Reflections on “Copying the contents of previous documents as a new one” in financial translation
Published on 25 June 2021 by Alice Chan
“Copying the contents of previous documents as a new one” is a common practice in financial translation, especially for highly repetitive listed documents, taking the previous documents as the blueprint and copying every word from the repeated parts to create a new translation text.
During the busy annual reporting period, copying is an indispensable means for translators to catch up with the deadlines. One of the four advantages is that when handling a large amount of translated texts, simply by comparing the old and new versions, translators can efficiently and easily reuse all of the highly repetitive parts or sections with only slight updates of figures, names or not much information. This will significantly shorten the turnaround time.
Second, translators no longer have to bother to deal with repetitive content word for word. The streamline of production workflow can ease their workload, while manpower can be reduced accordingly. Third, as the decrease of time and labour costs will boost the production capacity of the team, which means that even with the same resources, there will hopefully be upside potentials in business volume. Given that the same or similar content compared with the previous text has almost been entirely copied, the new version created by replication can theoretically be guaranteed to conform to the usage of words and language styles of the previous year or quarter.
As we all know, language services go through multiple processes of writing, proofreading, editing, and retouching, while replication from previous work only involves copying and pasting. Actually, it has nothing to do with improving the language work. Although copying enables the translators to complete the first draft quickly, it hides the potential risks of copying the errors and omissions from previous documents to the new text. This problem is not difficult to solve, as long as translators invest enough time and effort to proofread and review carefully before finalisation. However, reality returns to reality. During the busy annual reporting period, lots of annual reports need to be finalised within the same week. If the copied texts are discovered to be full of mistakes during bulk print, is there plenty of time or manpower to carefully proofread, review and amend all of the copied parts one by one? In the worst case, there is still no time for further proofreading, but the errors from replication have already been discovered by clients which can bring disruptive consequences!
Moreover, every translation places importance on consistency. As the replicated parts are often copied without careful scrutiny, the lack of harmony in wordings and style aligning with the new translation is easy to be imagined. During the busy annual reporting period, accuracy is definitely the primary focus of translators. No more leisure time or efforts can be spared on the coordination of words and styles. Let’s think more deeply. For the normal language process, shouldn’t the usage of words and style be duly handled at the beginning of writing? Copying from previous work can save time in the early stage, however, extra efforts are required in the later stage.
After weighing the pros and cons, copying from previous work is not an ideal solution for translators. This may be a time bomb buried long time ago, and once any client or regulator finds the mistakes from it, disruptive consequences may even brought to the previous translation. Perhaps the only way out to save time and maintain the translation quality is not relying on copying, but to use AI translation system plus translation memory to achieve the maximum effectiveness!