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Victoria professor advocates simplified accounting standards

Victoria professor advocates simplified accounting standards


A Victoria University academic is calling for accounting standards to be written in more concise English, as the international accounting community prepares to converge its regulation with US standards.

Professor Rachel Baskerville, who has extensively researched issues arising from the translation of accounting standards in the European Union, will discuss her findings in her upcoming inaugural professorial lecture on Tuesday 9 August.

"There are a number of problems translators face when translating accounting standards into other languages, especially when the original version is deemed largely incomprehensible by many native English speakers," says Professor Baskerville.

"My research has found that the technical complexity of the standards is one of the biggest challenges translators struggled with.

"Some of the standards can be quite unwieldy, the International Accounting standard on Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement being a case in point-the previous Chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board Sir David Tweedie himself said of this standard: 'If you think you understand the standard, you have not read it properly'. So quite understandably, translators run into problems."

Because most accounting theory originated in English, precise translations can be difficult and translators must find creative ways to define difficult terms or concepts. Professor Baskerville says the translators she surveyed most commonly resolved such problems by circumlocution (describing a concept in a number of words) or paraphrasing. Some added explanatory notes or even coined new phrases.

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Some of the issues lay in the lack of distinctions in accounting concepts. For instance in Finland there is just one word for 'depreciation' and 'amortisation'.

"Translations can be problematic if these types of issues are not fully addressed and understood," says Professor Baskerville.

"I would recommend that as the international accounting community prepares to converge its regulation with US standards, we must consider 'less is better than more'. Standards are quite long enough, and both educators and students world-wide would appreciate clearer and more understandable English, even before translators have to cope with them."

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