METM18 presentation 

Macroeconomics and development: translating for international institutions

Timothy Barton, Oranjemund, Namibia

Many international institutions need English-speaking translators and editors who understand basic macroeconomics and are familiar with international development. The institutions generally pay good rates, but in exchange, they expect competence in the field.
As an introduction, I will look briefly at which institutions require translations in macroeconomics, international development and related fields, and which languages they work with. I will also explain the recruitment methods of certain international organisations, including the United Nations.
I will then look at some key concepts in the field, discuss certain stylistic considerations, and illustrate, with examples, some of the pitfalls authors face when writing about macroeconomic data. I will discuss aspects such as the difference between estimates and projections; the relationship between an economy’s current account and its balance of payments and how they are related to the terms deficit and surplus; and what a country’s trade balance is and how it relates to exports and imports. Examples of pitfalls will be drawn from real mistakes I have seen in macroeconomic reports that I have worked on for international institutions.
The final part of my presentation will look at style issues, with a particular focus on the need to vary the words used to describe economic indicator changes (rose, surged, grew, rebounded; dropped, fell, crashed, shrank, plummeted; considerably, notably, sluggishly, etc.), lest the document become tediously monotonous. I will also discuss quirks of the style guides of international financial institutions, including how to refer to currencies and to politically sensitive place names (Hong Kong, Macedonia, Falkland Islands / Malvinas, etc.).
I will end my presentation by explaining ways translators can add value to their services to stand out from the crowd.

About the presenter

Timothy Barton ( is a freelance translator and editor based in Oranjemund, Namibia. He specialises in macroeconomics and has translated economic reports for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development since 2007. He has also translated documents for the International Development Bank Group and has translated economics books for two authors.