive, must also be coherent. The translator must take into account the contextual clues embedded in the discourse in order to avoid ambiguities in the produced document, as long as such ambiguity did not exist in the original one.

As García Yebra (1982) states, a good translator must say all and nothing but what it is found in the original paper, and he must do so in the most correct, natural, and elegant way.

As a consequence, the ability to understand and interpret specific information entails some knowledge, as deep as possible, about the syntactic and morphological structure of the foreign text, apart from establishing the lexical relationships among the different words, relations which will differ depending on the specific situations in which specialised texts are embedded. Discourse markers, lexical coherence or modal verbs signal the relationship between words and contribute to the coherence and cohesion of the text. That is to say, the main task of the translator is to eliminate from the original text all those textual elements which do not belong to the cultural background of the potential reader and to produce an easy-to-understand and politically correct document.

However, although it is necessary to recognise these guidelines, it is also evident that any theoretical principle needs to be put into practice in order to prove effective. The best way of doing so is by analysing a text, which is the following step in our research.

Step I. Background Preparation

We observe that a wide variety of specific words belonging to the field of economics, as well as a great number of noun clusters and polysemous terms, can be found in the text. This makes, if possible, the task of both the unspecialised reader and the translator even more difficult.

As it is already evident, Spain has gone from being a war-torn and isolated country emerging form its Civil War (1936-39) to being a well-developed and financially stable democracy, its success culminating with becoming a member of the European Union. Therefore, speaking English is now an essential requirement for taking part in a technologically and culturally advanced society. Nowadays both students and professionals belonging to the banking and financial sectors are compelled to deal with English texts, which sometimes include a difficult-to-understand language if we take it out of its natural context.

In this particular case, we have taken as a reference an article which was entitled Into the European Market and originally published in "The Economist" on the 25th of November, 2000. We chose this paper simply because it deals with a relevant topic for us as Spanish citizens since it analyses the historical evolution of Spain from the time of the dictatorship until the present day.

The translator who dedicates himself to the task of trying to convey the meaning of a text as faithfully as possible must follow , as García Yebra (1989) says, his/her own intuition which can help him/her to translate the text in an appropriate way. As far as the text we are analysing is concerned, we can pose the hypothesis that a translator could make use here of his/her previous knowledge of the history of Spain which would make it easier to translate the text in an adequate way. We find a perfect example in the noun cluster "the long time Catalan nationalist premier," a misleading expression to say the least, since the correct translation would be "regional leader," "autonomous president," or "nationalist regional head," but under no circumstances "premier."

If the linguistic field related to economics is based on the use of universal terms and equivalents, we need, as a consequence, to obtain a one-to-one translation that contains no ambiguities, that is to say, an exact and precise translation for an exact and precise science.

Step II. Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis

By making a quick inventory of the number of noun clusters found in the text, we discover a reasonable number of examples in which several nouns and adjectives are combined to designate one single concept (for example, "short-term contracts," "after 20-odd years of sell-offs," "the debt-laden state television service" etc.).

As Juan Demetrio Gómez and Rocío Martín state (1995:114), noun clusters can be defined as "groups of words consisting of a chain of elements, all of them pre-modifying a final noun which is the nucleus of the series. In addition, a well-known researcher, David Trimble, says that noun clusters are "two or more nouns plus necessary adjectives that together make up a single concept; that is, the total expresses a single noun idea" as found in "supply-side issue," "large but undynamic ex-state banks" or "industry-wide wage negotiations."

Such noun clusters usually form part of both scientific and economic documents, since it is often necessary to give a large amount of information in a restricted space at our disposal. The problem arises when trying to translate these expressions as correctly as possible since noun clusters to not occur in Spanish. In English however, the more specialised the topic, the greater the number and complexity of noun clusters. So, what can we do to render them without altering their original sense? As we have already mentioned, the first thing we have to do is to take into account the context in which they are immersed as serious errors can produce an ambiguous or erroneous translation. As a case in point, extracting the noun cluster "labour arrangements" from a purely financial or economic context and placing it in an agricultural context, we observe a transformation in meaning, i.e., human resources management in the former and soil preparation in the latter, for example.

Step III. Organizational Collocation

The widespread tendency is to start translating the last element of the group and then continue in reverse order until we get to the first one, keeping in mind the fact that we must produce a piece of information which can be clearly and properly understood.

Step IV. Socio-Linguistic Analysis

The process calls for cross-cultural expertise on the part of the translator, and this is where translation becomes interpretation, and using an exact word is not as efficient as creating the appropriate whole. In other words, an exact, precise and concise context is the backbone of such a creative activity as translation. For example, the noun cluster "Cajas de ahorros" and "fee-charging autopistas dear to the PP" remains untranslated. The first expression means savings banks, a concept requiring cross-cultural knowledge which overlaps with translating skills. The second example may require a translation of "autopistas," meaning motorways/thruways, for the Spanish-speaking reader who, however, is unfamiliar with Spain's highway structure. The abbreviation PP requires clarification regarding the right-wing political party Partido Popular for which it stands. These particular examples require interpretation for the exact translation of the concepts.

Therefore, in a step-by-step translation process, we can take as a first example the following noun cluster taken from The Economist: "Spain's two-way trade in goods and services." Although at first sight its meaning in English is clear, it is rather complicated to render it properly in Spanish without altering its essence. Since the English sentence has three different qualifiers of the noun "trade" ("Spain's," "two-way," and "(in) goods and services," all of which would require a preposition in a literal translation into Spanish, one solution is to replace "two-way" (which would be literally translated as "en ambas direcciones") with the adjective "bidireccional." The entire phrase then becomes "el comercio bidireccional de bienes y servicios de España." The phrase can be further simplified by replacing "two-way commerce" with "compra-venta" (purchase and sale) which will result in the phrase "la compra-venta de bienes y servicios de España."

Juan Demetrio Gómez and Rocío Martín (1995:115-16) who proposed an experiment in translation to their pupils, also share such an opinion. The conclusion they reached was that the pupils had considerable difficulties when translating a noun series consisting of more than four words. Furthermore, if we have the additional problem of using dictionaries which do not contain the expected equivalence, we can conclude that this activity is not as simple as it may appear at first.

Examples like this one are quite frequent in a linguistic field dealing with financial and economic topics as we observed in the selected article.

As we have already stated, some words belonging to the so-called General English, when they appear next to specific nouns or accompanying words, acquire different meanings and nuances that must be reproduced in the final translation.

In this particular case, once we have analysed the whole text, we find that the word "labour" appears nine times with different meanings. This gives an approximate idea of how complex it becomes to translate a concept several times in the different ways intended by the transmitter. The examples encountered are "mobile labour" (movilidad laboral) "flexible labour" (horario de trabajo flexible/disponibilidad horaria) "labour market" (mercado laboral/de trabajo) "labour efficiency" (eficacia en el trabajo/laboral) "labour arrangements" (organización laboral), "shedding labour" (reducción de la mano de obra/de la plantilla) and "labour law" (Derecho laboral), which is different from "labour legislation" / legislación laboral) etc.

As can be seen, the word has a variety of possible translations depending on the specific context that it is necessary to highlight nuances we cannot find in a bilingual dictionary.

In fact, when we looked up these terms in one of these dictionaries, we found that it was often nearly impossible to get more than a general sense or meaning. In contrast, when we made use of specialised dictionaries, the result was quite different and it was easier to find the right definition corresponding to each of the noun phrases. However, it was still necessary to add some cultural nuances so that the translation sounded proper in Spanish. Such is the case of the previous examples with the word "labour." A specialised dictionary properly renders the meanings of this word in Spanish. The word labour in Spanish can mean, in addition to the meanings given above, "faena," "obra," or "tarea," and the right choice makes a considerable difference when transforming the original text into the translated text that reaches the target-language reader. Furthermore, in financial texts, the presence of noun clusters including the word "labour" accentuates the difficulty of the process.

This shows that we must take into account not only the elements present in the text, but also the entire underlying sociocultural framework, together with a general knowledge of economics, in order to produce a good translation.


In this article we intended to show, in the first place, the importance of lexical relationships between words, especially in the context of financial translations. As we have previously seen, these relationships are fundamental if we wish to make an appropriate textual and contextual interpretation. If they are essential when dealing with General English, they become the supporting element that gives clarity to an economic or financial document.

Second, the consultation of specialised reference works in specific areas, as opposed to the use of general language dictionaries, aid the translator in carrying out the process efficiently.

Third, we reaffirm the necessary role played by context when dealing with documents that leave no place for ambiguity since they include clear and straightforward concepts, which must be translated with the same scientific rigor they had in the original text. As Halliday and Hasan say (1976 ) "context is what goes with the text"; therefore, an accurate translation cannot be achieved by simply putting disconnected elements together; instead, associated elements must work together to form a coherent whole.

All in all, we believe in the necessity of giving translation the importance it deserves, rather than considering it a mechanical process that can be carried out with the help of a dictionary alone. It is a much more complex and interesting activity, which involves going beyond simply linking a series of words to produce a translation that is correctly understood by the target audience unfamiliar with the source language.



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