treatment of currencies in translation
Thread poster: Anja Brito

Anja Brito  Identity Verified
Canada
English to German
+ ...
Jul 28, 2014

I have a client for whom I translated a bank statement (as proof of funds for immigration purposes), and she wasn't happy with the translation, saying that I should have converted the currency from Brazilian Real to Canadian Dollar. I have never converted currencies, and certainly on bank statements, a) because the exchange rate changes constantly, and b) after all, she did have Brazilian Reais in her bank account and not Canadian Dollars, so I feel that if I change the currency, I would be misstating the facts. What do other translators do? Are there any rules or guidelines on this?

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Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:55
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
Wouldn't even have the idea... Jul 28, 2014

If I did translate bank statements I would not have the idea to convert the currencies...

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Kalyanasundar subramaniam
India
Local time: 08:25
Tamil to English
+ ...
Treatment of currencies in translation Jul 28, 2014

I feel what you have done is right . Unless there is a specific and explicit instruction to convert currencies while during a translation , you need not translate currencies . Even in such cases you can even mention the original currency in the bracket and as a foot note to the translated document you can mention the exchange rate that prevailed on the date of translation .

However issues like this can be clarified with the customer beforehand in the absence of any specific instruction .


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Charlotte Farrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:55
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Sounds like they're just complaining about nothing Jul 29, 2014

In my translation degree we were told that it's often a good idea to provide a conversion in brackets in addition to the currency of the source text, but only if it makes sense in the context. I.e. this would be a good option for a newspaper article where prices and costs are for information only, but should not be translated when it comes to fixed or binding prices or in annual reports or the like. I feel the same applies to bank statements - only providing a conversion wouldn't be a good idea as it immediately becomes invalid as soon as the exchange rate changes at all.

If the client wanted you to provide conversions, they really should have stated this in the job description. With a bank statement, this would represent most of the job so it wouldn't be a strict translation, per se. It's also something that'd be as easy for the client to do as it would be for you, so while they should pay for it if you do it, it's not like they can't do it themselves if they want to have some idea of how much they have in their account.


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Anja Brito  Identity Verified
Canada
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your feedback Jul 29, 2014

Like Andrea, it didn't even occur to me either that this could be a point of contention. This is the first time in my 16 years as a freelance translator that this became an issue. But you live and you learn, and in the future I will clarify the treatment of currencies in bank statements beforehand. I still don't feel that converting the amounts on the statement would be a good idea, but maybe inserting a footnote specifying the exchange rate of the day of the translation could appease the client. Although the immigration authorities are probably going to check the exchange rate anyway when they review the application...
Thanks again for your thoughts!


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RobinB  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:55
German to English
Never Jul 29, 2014

Anja,

Is your client confusing "language translation" and "currency translation", I wonder? This is an absolute no-no under any circumstances, and converting the currency units would surely invalidate the translation in the first place. The only thing your client might considering doing is to attach a note to the translation stating that, on the statement date, the exchange rate (e.g. the interbank rate + 1%) was X, giving and approximate amount in CAD for the account balance.


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RobinB  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:55
German to English
Curious teaching practice Jul 29, 2014

Charlotte Farrell wrote:

In my translation degree we were told that it's often a good idea to provide a conversion in brackets in addition to the currency of the source text, but only if it makes sense in the context. I.e. this would be a good option for a newspaper article where prices and costs are for information only


I think you were given misleading information by your lecturer(s). It's not the translator's job - ever - to engage in currency conversion (translation), even if you're translating a newspaper article, unless you're specifically being paid by the client to do it, e.g. an additional hourly rate (pro rated) for your time. Plus, the client would have to tell you which exchange rate to use. Never in 25 years of financial translation have I come across a situation where a client has even suggested translating amounts from one currency to another. It just doesn't form part of the translation function.

Mind you, I was told a story by a financial media agency client last year where one of the most prominent global translation agencies was disinvited from a pitch for regular high-volume, fast-turnaround work for the media agency (meaning that they were dropped from the short list the day after they were added to it) because they asked the media agency if they should translate the EUR amounts in one of the test translations into USD. That media agency has been dining out on this story for almost a year now.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:55
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not in an official situation Jul 29, 2014

In my opinion, changing the figures to a value in another currency could be misleading for the authorities receiving the translated document. There are situations in which a certain threshold is applied in the some official decision process, and a small difference in a converted figure could mean a change of decision by the authorities.

If the customer decides to convert the currencies, there could be certain rules in the target country as to how to do so. In the case of Spain, sworn translations containing currency conversions have to bear a footnote stating the fact that currencies were converted by order of the customer, what exchange rate was used, and the exact source the exchange rate was taken from. As for a valid exchange rate, in my opinion it should be the official exchange rate on the date of issue of the original document.


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Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:55
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
ludicrous Jul 29, 2014

If it were to be valid in any way, it would have to be date-dependent. If for example the statement is dated 12/07/13 you'd have to convert according to the rate applicable on that date. Which highlights just how ludicrous the client's request is.

Putting Canadian dollars when it's a bank statement for a Brazilian account would be totally meaningless. Did she ask you to put the address of a branch in Ottawa as well?


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Charlotte Farrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:55
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Sorry - my post was misleading Jul 29, 2014

RobinB wrote:

Charlotte Farrell wrote:

In my translation degree we were told that it's often a good idea to provide a conversion in brackets in addition to the currency of the source text, but only if it makes sense in the context. I.e. this would be a good option for a newspaper article where prices and costs are for information only


I think you were given misleading information by your lecturer(s). It's not the translator's job - ever - to engage in currency conversion (translation), even if you're translating a newspaper article, unless you're specifically being paid by the client to do it, e.g. an additional hourly rate (pro rated) for your time. Plus, the client would have to tell you which exchange rate to use. Never in 25 years of financial translation have I come across a situation where a client has even suggested translating amounts from one currency to another. It just doesn't form part of the translation function.


I'm not sure I agree, entirely. It usually doesn't make sense to do so, but in a lot of situations it would make sense. For example, if you were translating an article from German into US English that mentioned Japan's GDP in yen and then a rough equivalent in euros, then it would be a good idea to provide an equivalent in USD instead of euros.


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Danik 2014
Brazil
German to Portuguese
+ ...
Does the translator take the blame? Jul 29, 2014

I agree with Tomás Binder. A bank statement is a document and there are conversion rules which change from one country to another. Perhaps the entity that received the documents was dissatisfied because it is not familiar with Brazilian currency. But that is not your fault.

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Ewa Olszowa  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:55
Polish to English
+ ...
No Jul 29, 2014

I often translate bank statements for immigration purposes and I would never convert the currency. The client may attach a statement to his documents providing the equivalent value of the balance in Canadian dollars quoting an official source of the exchange rate he used (for example national bank of Canada or of the country the document is coming from).
You could do that as a translator's note but I would opt for the client explaining it himself.


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