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ANC joins debate on how cultural background and translation influence the interpretation of IFRSs

  • ANC (Autorité des Normes Comptables) (lt blue) Image

18 Jun 2016

As reported earlier, the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB) and the Korea Accounting Standards Board (KASB) are conducting a joint research project that explores how cultural background and translation affect the interpretation of the terms that are used in IFRS. The French Autorité des Normes Comptables (ANC) has now joined the debate and contributes some general thoughts on the translation process.

The AASB/KASB project uses the different terms of 'likelihood' that are used in IFRSs to trace the influences of cultural background and translation. The key findings arrived at so far are that translation aspects can influence accounting judgment and that the IASB should give considerable attention to how terms might be interpreted and translated in different jurisdictions when developing a standard.

In its Contribution of the ANC to the questions raised by KASB and AASB on their joint research project, the French standard-setter agrees with the findings and adds that the process of translation does not only refer to translation between languages but also to the understanding of expressions in different cultures that seemingly use the same language. The ANC also extends this comment to countries using IFRSs in English (for example if funds/processes for translation are not available or if it is thought easier to work with the pronouncements issued in the language they were set in) and notes that this would hold true even if IFRS were written in relatively simple English.

In a more general and philosophical observation at the end of its contribution, which cites a range from resources from Herodotus over Wilhelm von Humboldt to the UN Charter, the ANC turns to cultural identities that are determined not only by language but also by race, colour, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status and notes that not only do these aspects determine how a language is understood but also that individuals’ thoughts and thinking are in some ways structured by the language used.

The ANC expresses the firm belief that one of the key question IFRSs will have to face is how to deal with the intercultural differences in order to ensure IFRS are consistently applied worldwide and concludes:

In a context where the IASB and the IFRS Foundation are developing a single set of IFRS standards to be applied around the world, ANC considers that the main difficulty is to issue principles and standards homogeneously understood and implemented. To reach this objective, IASB should rely on a process acknowledging and taking into account the underlying requirements and limits of cultural identities. In our view and in practice, the bias resulting from cultural diversity between the IFRS Foundation constituent should anticipated and integrated [... and ...] be considered from inception and all levels such as: At research level, at staff level (when preparing agenda papers, exposure drafts and standards ), at Board ’s or IFRS IC’s meetings.

Please click to download the contribution from the ANC website.

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