How do you translate an annual report?

The beginning of the year is the busiest time for us at EnglishBusiness; every January, we begin translating the annual reports of numerous listed companies. This challenge carries a great deal of responsibility. The annual report provides details on the financial standing and performance of the company: this is valuable information that must be treated confidentially until publication, but will then be read by shareholders, journalists or employees all over the world. What do our language experts do to translate an annual report perfectly?

Annual report


First of all: Why should annual reports be translated?

The annual report is the public face of a company. Listed German companies have long been of interest to people who don’t speak German. A high-quality translation helps to better address international shareholders and other stakeholders such as employees, customers and the media.

What should you pay attention to when translating an annual report?

An annual report is an extensive project with tight deadlines and many updates. It’s worth it to plan the processes in detail ahead of time and to include time to communicate with all the people involved. At EnglishBusiness, project managers take care of the communication and planning so that the translators can focus on the texts.

Annual reports follow partly binding regulations such as the IFRS and the ESEF. Project managers and language experts must therefore be familiar with requirements regarding terminology, format and structure.

Due to the confidential nature of the content, data security is also an important topic. At EnglishBusiness, data is only sent in an encrypted form and specific linguistic resources are set up for each company. The safety of our processes earned us ISO 17100 certification. We also comply with the specifications of the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) regarding insider information.

The translation begins with the customer briefing

Before we can get started on the actual job, we need more specifications from the customer.

  • Should we translate into British or American English?
  • Do official standards such as IFRS, GCG or GAAP apply?
  • Are there particular requests regarding the presentation of numbers and units?
  • Is there a particular style, specific terminology or general corporate wording preferred by the company?

Setting up and updating resources

Aside from individual linguistic and technical skills, our resources are our best guarantee of quality. They ensure greater consistency of tone and terminology. We set up the resources for each customer individually so that we can precisely implement their requests and specifications and provide more data security. The longer we work with a company, the more the data improves, allowing translators to work faster and more accurately.

But which resources do we actually use?

Translation memory:

The translation memory stores all of a company’s translations in a specific language combination. Texts are broken down into small units called segments that usually correspond to one sentence. When our editors review and approve a translated segment, it is simultaneously saved into the translation memory. If a segment is similar to a previously approved one, the translation is automatically suggested to the translator. This allows the translator to use the approved segment as a template, and the customer’s corporate language remains uniform.

When translating annual reports, it is particularly helpful to save the previous year’s report including the translation in the translation memory. This ensures uniform corporate language and streamlines the translation process since time-consuming manual research into previous years’ publications is no longer necessary.

Terminology databases:

Term bases act as dictionaries that are integrated in the translation software. They ensure that the terminology is uniform and reduce search time as well as typing errors. We primarily include technical terms, company-specific terminology and commonly used words in our term bases.

Style sheet:

The style sheet contains all the information from the customer briefing as well as updates that result from our continuous collaboration with existing customers. In addition to stylistic preferences, this is the place where requirements specific to different types of texts are recorded. Style sheets allow translators to brief themselves before they start the job.

Translation by specially trained native speakers

Our project management system now passes the annual report and style sheet along to the translator. The translation software – we work with market leader Trados Studio – breaks the text down into segments, and the resources are integrated.

A good translation is contextually accurate, linguistically impeccable, and reads as though it were written in the target language. This is a demanding task. We thus only entrust our texts to native speakers of the target language who have relevant experience in the translation of financial publications and corporate reports.

Review by in-house editors

Even the best specialist translators make mistakes from time to time: all translations are therefore edited by our in-house team. Our colleagues are familiar with the specifics of our customers, and they regularly undergo training in accounting standards and in the subtleties of British and American English.

Updates, feedback and revision requests

EnglishBusiness stands out in particular through its extensive communication with customers. This allows us to react quickly to updates, feedback and revision requests. Our team often provides advice on style and grammar, though content modification is also common – especially during the pandemic.

Publication: the end of one annual report is the beginning of the next one

Financial translations

Following publication of all the annual reports, the entire team can breathe a proud sigh of relief. The finished reports are also a valuable resource, however.

We are always glad to arrange follow-up conversations with clients. This helps both parties improve reports – crucial elements of a company’s public image – from year to year.

And what about machine translation?

People who are familiar with the translation industry might ask themselves why we don’t use machine translation. We at EnglishBusiness and our clients all have such high linguistic standards that post-editing machine translations would be more time-consuming than human translation of annual reports using our proven resources. However, we follow the topic with interest, and regularly reassess and evaluate our position.

The perfect translation of an annual report begins with a consultation

Contact our experts early on and let us advise you on specialist translations and your corporate language!

This post was written by

Marlen Schrader

Marlen Schrader

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