Translating annual reports: the seven deadly sins

  1. Errors creep in ...
  2. ... when expert knowledge is lacking.

    The contents of your company’s annual report are complex and tailored to a particular audience. When it comes to translating the report, insufficient knowledge of the material can easily lead to mistakes, which in the worst case may even have legal consequences. A professionally and accurately translated annual report requires full understanding of the content. Specialist knowledge of the industry is essential. For this reason, sound linguistic capabilities should ideally be coupled with academic training or in-depth experience in a relevant field. Expert translators not only guarantee quality in what they translate, they can also pick up on any errors the original text might contain in terms of content. And thanks to their background, they also know that the notes to the financial statements require a different writing style to the management report, which in turn differs from the corporate image section.

  3. Denglish and inelegant constructions ...
  4. ... result in an inconsistent report.

    No one strikes the right note better than a native speaker. Because they live and breathe the target language, native speakers know how to adapt content to specific cultural and linguistic environments. Native speakers avoid literal translations, unless the client specifically requests a translation that sticks as closely to the source text as possible. A translation agency can offer important advice in this regard. Even if the German-language report is written in a reserved and sober style, the generally accepted style in the target language may be quite different. In this case, adapting to the target-language style gives the translated report a more authentic feel.
    And even seemingly minor matters can make a major difference: Mixing American and British English in the same document is an obvious no-go. At best it appears careless, at worst it causes confusion. The differences are subtle but numerous, ranging from the way dates are written to the use of quotation marks and inverted commas.

  5. Not knowing the terminology ...
  6. ... results in a confusing mishmash.

    Large companies have their own terminology that involves abbreviations, divisions, job titles, and much more, and this is ideally consistent throughout all the languages that are part of its corporate communication. But that’s only one issue. When it comes to translating annual reports, you also need to have knowledge of different accounting provisions and keep up to date with the latest terminology from the HGB, IFRS, etc. Navigating the linguistic differences between various norms is full of potential pitfalls!
    Consistent terminology in headings, tables and continuous text is therefore a core element of a good annual report translation.

  7. A poorly-written source text ...
  8. ... rarely inspires a beautiful translation.

    Translators have to work with the material they are provided, and a well-written source text is the best starting point. Notwithstanding the necessary fidelity to detail, texts require a clear and transparent structure – for the benefit of translators as well as investors. If the language is too dry or sentence structure too convoluted, using shorter, clearer sentences may make good sense when translating.
    It’s often a good sign when the English translation of a German report is more accessible to readers than the original. After all, most financial experts may speak English, but for the majority of them it’s not their native language.

  9. Dull reports ...
  10. ... put foreign investors to sleep.

    People love stories. Companies in the US have known and exploited this fact for a long time, but German companies have been slow to wake up to it. If you want to capture the attention of foreign readers, there is no better way than with a story that is woven throughout the annual report, from the image section to the management report. This is all the more important if your readers are not particularly familiar with German brands. An exciting corporate story is the ideal foundation of a strong report and a gripping translation.

  11. Lack of a distinct voice ...
  12. ... weakens corporate communication.

    A different style for every translation? Best avoided. Too often, annual and quarterly reports, separate and consolidated financial statements, securities prospectuses and ad-hoc press releases lack linguistic cohesion, thereby diluting the message. It is important that a company has a distinct voice that can be heard throughout its communications. A professional translation team and close, long-term collaboration means you can rely on translations that are consistent and cast from the same mould.

  13. Lack of data protection ...
  14. ... leads to lack of trust.

    Long before the introduction of the GDPR, companies placed a high value on data protection. Financial data is particularly sensitive and should only be available to a small, trusted circle before it is made public. That is why a reputable translation agency needs to contractually guarantee that every measure is in place to protect data. This includes meeting the requirements of the Order Processing Agreement (OPA) and the German Securities Trading Act. Ideally, a translation agency will ensure that only a fixed group of trusted in-house translators are responsible for the translation of sensitive material.

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