Translating in the Global Community of the 21st Century: Currency, Time, Dates, Measurements, and Places

Although all of these elements are critically important in communication, they vary from country to country—and sometimes within a country—and thus can cause misunderstanding and confusion.

Dates are another source of confusion.    Because the conventions for the sequence of the day, the month, and the year differ greatly from country to country, the certified Chicago Translation worker should write them out in long form.   In the United States, the date is typically written as month, day, and year (December 5, 2012); but in most of the rest of the world, dates are written as day, month, and year (5 December 2012).  Clearly a date written as 5/12/2012 might mean December 5 in one country or May 12 in another country.  In Japan, the year appears first, followed by the month and day (2012 December 5 or 12/12/5).  Because the document may be intended for readers of multiple nationalities, the date written out in full, whatever the sequence,will prevent errors in understanding that might cause disastrous results.

Currency symbols and names can cause great confusion, and not just in understanding rates and values.  For example, currency symbols may appear before or after the sum.  In the US, Great Britain, and Europe, the symbols precede the number, as follows: $100 (US dollars), £100 (British pounds), and €100 (European Common Market Euros).  The  pre-Euro currencies of France and Germany, however, have the symbols placed after the number, as follows:  100 F (French francs) and 100 DM (deutsche marks).

Another problem for some Baltimore Translation workers arises from different kinds of currencies with the same name.  In such a case the kind of currency must be identified, unless the context guarantees clarity.  For example, dollars range from American ($100 US or USD) to Hong Kong ($100 HK or HKD) to Zimbabwe ($100 ZWD), along with many other national dollars.

Measures are expressed mainly in one of two major standards:  the metric and the imperial.  Around the world almost every country except the United States has adopted the metric system.  Even the US, however, is using the metric system more and more in government and business contexts.  Thus documents may need to express measures in both forms to guarantee accuracy of understanding, and the certified translator may need to insert the equivalent measure.  Here are examples:

  •              An average adult Gekho is approximately 14 inches (36 cm) long.
  •             The cylinder weighs nine pounds (4 Kilograms)
  •             The storage capacity of the tank is approximately 378 liters (approximately 100 US gallons.)

Also keep in mind that clothing and shoe sizes follow no universal sizes.