Translating Bank Statements

Posted on: September 9, 2021   in: Chinese

Translating Bank Statements

Part 1 – Hong Kong Bank Statements

The Need to Translate Hong Kong Bank Statements from Chinese to English

Bank Statements from Hong Kong are often available in both English and Chinese. However, there are several banks which only give customers the option to either print the English version of a monthly statement or the Chinese version. In other words, if the client needs to get the past 6 months of bank statements, but they were originally printed in Chinese, the bank will not be able to help.

If a client is looking to move to the UK, apply for a mortgage, or a visa, they may well need certified translations of their bank statements.

There are two obvious points to bear:

  1. They will be written in traditional Chinese, and any proper nouns may be written in transliterated English.
  2. They will be either scans or photographs of a physical paper document.

Point 2 makes a huge impact on the price and timing of the translation process and needs to be understood.

Pricing the Translations

Clients are frequently shocked, amazed and baffled by the seemingly high cost of translating their bank statements. Generally because we are dealing with a picture of a paper document rather than an editable word file we have two choice.

  1. Work directly from the picture and create a Word or editable file
  2. Convert some or all of the document into editable format before translating it

Both methods have their pros and cons. The main problem, and the reason I very rarely work using, method 1 is that it allows for the introduction of errors. The translating process requires a lot of manual checking and typing, and every time we manually enter a word we introduce the possibility of a mistake. Also it takes much much longer to translate without using any of our normal translation software. Even something simple like transliterating someone’s surname can be complex. With a Word file we simply cut and paste the character into a dictionary to see the standard and any non-standard pronunciations if we are not already familiar with the character. On the other hand, without that, we have to look carefully at the character and count the strokes or use another method to look in a dictionary. Depending on the resolution of the image, there may be two or three possibilities and we will need to check back and forth to have any level of certainty at all. The same applies for the name of particular savings funds, addresses or anywhere a character could be introduced with no helpful context.

For those reasons, especially for certified translations, I use option two. That in itself creates a number of new problems.

  1. We have to convert the document
  2. We have to check the quality of the conversion (bearing in mind the problems mentioned above)

My rule of thumb is that I like documents to be at least 300 dpi resolution as that seems to allow pretty good conversion results, but even then there can be errors. So there’s an additional step we could call “conversion-review” where the translator converts the file using their favorite OCR software and then edits the output against the source.

That “conversion-review” step is, frankly, tedious, boring and painful. The problem is that if you sub-contract, you don’t know about the quality, and the results will still need to be checked. On the other hand, to guarantee a good quality of sub-contractor we would have to pay a considerable amount of money which would make the job even more expensive.

My own solution is just to do the “conversion-editing” myself and charge the client by the hour for that.

A typical bank statement might be about 5 pages. As a rule of thumb in about an hour of work I can convert about 2 pages to a reasonable quality, so we have to add an additional 2.5 hours of work to the price.

Then we have to charge for the actual translation. That’s the easy part, the part I am trained to do, the part I love to do, and also the cheapest part. Usually I can rattle out several pages of excellent translation in just an hour.

Finally we need to review the translation against the source, check the requirements for the certification and deliver the certified translation.

So the price is made up of three parts:

  1. The price for conversion-editing
  2. The price for translating
  3. The price for review and certification

Usually Item 1 takes up the vast majority of the total amount.