The darkening glass – Study on translation questions and IFRSs

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05 May, 2011

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) has posted to its website a study on translation issues in connection with IFRSs. The authors explore the question whether a truly global accounting system is possible considering the fact that translations into different languages and ways of thinking are necessary to achieve this.

The study revealed the following results:

  • Translation is not impossible. The impact of translation problems can be reduced with the help of translation strategies and solutions.
  • Exact equivalence is impossible. Especially when concepts have to be translated that are not part of an (accounting) culture the results will seldom be meaningful.
  • Some translation problems are caused by different language structures.
  • Different language families will have different translation problems.
  • Official translations (e.g. by the European Commission) can vary from official translations by the IFRS Foundation.
  • Some translation strategies (e.g. omitting or adding words for clarification) might give rise to concerns by standard setters or regulators.

The authors of the study arrive at the following conclusions:

  • Standard setters must be aware of translation difficulties and should consider them if possible when drafting standards.
  • Translating principles might be more difficult than translating rules.
  • Everybody must be aware of the limits of translation.
  • Some slight differences between original text and translation will always remain.
  • Translators must not only have an excellent knowledge of source language and target language, but also of source accounting culture and target accounting culture.
  • Accounting educators must be aware of the difficulties of understanding translated concepts.

Please click for the full text of the study on the ICAS website.

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