In any professional community there are unspoken norms and rules that determine what is good and bad within the profession, what can and cannot be done. Moral principles, which include norms of behavior with colleagues and clients, form professional ethics. These rules do not have legal force, but this does not lose their significance: morality regulates not the law, but behavior in the community.
The work of an interpreter involves close contact with people, so the profession has developed its own ethical standards. Professional passport translation associations have systematized the norms of the translator’s professional ethics into several codes of ethics, which, however, repeat the main provisions of each other.
In this article, we will talk about the basic principles of translation ethics, and also talk a little about translator etiquette.
Basic principles of translation ethics
For ease of perception, let’s divide the ethical norms into those that apply in relations with the client, and those that operate in relations with colleagues.
In relationship with the client
Let’s consider 5 most important aspects in relation to a translator with a client.
If the customer transmits information that is not subject to disclosure, the corresponding clause is included in the contract with the translator. However, there is also an ethical side to the issue.
The translator often comes into the hands of a person’s personal data: identity cards, private documents, such as medical records. The translator may not be bound by a confidentiality agreement, but publishing this information in the public domain, in the same portfolio, is unethical. It is considered good manners to ask for permission to publish a particular translation from its customer.
Be a neutral figure
The translator takes a neutral position in relation to what he is translating. He is not entitled to express his own opinion about what the speaker says or about what is written in the text. Its task is to convey the essence of the original message by means of the target language.
When interpreting, emotionality is not welcome, and one should not copy the speaker’s manner – this only inflames the situation, while the interpreter is called upon to promote mutual understanding.
When interpreting, it is allowed to ask short clarifying questions if one of the parties provides incomplete information without context. However, do not abuse this opportunity.
The interpreter has the right to deviate from the principle of neutrality in the event that what the speaker said only aggravates the situation: for example, if the speaker swore, the interpreter will not translate the curse, but simply states that “Mr. N used an obscene expression.” In other cases, the interpreter has no right to interfere in the relations of the parties.
Translate within your competence
The translator performs the translation within the framework of his language and subject competences. This means, for example, that a translator specializing in legal translation will not accept an order for the translation of technical documentation. If a translator performs translations from English into Russian and feels unsure about translating into English, for ethical reasons he will not accept such an order.
Comply with agreements
The translator complies with oral and written agreements with the client: undertakes to deliver the translation within the agreed time, ensures the confidentiality of the information received, uses materials provided by the customer.
If the translator works through an intermediary, it is considered unacceptable to offer his services directly to the customer.
In case of an error…
If the translator finds an error in the original text, he should inform the customer about it and discuss options for further action.
In relationships with colleagues
In relations with colleagues, too, there are aspects regarding ethics. We will consider them.
Maintain good relations
You should not consider colleagues in the industry solely as competitors, even if they are. The professional community is a source of support, mutual assistance and valuable experience. You can exchange orders with colleagues, replace each other in case of force majeure, consult on translation issues.
Public criticism of colleagues is considered unethical.
Refuse to work at extremely low rates
Competition for a job is a natural phenomenon for any profession, but in the translation environment it has its own peculiarity: the translator himself sets the price for his services. The low threshold for entering the profession, the ability to set a price for one’s work encourage dumping – the deliberate underestimation of the price for a service in an effort to win the competition.
Dumping is condemned by the professional community because it contributes to the depreciation of the translator’s work: translation customers get the impression that translation is not difficult, so the payment for it is low. Strongly underestimate the price is not worth it even for beginners.
Last but not least, improve your skills.
The translator does not stop there and periodically improves his skills: improves language skills, learns new types of translation and improves knowledge within the current specialization.
Translator business etiquette
If translation ethics deals with key moral norms, then etiquette deals with everyday situations that arise during business communication.
The norms of business etiquette of an interpreter include:
- business correspondence etiquette,
We are sure that you already know about the rules of business correspondence by e-mail without us. On our own behalf, we add that it is considered good form not to delay the answer to the letter. We also advise you to check the letter before sending it: many people forget to attach the files promised in the body of the letter.
It is accepted to communicate in messengers on business issues only during business hours. You can send a message after business hours, but the recipient can also reply to it at the beginning of the business day.
Voice messages deserve special mention. Definitely, you should not start communication with a voice message – this is considered a gross invasion of a person’s personal space.
The interpreter should be at his workplace in advance – this time is needed in order to get used to the new environment and check the equipment.
You can leave the event only by notifying the customer about it.
Dress code compliance
Dress according to the theme of the event. If you are going to translate for workers at a pipe rolling plant, you should choose comfortable clothing; if at a medical conference , then the clothes should be business.
Ethics is an unspoken regulator of relations between a translator, a Translation Agency in UK and a client. Its observance is a sign of professionalism and solidarity with colleagues.