14 June 2013

When words really count

The Financial Times of 14 June 2013 featured an article by Henny Sender entitled Central bank oracles must choose their words carefully and subtitled When Bernanke spoke of ‘tapering’, the markets heard ‘tightening’.

The second paragraph reads:
"Today, virtually everything trades more on fundamentals than on the markets’ interpretation of the words of the oracles at the world’s central banks. And as developments since May 22 have made clear, the markets often put a different slant on their words than the central bankers intended. Thus when Mr Bernanke spoke of “tapering”, the markets heard “tightening”. (my bold)

So spare a thought for the people who translate the pronouncements of central bankers and how much they must think about (a) the bankers intended meaning and (b) how the markets are likely to interpret the translated message. The translator needs first the requisite level of understanding; second the market and language awareness to second guess the markets' interpretations. Sound challenging?

Come to think of it, spare a thought also for the translators of any number of delicate or challenging corporate communications. We all appreciate that few pronouncements are subject to the same level of scrutiny applied to the those of central bankers, but do translation buyers give enough thought to such issues when they ask their suppliers to turn around critical press releases and the like in record time.

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