Ethical Issues in Translating - A Translator's Ethical Responsibilities
Although many people these days are concerned with professional ethics, few people consider the ethical responsibilities of translators. Translators need to maintain their integrity at all times. As a translator (or even an interpreter), you will have a responsibility to your clients to maintain high professional standards, follow through on your promises, and keep information strictly confidential. You will also need to maintain your high ethical standards regarding both the languages you work with and the community at large. Consider, for a moment, the damage that an unethical translator could do to a client. He or she could leak confidential information, translate things he or she knows to be untrue, or simply fail to deliver.
The most basic issue to consider is one's professionalism. You will be expected to be truthful with your clients no matter what the circumstances. If you quote one rate for a client, do not charge another when the project is completed. You should always meet your deadlines, but if that is not possible, make sure to keep in touch with your clients. Basically, do not leave your clients hanging. You should also be honest about your translation experience, knowledge of the language, or knowledge of a given subject. Do not take on projects that you cannot handle; this is unfair to both your clients and yourself.
Secondly, you have a responsibility to translate exactly what is written. Of course, literal translation is rarely the best choice, but you should capture the spirit of the language as much as possible. Do not assume that your client does not know both languages in which you will be working. He or she is trusting you to do the best job possible, and may have someone look over your work if anything seems off. Mistakes are inevitable, but knowingly butchering the text without contacting the client is a sign of a dishonest translator.
You also have a responsibility to the community at large to both translate as accurately as possible and keep confidential information to yourself. You might learn things that your clients wish to keep to themselves; it is your responsibility to be discreet and professional at all times. Remember that you are merely a neutral party. You might need to translate things with which you disagree or find vulgar. Do not inject your own opinions. As you can see, becoming a translator requires more integrity and professionalism than most people realize.
-By Adriana Tassini
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