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The darkening glass – Study on translation questions and IFRSs

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06 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 press release on the ICAS website. It contains links to an executive summary and the full text of the study in PDF format as well as an order form for printed copies.

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