English to Spanish translation of the economics and finance genres
By Leticia Herrero Rodes & Verónica Román Mínguez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain)
Abstract & Keywords
In today’s globalized world, where geographical and temporal distances are closing significantly, businesses’ needs go beyond national borders. Companies’ opening up and exposure to global markets bring further translation needs within the economic and financial fields, thus making this area of specialization one of the highest in demand within the translation market with many work opportunities for translators. In this paper, the authors propose a classification of expertise within the fields of economics, finance and business in order to provide students of translation and inexperienced translators with a catalogue that is representative of the main text types. This paper acts as a starting point, providing the translator with the terminology, phraseology and subject knowledge in this specialized area of translation.
Keywords: English-Spanish translation, specialised translation, economic and financial translation, commercial translation, translator training, textual genres
©inTRAlinea & Leticia Herrero Rodes & Verónica Román Mínguez (2015).
"English to Spanish translation of the economics and finance genres"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2145
1. Background and rationale of our research
Nowadays it is easy to justify the importance of translation in the business and economic sectors due to the fact that borders are no longer geographic limits and new technologies are enabling foreign trade to grow exponentially. Indeed, the recent internationalization of firms around the globe has made translators’ work an invaluable and unique job.
However, the importance of translation in the fields of business and economics has not always been recognized in the academic arena. We believe that, until recently, translation courses did not reflect the broad range of sub-areas covering business and economic operations. Mateo’s study (2014) of the different translation courses available in Spain found that, with few exceptions, learning and teaching in the business translation field remains in the background, at times an afterthought and even camouflaged within other specialized translation courses. In Mateo’s words, there is an obvious discrepancy between the reality of the translation profession and the academic organisation of translation qualifications at Spanish universities. Only in recent years, has there been an increase in the recognition that these fields deserve in terms of research and teaching.
This interest in research and teaching in the area of business and economic translation has experienced both quantitative and qualitative exponential growth. There has been an increase in the number of publications and conferences related to economic translation. A few recent examples from this decade include papers by Alcaraz Varó, Hughes & Mateo Martínez (2006), Suau Jiménez (2010), Pizarro Sánchez (2010), Gallego Hernández (2012) and (2014); and in May 2014, Alicante University (Spain) hosted the first International Congress on Economic, Commercial, Finance and Institutional Translation in Spain, which was well received by national and international researchers and professionals in the field.
The number of educational programmes in this specialty has also increased at graduate and postgraduate levels, as well as efforts to define more accurately the concept and content of economic translation, which has led many Spanish universities to review economic translation course syllabuses. Eventually, and hopefully, agreement will be reached on a common understanding of this subject; when this happens, it will be possible to refine its content more effectively, because until recently, and generally speaking, the content of courses only partially reflected the heterogeneity of texts within the professional sector. In this way, new curricula would be more effective in terms of selecting educational materials.
As shown by the different articles in the monograph published in 2014 by Gallego Hernández in the journal Hermeneus and titled Traducción económica: entre profesión, formación y recursos documentales, (Economic translation: profession, training and resources) and in the doctoral thesis published by Alcalde Peñalver at the end of 2014, titled Caracterización y contextualización de la traducción financiera: estudio empírico-descriptivo de la situación académica y profesional en España (Characterising and contextualising financial translation: a descriptive, empirical study of Spain’s academic and professional situation), economic translation is currently being openly debated in Spain. With this paper, we, the authors, aim to contribute to this debate, raising useful questions regarding training in this specialty, the link between education and professional markets, the definition of a concept of economic translation and the design of economic translation courses. We present the outcomes of our research on the learning and teaching process in economic and business translation within the framework of the BSc degree in Translation and Interpretation (Grado de Traducción e Interpretación) at the Universidad Autónoma in Madrid, where we both lecture. It is worth noting that for the past few years, the authors have worked together delivering the core subject of Economic Translation from English to Spanish in Year 3, an ideal vantage point that has allowed us to assess issues surrounding course design, the students’ prior knowledge of the topic, their attitude towards the subject, the process of knowledge acquisition vis-à-vis conceptual and terminological aspects, etc., and all using the same sample (same students and level). It has also proved to be a privileged position for reflecting on the shortcomings and needs of the students, on the programmes’ highlights and failings, and on the most appropriate methodological approaches for a subject of this nature. This is the foundation of our research.
In addition, our extensive experience as translators in the fields of economics and business has brought important insights to this work. The authors of this paper have a combined professional career spanning over 30 years and by studying the translation assignments we have received together with our solid training in law and economics, we have categorized texts using a purely descriptive and eminently practical approach. We therefore believe that the classification we are putting forward here is based equally on the study of specific knowledge in the fields of economics, finance, accounting and commercial law and on translation practice in these specialized fields.
Therefore, our first-hand experience in the dynamics and peculiarities of this translation sector has given us a unique perspective for understanding the complexity of this field and the challenges faced by students. Combining our work as lecturers and as translators has allowed us to keep abreast of the professional demands placed on our students, and we can therefore adapt their education to the expectations of the professional market.
With this desire to link education and the professional arena in mind, we will look into the various subject areas that fall under the category of economic translation and we recognise that a taxonomy of text types within this specialty would be a useful tool for helping students acquire terminology, concept and text-related skills.
Little research has been undertaken in Spain in the field of economic and business translation and there are even fewer suggestions as to how to classify the genres within this field. Although it is impossible to completely cover the wealth of genres in economic and business translation, the classifications put forward to date do not, in our opinion, sufficiently represent the diversity of subject areas found in this specialized professional field.
In 2003, Orozco published the first pedagogical classification of economic texts. Her classification divides this type of text into private and public documents and makes a distinction between informative and descriptive roles so as to categorize four types of economic text: private informative texts (invoices, sell sheets and brochures), public informative texts (tax forms and adverts from public institutions), public descriptive texts (general and specialized press releases and reports by public bodies) and private descriptive texts (company trading accounts and feasibility studies).
For Pizarro Sánchez (2010), it is the relationship between the corporate field and its players and the functions that these people carry out that dictates which genre of text is required. Pizarro Sánchez provides a comprehensive classification of professional genres, from both an internal and external (foreign trade) perspective, which is limited exclusively to the corporate world and covers seven functions undertaken by its players. Specialist areas such as macroeconomics and markets are not included in this author’s taxonomy. Similarly, Pizarro Sánchez classifies text types in terms of their semantic, discursive and grammatical characteristics.
Suau Jiménez (2010) categorizes economic and business text genres into printed and internet or online, plus a third genre which is a combination of the last two. In the printed category, Jiménez includes business letters, reports or memorandums, leaflets about a company or product and articles from specialist magazines. The internet or online category contains emails, websites and blogs and the third category includes job adverts.
Our first joint work involved a paper for the IV Congress on International Translation and Interpretation at Malaga University in December 2012, which proposed a first classification of genres within economic translation, and where we appealed for the need to establish stronger and broader links between the classroom and the professional sector.
Following this first attempt to comprehensively cover the broad variety of texts reflected in real economic and business translation assignments, we had the chance to apply for a project on innovative teaching organized by the department for learning development at our university. Using the title Resources and materials applied to the learning and teaching process in English to Spanish economic and financial translation, we designed and set up a virtual platform to be used as a learning consultation tool for 3rd year translation and interpretation students and for new graduates and junior professionals in this specialty area.
Our initial plan was to add our first classification of text types and other information likely to be of interest to users to the aforementioned platform. Inevitably, the number of subject areas included in the initial classification was expanded from three to five to cover macroeconomics, finance, business, banking and accountancy, and the number of texts within each of these areas was also increased. The platform includes:
- Interesting links and other relevant resources for learning and teaching economic translation (blogs, websites of relevant organizations, links to regulatory frameworks in this field, etc).
- Worksheets containing the text types included in the taxonomy, which spell out their classification in Spanish and English, a brief definition of the text type, information about potential clients of this type of text, details of structure and content, and links to examples of texts in English and Spanish (including references to the source text).
- English to Spanish glossaries containing the most common terms used in each text type and the most frequently used, and to some extent, only translation.
In today’s world, where teaching and learning processes are becoming more and more sophisticated thanks to the use of new technologies, we believe that a platform such as this is an extremely valuable tool for those interested in this specialized area of translation.
We are currently working on a series of monographs on the English to Spanish translation of the text types contained in the different sections of the classification. Until these monographs are published, this paper includes a concise taxonomy of expertise in the areas of economy, finance, banking, accountancy and business, which aims to represent the key texts found in this professional specialty.
The rationale behind this article, then, is to help adapt the design of translation courses at Spanish universities, particularly public universities, to the demands of the professional market. As Mateo (2014) states, public universities offer a “universal” education that is often somewhat removed from the genuine needs of society and the majority tend to offer translation courses that are much more heterogeneous, arts-based and less “professionally-oriented”. In contrast, and as mentioned by Mateo (2014), private universities tend to teach more vocational business translation courses than public universities do.
2. Proposal for the categorization of economic and business texts
As discussed previously, in our opinion the congress held in Alicante in May 2014 is an illustrative example of the increasing interest in economic translation shown over the past few years - with positive results. Moreover, there seems to be a stronger drive to find more efficient approaches to the learning process for students in this field, to find new methodological tools that will enable students to acquire the diverse skills that are required more quickly.
In the interest of clarity, we wish to reiterate that the design of our classification of texts is based on the methodological objective described above, centred on the assumption that a taxonomy of economic and business text types is a truly valuable tool for the teaching and learning process in this specialty.
Our insistence on the methodological justification stems from the recognition that the particularities of this specialty field may turn any attempt at classification into a constrained exercise. Indeed, with the exception of texts on macroeconomics, financial markets and purely accounting texts, a large number of business texts could be described as hybrid, given the diversity of terms and concepts that cannot be assigned exclusively to one textual category or subject area. In addition, the natural curiosity of humans to expand and improve their knowledge turns any taxonomy into a model with shortcomings that will eventually become invalid, such as for example the world of finance, where investment products are continuously updated. On the other hand, the large number of text types generated by this professional field makes it totally impractical for us to cover them all and forces us to classify only the most representative texts from the professional sphere.
Therefore, despite being an open and by no means exhaustive classification of texts, we believe that such a taxonomy can help students gain a general overview of the textual reality within the professional world, as well as providing a more systematic approach to the economic translation learning process by ensuring that they gradually acquire a range of skills. Students can then progress step-by-step using a bottom-up approach (to use a financial analysis term) that will allow them to learn terms and understand concepts surrounding each text type. Subsequently, once students have worked through the range of texts and fields and have understood and added this new learning to their existing knowledge, they will be able to tackle texts using a top-down approach, recognising the different subject areas that appear in the texts.
It is important to note here that our classification is not based on linguistic or discursive criteria; rather it is based on a division of encyclopaedic knowledge by subject sub-area within this area of expertise. This paper moves away from other studies that offer a theoretical approach to genre, register and meta-speech in applied linguistics.
In the next section, we outline our proposal for the classification of economics and business texts. Given the brevity of this paper and the large number of text types covered in this piece of work, it is not possible to include a definition of the texts.
2.1. Economic texts
Economics is commonly defined as the social science that studies how societies use and manage their resources to produce goods and services, and to distribute them to satisfy society’s needs and wants.
The study of economics can be broken down into two aspects: microeconomics and macroeconomics. The first of these studies the behaviour of those players that take part in the running of an economy, such as the government, consumers, companies, workers and investors, and it focuses on issues such as profits and cost-cutting in a company, decisions about the production of goods and services, or individual consumer preferences.
As indicated in a previous paper (Herrero Rodes and Román Mínguez 2013), in contrast to macroeconomics, there are a limited number of public sources devoted exclusively to analyzing and assessing microeconomic indicators. This is probably due to the fact that most of the variables associated with the economy’s performance are usually regarded as macroeconomic. There are, however, publications that issue the outcomes of surveys undertaken among economic agents or citizens on, for example, consumer behaviour. It is this very reason, the difficulty in isolating purely microeconomic variables or issues that makes defining microeconomic texts a rather complicated task. This is the reason why we have chosen not to classify linguistic examples from the microeconomics field, as it does not mirror the real world and is therefore of little practical interest to student translators and translators who are new to the area of economics.
Macroeconomics analyses the running of a country’s or region’s economy as a whole, and it focuses on variables such as production, employment, consumption, interest rates, prices, etc.
It is important to clarify here that the publication of most macroeconomic texts does not respond to any mandatory criteria, and therefore the names that are usually given to them change depending on who has published the text.
A classification of macroeconomic texts could include the following text types:
- Annual report
- Financial accounts
- Balance of payments and international investment position report
- Texts on public debt
- Economic bulletins, statistical bulletins and analysis of macroeconomic indicators
- Press releases
- Dailies and weeklies.
Out of all the macroeconomic texts mentioned above, the most frequently published are the last few: bulletins, press releases, dailies and weeklies. The first few texts on the list are issued every six months or annually by central banks or national governments and usually comply with transparency and reporting requirements that oblige them to account for their action and management practices. Annual reports, for example, come out once a year whilst press releases or analyses of macroeconomic indicators are much more frequent.
2.2. Financial texts
Finance is the branch of the economy that studies how individuals, companies, organizations and states make and effectively manage money. Depending on who is involved in managing financial resources, we can talk about personal, corporate or public finance, which helps us to define the distinct environments where each of the players operate.
Financial markets are one of the environments where financial activity takes place: a virtual space where you can trade different kinds of securities and assets, such as shares, bonds, currencies, commodities or derivatives, including futures, options, swaps and warrants.
In addition, transactions related to obtaining and managing financing take place in contexts other than financial markets, such as companies and banks. The documents generated in these three environments —markets, companies and banks— raise the issue of how to categorize them, as there are valid arguments for including them in the finance category and also in the banking category, and other texts could fit in both the finance and corporate categories.
Having said that, below is a suggested categorization of financial documents:
Texts on financial operations:
- Documents relating to corporate activities within the same company or between several companies: MBO (Management Buy-out), MBI (Management Buy-in), LBO (Leveraged Buy-out), take-over bids, public share offering, rights offering, capital increases, etc.
- Documents relating to different financing options. This section includes several ways of financing new or already existing projects, including private equity, project finance, crowdfunding, corporate bonds, preference shares, etc. It is worth noting here the risk assessment reports undertaken for companies applying for loans, credit or any other financing tool.
- Texts on financial instruments: Documents dealing with products that an investor can put his or her money into, such as investment funds or derivatives. Text types here can include prospectuses, fact sheets, contracts and updates. The first of these includes a wide variety of options: equity mutual funds, fixed income funds, guaranteed funds, ETF (exchanged-traded funds), absolute return funds, hedge funds, private equity funds, etc. In terms of derivatives, there are futures, put and call options, warrants, swaps, credit default swaps (CDS), credit default options (CDO), etc.
- Texts on public debt: This area covers documents generated by public debt transactions. One of the most commonly traded assets by the public sector for raising funds are government bonds (with varying maturities). As with financing options in the public sector, we have also taken into account the reports issued by credit rating agencies to assess the risk of default by different countries.
- Market analysis reports: This section includes reports that analyse specific companies or sectors to provide an investment position, such as investment recommendation reports, strategy reports and flashnotes.
2.3. Corporate texts
In the corporate world, there are a large number of texts that straddle various areas of specialisation and therefore many of the texts generated in this field can also be assigned to other text categories. Although it is practically impossible to draw up a taxonomy of business texts, due to the high volume of texts translated in the corporate world, below is a non-exhaustive classification that we believe is useful when teaching and learning the translation of this type of text.
Texts with information on the company’s operations and management:
- Articles of incorporation
- Regulations governing the running of different corporate bodies: annual general meetings of shareholders (AGMs), board of directors, audit and compliance committee, appointments and retributions committee, etc.
- Calls to meeting and agendas for the AGMs and board of directors’ meetings
- Resolutions of the AGMs and the board of directors (resolutions on increase or reduction of capital, winding up of companies, etc.)
- Stock or share certificates
- Internal codes of conduct
- Letters from the chairman or managing director to shareholders or employees
- Directors’ report
- Annual corporate governance report
- Corporate responsibility reports
- Reports by the appointment and retributions committee
- Management reports
- Relevant events reported to the Spanish Securities and Exchange Commission (CNMV)
Documents containing financial information relating to the company:
- Annual reports
Documentation containing the company’s stock information
- Documents published on the company’s website —in listed companies, this stock information is included under the shareholder and investor relations section— about the shareholding structure, number of shares that make up the company’s share capital, markets where the company’s shares are listed, listed share values, investor’s agenda, significant shareholders and treasury shares, communication channels between the company and its shareholders, etc.
- Documentation regarding stock option plans
- Recommendations on investor positioning
- Take-over bids, public share offerings, rights offerings, etc.
- Credit ratings
- Financial highlights
Contracts/Agreements. We have grouped contracts and agreements under one category given that they share characteristics such as structure, syntax, terminology and phraseology. Contracts that are generated in the corporate world constitute one of the most frequent assignments in the professional practice of translation. In this type of text, specialized, legal language coexists, and is inextricably entwined, with financial and commercial language. It is impossible to include here all the types of contract that require translation in the business field, so the list below should be taken as an illustrative example, given that only the most common contracts in the professional field have been included.
- Company agreements; in the corporate world, these contracts are for commercial companies.
- Purchase and sale agreement for shares
- Share subscription agreements
- Shareholders’ agreements
- Confidentiality agreements
- Merger and acquisition agreements
- Temporary business association agreements
- Joint venture agreements
- Sale and purchase agreements for business premises
- Stock option agreements
- Ordinary employment contracts and senior management contracts
- Insurance contracts
- Supply, agency and distribution contracts
- Financial and business partnership agreements: lease and factoring agreements
- Franchise agreements
- Foreign trade agreements: agreements for the international sale and purchase of goods, international land transport agreements, maritime transport agreements (charter-parties and contracts for the use of a ship, etc.)
Texts about the company’s operations:
- Estimates, purchase orders, invoices, delivery notes and credit notes
- Trade bills (bills of exchange, checks and promissory notes)
- Texts relating to the area of international maritime transport: charter-parties, bills of lading
- Documents in the area of foreign trade: payment orders, letters of credits, certificates of origin, airway bills, export credit insurance contracts, etc.
Texts about business development:
- Business plans
- Feasibility plans
- Documents related to project finance
- MTP (mid-term plans).
- Texts that stem from consultancy and advisory services: audit reports (not accounting), legal advice reports about financial and tax-related issues.
2.4. Banking texts
Banking, seen as a financial institution system, can be divided into retail banking —banks that manage individuals’ and companies’ savings and offer loans and credits— and investment banking —entities that undertake large scale business operations—. Retail banking is without a doubt, the better known of the two by the general public. However, at the heart of investment banking, a large number of texts are generated that require translation. In this field, banking language coexists naturally alongside retail, financial, stock-market, legal and business language.
Retail banking texts. Within this category we can classify texts as follows:
- Financing and refinancing agreements
- Loan and mortgage agreements
- Credit facility agreements, credit transfer agreements
- Current account, credit card, bank transfer and payment services agreements
- Bank deposit agreements
- Guarantee and pledge agreements
- Custodian agreements
- Financial lease, operating lease and factoring agreements
- Investment portfolio management agreements: investment funds and pension plans
Other bank documents:
- Bills of exchange, checks and promissory notes
- Credit facilities
- Syndicated loans
- Letters of credit
- Bank receipts
- Payment or wire transfers
- Bank guarantees
- Project finance documents
- Bank contracts:
Investment banking texts. This section includes texts generated in the framework of the following business operations, where banks act as intermediaries:
- Take-over bids
- Public share offerings
- Rights offerings
- IPO (initial public offering)
- MBO (management buy-outs)
- M&A (mergers and acquisitions)
- Bond issues to obtain funding for companies
- Placement of shares
Many texts that are created in the field of investment banking tend to be closely linked to the stock market, such as texts stemming from take-over bids, public share offerings, rights offerings and initial public offerings, meaning that stock-market terms are very frequent. Other operations that are reflected in investment banking texts take place within the realm of either just one company or between several companies, and therefore, texts that encompass these types of operations could also be included in the business category, as we have done with merger and acquisition agreements that are signed within the framework of M&A transactions.
Furthermore, banking texts can also be divided up into domestic and international banking documents. Domestic banking texts include documents generated by Spanish banks and saving banks, and international banking texts include documents from international banks, both on an international level, such as texts produced by the World Bank as a UN specialized agency or the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), or on an EU level, such as documents generated by the European Central Bank (ECB) or the European Investment Bank (EIB).
2.5. Accounting texts
Accounting can be defined as a standardized cluster of procedures across firms, which allow their daily financial activity to be clearly structured. Correct accounting facilitates internal decision-making in terms of managing and administering the company and is called internal accounting and financial accounting, which shows shareholders, the press and analysts or regulatory bodies the final data resulting from the accounting process carried out at the end of a financial year, is called external accounting. Accounting texts often need to be professionally translated, as companies are required by law to publish the majority of these texts. It is therefore an area full of professional opportunities for a translator. Although accounting texts are undoubtedly prepared from within a company, we can extract certain characteristics that are unique to this type of text and that enable us to categorize them, such as the limited leeway a thorough translator has, who is expected to make use of the terminology regulated by a number of international and national accounting standards.
The key accounting texts, most of which are contained in the document titled Annual Report, include:
- External audit reports
Annual accounts or financial statements. These include:
- Balance sheet or statement of financial position
- Profit and loss account or income statement
- Cash flow statement
- Statement of changes in equity
- Notes to financial statements and statement of source and application of funds
- Management reports
- Directors’ reports
- Audit committee reports
As noted in the first section of our article, there are very few research papers on economic translation that deal with classifying the expert knowledge that is specific to this area of specialization. In order to fill this gap, we have classified the documents in economic and business translation and have defined the various areas that we believe fall within this specialty field, such as the economy, finance, corporate and accountancy. These texts are presented as the most common and representative texts in the professional world of economic and business translation based on our professional experience in this field. It is important to remember that, given the broad subject area under study, the taxonomy proposed in this paper is non-exhaustive and has a mainly methodological objective. In this specialized field of study we have noted that a large number of texts in the business world could qualify as hybrid, since they contain terms and concepts that are difficult to assign to a single category of texts or just to one subject area.
As we discussed in the first pages of this article, we believe that this classification is particularly useful as a teaching and learning tool for students of economic translation for several reasons. On the one hand, it allows students to achieve an overview of a wide variety of texts which are likely to be translated in the professional world of economic and business translation, while doing so in an orderly and systematic way. On the other hand, the classification helps students to ascribe the various texts to their corresponding area of knowledge, thus making them aware of the frequent impossibility of establishing univocal relationships between the texts and the different fields in a context of expertise in which, as we said above, there are numerous hybrid texts presenting terminology and concepts pertaining to more than one area of knowledge. Finally, the classification provides students with access to the basic thematic knowledge of the specialty in question and it familiarizes them with the terminology and phraseology correlated with each knowledge area. Similarly, the systematization of the most common texts found in professional practice is useful for novice translators in this field.
With this classification, we are also defining what we believe should be included in the subject of economic translation, a specialist area within the framework of translation and interpretation teaching at Spanish universities, where there is a lack of consensus among teachers on what should be covered. Moreover, where we are also hoping to highlight the existing gap between some teaching programmes and the reality of professional practice.
We hope to contribute to the recent interest generated with regards economic translation research which should undoubtedly result in more efficient teaching approaches vis-à-vis the contents of study programmes.
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Tesoro Público: http://www.tesoro.es/sp/deuda/glosario.asp
Uría González, Rodrigo (2014) Curso de derecho mercantil. Tomo I, Editorial Civitas Ediciones.
 In the paper Herrero Rodes and Román Mínguez (2013), when our taxonomy was presented, we explained the need to resort to such terms as register and gender: register refers to the way in which interlocutors use language to adapt it to the communicative situation, and gender applies to each of the various manifestations in which registers materialize. For our academic/research purposes we use register and text type as synonyms.