To translate or not to translate is the problem, which actually turns up to be a question for both translators and interpreters. Because it is always a question which causes much hesitation and disputes.When it comes to the question of ethics in different fields the first ones which most quickly come to mind are medicine and jurisdiction. And, then, after taking few seconds to think you’d mention translation.
But actually, there are several common ethical standards which are accepted across all professions. In other words, there is a set of standards that when applied helps to ensure the best results will be achieved for the client.
What is ethics?
To answer the question “to translate or not to translate?”, it is necessary to begin with the definition of the concept of ethics. It should be noted that ‘ethics’ generally refers to systems of values and moral principles that should guide our notions of right and wrong and, thus, discipline our conduct. It is fair to say that the history of translation studies has been, for the most part, also the history of translation ethics.
What is translator professional ethics?
An ethics of translation lies in deciding upon the right course of action within the act itself, deciding what is the right or wrong treatment of the text we are translating and knowing how to implement those decisions. It implies an acute awareness of your own role in the translation process and a keen awareness of the impact of your decisions on the world around you. Therefore, often the answer to the question “To translate or not to translate?” is based on ethical considerations.
In terms of a professional or translator ethics, the translator is in no position to fully appreciate the significance of their choices or the subtle shades of meaning that are being erased, mangled or mistreated and is thus acting in an unethical manner.
Ethics of translation and interpreting: interpreter ethics
An interpreter is obligated by their profession to interpret everything that is being said.
Interpreters are in a slightly different situation than translators in terms of dealing with ethical situations, due to the very fact that their personal morals will (or potentially will not) coincide with the expected professional morals as set out by various institutions.
Ethics of translation and interpreting: translation ethics
One of the requirements to achieve a good translation is to be faithful and accurate to the source text and this means there is no place for subjectivity. Translators and interpreters at times must make difficult ethical choices. In most cases, these choices positively affect their professionalism as they ensure dedication to a quality product.
The primary duty of interpreters and translators to remain impartial is intended to protect the rights of all parties, there are circumstances when interpreters must weigh the rights of one individual against another to ensure that the objectives of all participants are given equal or adequate space within the interaction. The ability to balance one ethical obligation against another requires moments of genuine ethical insight.
Answering the question “To translate or not to translate?” it is necessary to refer to Multi-Languages Translators Code of Ethics.
What is Multi-Languages Translators Code of Ethics?
Multi-Languages Translators Code of Ethics defines what it means to be an outstanding translator. “Every translation shall be faithful and render exactly the idea and form of the original – this fidelity constitutes both a moral and legal obligation for the translator.” – International Federation of Translators (FIT).
Translator’s Code of Ethics
Translators should endeavor to provide service of the highest quality in their professional practice.
The translator must translate accurately. By accurate translation, we understand a translation that preserves the meaning, style, and register of the source document.
The translator must respect, under all circumstances, confidentiality and privacy of the information contained in all documentation provided by the client for the purpose of translation, unless otherwise required by law. All information submitted shall be confidential and may not be reproduced, disclosed or divulged.
Impartiality and Conflict of Interest
In order to maintain professionalism, the translator must remain impartial and declare any potential conflict of interest (including personal or ethical values and opinions) that may affect his/her performance while translating a document.
Limitation of practice
The translator must know his/her linguistic limitations and decline assignments that go beyond his/her skills and competence.
The translator must only accept assignments that he/she can complete and deliver in a timely manner (by the due date).
The translator must accept documents that he/she can translate. No work should be subcontracted to colleagues without prior written permission.
The translator should possess sound knowledge of the source language and be an expert in the target language.
The translator should accept translations only for fields or subject matters where he/she has knowledge and experience.
The translator is accountable for his/her work and must recognize and acknowledge translation mistakes and try to rectify them even when the translation has been completed, in order to avoid potential liability and risk issues.
- Must seek professional development courses to maintain, improve and expand translation skills and general knowledge through self-teaching, formal and informal continuing education.
- Must acquire the proper terminology and enhance his/her knowledge by creating and updating terminology files.
- Must seek evaluative feedback and practice self-evaluation concerning performance.
Respect for all parties
The translator must show respect for all parties involved in the translation assignment, including respect for self, the agency and to its clients.
The translator must respect copyrights and intellectual property. Translated documents remain the client’s exclusive property.
To sum up, the translation industry is a small, tightly-integrated industry in which people tend to talk a lot. Interpreters and translators encounter a variety of ethical issues and questions in the course of their work. Therefore, to translate or not to translate is quite an urgent issue in modern translation activities. Ethical behavior and the maintenance of high ethical standards are essential to good practice, in developing the profession and in maintaining positive opinions and perceptions. While working as an interpreter or translator, ethical responsibilities overlap with the duty of care. All translators have to strive for an ever higher level of professionalism to bring prestige and respect to themselves and the translation profession.