Sensitivity ‘essential’ for translating international standards

INTERNATIONAL accounting standards and the difficulties of translation are the focus of a new report by ICAS.

The challenge of developing a set of rules for use in legally, politically and culturally diverse regions is well established, and this study highlights the linguistic pitfalls of translating faithful copies for use the world over.

It found exact equivalence cannot be achieved in translation, but there are methods for mediating the divergence and mitigating its impact. Language structures can create barriers to rendering meaning, and the problems are generally worse when skipping between different language families.

Authors Rachel Baskerville and Lisa Evans said: “Some of the solutions adopted by translators may give rise to concern by standard setters and regulators, for example, if words are added or omitted.”

They concluded sensitivity to the issues involved is essential, and made a number of recommendations.

The international standards have been criticised for being too rules based, but this could have an advantage for translation, as accounting principles are harder to render than more detailed and explicit instructions.

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Fiona Westwood of Smith and Williamson.