Why Translate Articles of Incorporation?


The “Articles of incorporation” for a company is the document that establishes the terms of existence for that company, specifying details like the duration, purpose, and issuance of shares. This document can also go by many other names, such as “articles of association”, “certificate of incorporation”, or “corporate charter”; for LLCs, it can be called “articles of organization” or “certificate of organization”.

In Spanish, depending on the country, this document can be called “acta constitutiva”, “escritura constitutiva”, “escritura social”, “escritura de constitución”, “certificado de incorporación”, “pacto social”, or “constitución social” (Full list from Spanish-English Dictionary of Law and Business, Thomas L. West III).

There are a number of reasons why the articles of incorporation for an international company would have to be translated into English; they are required for many aspects of doing business, such as fulfilling legal requirements, establishing bank accounts, getting visas for employees, etc. I have researched the details of a few specific cases where articles of incorporation are required and included the details below.

Employee visas

There are a couple types of visas that require the articles of incorporation of a company sending an employee to the United States (source: USCIS instructions).

  • L-1 visa [wikipedia]: This visa is for employees of an international company being relocated from a foreign office to the United States. There are two types: L-1A [USCIS], which is for executives and managers, and L-1B [USCIS], which is for employees with specialized knowledge.
  • E-2 visa [wikipedia] [USCIS]: This visa is for someone “coming to the United States to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which he or she has invested or is actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital. “

Bank Accounts

Due to the establishment of KYC laws (“Know Your Customer” laws), banks are required to verify the identity of persons or entities opening bank accounts. In the United States, Section 326 of the Patriot Act (2001) directed the Treasury Department to establish minimum standards for verifying identification. The Treasury Department established the Customer Identification Program to implement this requirement; it states in 31 CFR § 103.121(b)(2)(ii)(A)(2) [Cornell.edu] that “A bank must implement a written Customer Identification Program (CIP) appropriate for its size and type of business”; “For a bank relying on documents, the CIP must contain procedures that set forth the documents that the bank will use. These documents may include:” …

“For a person other than an individual (such as a corporation, partnership, or trust), documents showing the existence of the entity, such as certified articles of incorporation, a government-issued business license, a partnership agreement, or trust instrument.”

SEC filings

A business that wants to sell shares in the public stock market in the United States has to file a number of documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Regulation S-K, item 601 [cornell.edu] spells out which exhibits have to be included with which forms. One of the exhibits (number 3) is the articles of incorporation of the entity. This exhibit is required when any of the following SEC forms are filed: S-1, S-4, S-11, F-1, F-4, 10, 8-K, 10-D, 10-Q, and 10-K.


There are many other cases besides the ones listed above where a company would need to translate their the articles of incorporation; these ones are just a subset. This shows that if a foreign company wants to do business in the United States, it is fairly certain that their articles of incorporation would need to be translated.

Disclaimer: none of this information should be construed as legal advice.

Surveys of Spanish to English Translation Rates


A common topic on translation blogs is what rates translators should charge. Inspired by Kevin Lossner’s summary of the survey for Germany in 2013, I decided to look up translation rate surveys in several countries that included Spanish to English translation.

  • France: The SFT (Société française des traducteurs = French Society of Translators) did a survey of translators in 2009 [French]. According to their respondents, the average rate for Spanish to English was roughly 18 cents per word (13 euro cents).
  • United Kingdom: The Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL) published the results of a rate survey in November 2012 which covered 2011. It looks like it was originally published for a fee, but now seems to be publicly accessible. The median for Spanish to English seems to be roughly 13 cents per word (for direct clients; 8 GPB pence).
  • Spain: Asetrad (Asociación Española de Traductores, Correctores e Intérpretes = Spanish Association of Translators, Copy-editors and Interpreters) did a survey of translation rates in Spain in 2009 [Spanish]. They didn’t give averages, but they gave the lowest and highest amounts that translators charged. The median of the lowest amounts was 8 cents (6 euro cents), and the median of the highest amounts was 16 cents (12 euro cents). If the real average is halfway between the two, that would be 12 cents (9 euro cents).
  • United States: The ATA (American Translators Association) last published its Translation and Interpreting Compensation Survey in 2008; a summary is available here (courtesy of Erin Sober’s TranslatEdit website). Average translation rates, depending on language pair, range from 11 cents to 18 cents per word. (I don’t have access to the full survey so I don’t have the Spanish to English rates.)

Translation requests are not complete without context


The American Translator’s Association has a great guide for buying translations called “Translation: Getting it Right“. This is a must-read for anyone who needs a translation done and is unfamiliar with the world of requesting translations.

One component of requesting translations that is very important is the context around a document. Translation cannot be done with only the document to translate and no other information; a lot of things external to a document affect how it is translated. For example, one important thing to know is if the translation is being done “for information” or “for publication”. Someone might want a “for information” translation if they only want to understand a document, but it doesn’t have to have perfect style because it’s not going to be published.

Another case is that the person who needs a translation might need it to be done for a different audience than the original. This means the style, register, and other aspects of the language will be different than if the audience was the same as the original. This audience question is very important and can result in very different translations; there is absolutely not one “correct” translation for any particular document. Think about it in terms of original-language writing: if someone asks you to explain how a new phone works, then you need to know if you’re explaining it to – a five year old, a technology-savvy college student, or an elderly person who hasn’t used very much technology. You will use very different words, different analogies, and convey different levels of information.

So overall, that means a translation request isn’t complete if it only contains the document to translate – it needs the context too.

Cultural Difference Map


I recently encountered Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory, which classifies world cultures into six different dimensions. It is interesting to use the link above to compare two countries at a time, but I wanted to see how each culture compared to all of the rest all at the same time. To accomplish this, I created a world map using jVectorMap which shows cultural differences through different shades of gray – darker is more similar, lighter is more different. You can just hover over each country to see how different it is from the rest. Check out the Cultural Difference Map to play with it yourself.

There are some obvious similarities, such as the fact that the United States and Australia are very similar. There are some surprises though, such as the high similarity of Peru and Thailand; in fact, Peru is closer to Thailand that any other measured country, including all of the Spanish-speaking countries. Another surprising similarity is Brazil and Turkey. Does anyone have any explanations for these similarities?

Difference between Peru and Thailand

Relative Differences of European Languages


I recently came across this fascinating chart that graphically shows the “lexical distance” between among the languages of Europe. It’s a really neat diagram, but unfortunately it doesn’t use ISO language codes in its abbreviations, so some of the languages can be hard to figure out. I already had a sense of some of these distances, but not others. One of the more interesting things to look at is the distance between the major Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian) and the less-known Romance languages that lie between them (Catalan, Romansh, Sardinian, etc). It shows that you can go between Spanish and French using only connections between close languages: Spanish -> Catalan -> Italian -> Romansh -> French. Italian seems to stand midway between Spanish and French. As for English, there are no languages connected with a small lexical distance; the closest is Frisian.

I decided to go through the effort of figuring out what each language in the chart is, and made out some tables below to show the result. I’m not 100% sure on all of them because there are some ambiguities: “Sr” and “Srb” both could be either “serbian” or “sorbian”. I resolved which was which by looking at language trees to see what language neighbors they are closer to; “Sr” was closest to “Pol” (polish) and “Cze” (Czech), and both of those are in the West Slavic language family which includes Sorbian. The difficulty of deciphering non-standard abbreviations really highlights the advantages of using a standard.


Chart ISO 639-1 ISO 639-2/T Language name
Bre br bre Breton
Ga gd gla Gaelic
Ir ga gle Irish
We cy cym Welsh


Chart ISO 639-1 ISO 639-2/T Language name
Cat ca cat Catalan
Fre fr fre French
Glc gl glg Galician
Ita it ita Italian
Por pt por Portuguese
Pro oc oci Provençal/Occitan
Rm rm roh Romansh
Rom ro ron Romanian
Spa es spa Spanish
Srd sc srd Sardinian


Chart ISO 639-1 ISO 639-2/T Language name
Bok nb nob Bokmål (Norwegian)
Dsh da dan Danish
Dut nl nld Dutch
Eng en eng English
Fa fo fao Faroese
Fri fy fry Frisian
Ger de deu German
Ice is isl Icelandic
NN nn nno Nynorsk (Norwegian)
Swe sv swe Swedish


Chart ISO 639-1 ISO 639-2/T Language name
Est et est Estonian
Fin fi fin Finnish
Hun hu hun Hungarian


Chart ISO 639-1 ISO 639-2/T Language name
Lat lv lav Latvian
Lit lt lit Lithuanian


Chart ISO 639-1 ISO 639-2/T Language name
Alb sq sqi Albanian
Grk el ell Greek


Chart ISO 639-1 ISO 639-2/T Language name
Blr be bel Belarusian
Bul bg bul Bulgarian
Cro hr hrv Croatian
Cze cs ces Czech
Ma mk mkd Macedonian
Pol pl pol Polish
Rus ru rus Russian
Slo sl slv Slovene
Sr wes Sorbian
Srb sr srp Serbian
Svk sk slk Slovak
Ukr uk ukr Ukranian