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A passionate financial translator

"There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t been eager to go work."

Even the most beautifully written translation is worthless if its content isn’t correct. That’s why here at SwissGlobal we ensure that all of our translators are also specialists in whichever area they are translating.

Highly regulated industries in particular, e.g. financial services, require an in-depth understanding of the relevant concepts in order to avoid potential mistakes.

Yet even without the specialised aspect, translation is a profession that demands a great deal of knowledge and technical understanding. In this post, our financial translator Daniel Prontera describes how he followed his heart and became a translator.

Stability vs. dream job

As a child, I was always fascinated by the simultaneous translations in a German TV show called “Wetten, dass…”. I was very sure that I wanted to become an interpreter, but then, pragmatism triumphed and I decided to study business after all, simply because the career opportunities appeared better. After graduating, I worked in accounting and payroll administration, and I also gained certification as a financial planner. It was certainly interesting but my heart wasn’t really in it.

So, I quit my job, took a few months off and decided to fulfil my childhood dream and become a translator. I began studying translation at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and graduated with a master’s degree in professional translation in 2016.

Shortly after graduating, I joined SwissGlobal for an internship and have been here ever since. I’m a specialist translator for banks and financial service providers. Since all texts at SwissGlobal are translated using the dual control principle, I frequently revise and correct translations by other specialist translators as well. Changing professions was the best decision of my career. There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t been eager to go work.

The degree that came in handy

The greatest challenge for translators of financial texts is understanding the content. You really need a general comprehension of the contexts and products – and you have to have a good grasp of financial terminology, of course. What’s more, business texts often use metaphors. It’s very challenging to translate figurative expressions in such a way that they do not appear contrived (and are misunderstood).

For me, becoming a specialised financial translator was a natural step forward. I was able to draw on my business studies and certification in financial planning. Nevertheless, even I have to research my way through some translations.

Quality takes more than good language skills

There are strategies to help you handle certain texts. First, I read the entire source text and try to understand as much as I can. The rest are things I have to research. Knowing where and how to find the information you need is a fundamental skill of any trained translator, because as we all know, you can find everything on the internet – along with everything you don’t need. That’s why it’s so important to sift through information and decide whether it’s correct or not. Correspondingly, learning how to research is also a key component of translation studies.

Our ISO certification requires that employees undergo regular further training, and so I frequently attend seminars on relevant topics such as revising, editing and evaluating translations or the post-editing of machine translations.

Machine translation as an opportunity

Ever since the transition from purely statistical to neural machine translation (NMT) took place, machine translation has made enormous strides. However, NMT also can’t function without some form of human intervention.

Machine translation may be a good choice for a client, but you have to be aware of its limitations. It’s certainly not suitable for all text types. NMT works best for large volumes of text to help gain an overview of the content. The client’s expectations are really what matter most. Many people don’t actually know what an NMT can or cannot do and are then disappointed by the results.

When combined with a clean translation memory and a terminology database, the initial machine results can be quite good, but the translation has to be checked and tweaked in a post-editing process.

Human + machine = the best of both worlds

Post-editing naturally has to be faster than translation or revision. You have to learn the necessary techniques first. Post-editing really requires good instincts because subtle errors often creep in that you can only see if you know how the machine works. Obviously, it helps if you are familiar with the subject.

Automation will play an increasingly important role in translation in the future. The translation market is currently growing at five to seven per cent annually. Companies are publishing more and more content, with the internet and social media responsible for the majority of it. Order volumes are thus more likely to increase than decrease.

The limits of machine translation

The trend is clearly moving towards machine translation but a human touch remains indispensable. On the other side of the spectrum we have transcreation, which encompasses creative translations that convey a brand’s personality. These texts must take into consideration cultural differences and customer preferences. A machine is incapable of such a feat.

Even though people keep predicting the end of the translation industry, the prospects for translators and language services providers are encouraging. If you work to a professional standard and continually upgrade your skills, your future definitely looks positive.