Four Common Mistakes Made by Investigation Teams Without Native Speakers


Ensuring Accuracy in Complex Analyses

Precision and depth of information are paramount in international due diligence and reputational checks. While digital tools like Google Translate offer convenience and speed in language translation, they often fail to deliver the accuracy required for thorough due diligence processes.

The complexity of pre-transaction background checks, where every detail matters, requires translations beyond literal word-for-word accuracy. Investigators excel in conveying the whole meaning, including nuances and implied tones, which are crucial for comprehensive background analyses. Here are a few examples of common mistakes made in investigations by teams without native speakers.

Four Common Mistakes

1. Romanization by Country

The name Zhang Wei (张伟) is translated using Standard Chinese-English translation commonly used in Mainland China. It is most likely translated into Cheung Wai in Hong Kong, which is based on the Cantonese Wade-Giles translation method. In Taiwan, the name is generally translated into Chang Wei, using a Mandarin-style Wade-Giles translation. We must consider the regional differences based on the country in which the subject resides and where the subject was born to ensure the completeness of the research.

2. Identifying all Possible Variations of Regulatory Risk

There are many forms of how words in Chinese are used as nouns, verbs, and adjectives. For example, corruption/bribery may be expressed in many ways and characters that may not be highlighted by a translation tool. We utilize our dirty word search strings in Chinese to cover a comprehensive number of variations such as “贪污”, “贿赂”, “受贿”, “行贿”, “贪腐”, “腐败”. Without conducting searches with all these variations and having the skill to read and identify them in research, efficiency, and accuracy would be greatly limited.

3. Omitted Vowels

There are no standard or universally accepted transliterations for Arabic names. This results in a need for human translators who are familiar with the language to cross-check the subject’s identity through other verification methods beyond ID/full name.

In Arabic, vowels are typically not written out and must be added back to the name by a native speaker. As a result, the vowels that are chosen for the same name can be inconsistent from person to person. For example, the name O-m-r (عمر) could be Latinized Omar, Umar, or Omer. This decision is entirely subjective and there are even examples of different Latinization of surnames within the same family.

4. Transliteration vs Translation

Transliteration is converting words as they are pronounced in the source language into a familiar alphabet. Depending on preference, many people with Arabic names may choose to go by either the transliterated or translated version of their name. For example, the name Nuh (نوح) may not be transliterated well due to English lacking the letter to capture the sound ح. A subject may use a country-specific equivalent of their name instead and go by “Noah” instead.

Enhancing the Integrity of Global Communications

The need for meticulous due diligence and background checks grows as global interactions become increasingly complex. Investigators are critical in this process, ensuring that every piece of information is accurately conveyed and understood, protecting against reputational risks, and facilitating successful international transactions. Their expertise transcends linguistic barriers and ensures that the subtleties of language are straightforward and thorough, as well as adequate due diligence and background investigations.

At Vcheck, we have linguistic experts covering over 135 countries to ensure clients have the most precise and relevant information possible to make better business decisions.

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