Four Common Mistakes Made by Investigation Teams Without Native Speakers


Ensuring Accuracy in Complex Analyses

In international due diligence and reputational checks, precision and depth of information are paramount. While digital tools like Google Translate offer convenience and speed in language translation, they often fall short in delivering the accuracy required for thorough due diligence processes.

The complexity of pre-transaction background checks, where every detail matters, requires translations that go beyond literal word-for-word accuracy. Investigators excel in conveying the full 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 who do not have 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. In Hong Kong, it is most likely translated into Cheung Wai, 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 completeness of 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.

Arabic tends to not write out vowels, which must be added back to the of 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 the process of converting words like they are pronounced in the original source language into a familiar alphabet. Many people with Arabic names may choose to go by either the transliterated or translated version of their name, depending on preference. 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 choose to use a country-specific equivalent of their name instead and go by “Noah” instead.

Enhancing the Integrity of Global Communications

As global interactions become increasingly complex, the need for meticulous due diligence and background checks grows. Investigators stand as a critical asset in this process, ensuring that every piece of information is accurately conveyed and understood, thereby protecting against reputational risks, and facilitating successful international transactions. Their expertise not only transcends linguistic barriers but also ensures that the subtleties of language do not become obstacles to thorough, effective due diligence and background investigations.

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

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