March 29

What is the Code of Ethics and Professional Practice for Translators and Interpreters?

Code of Ethics for Professional Translators and Interpreters

Just like doctors have the Hippocratic Oath and lawyers have the Attorney’s Oath, professional interpreters and translators are equally beholden to certain codes of ethics.

The Code of Ethics and Professional practice regulate the conducts of the professional conduct of translators and interpreters. Although different professional organisations and associations for translators and interpreters have their prescribed code of ethics, in general, these code of ethics although may be worded differently, they all address the following:

  • Responsibility
  • Accuracy
  • Confidentiality
  • Professionalism

To illustrate in detail, let’s take a look at what the American Translators Association (ATA) has to say about the code of ethics for translators and interpreters.

What does American Translators Association say about the Code of Ethics for Translators and Interpreters?

The American Translators Association (ATA) Code of Ethics and Professional Practice maps out several conducts as acceptance of a professional translator and interpreter ethical and professional duty.

  1. To convey meaning between people and cultures faithfully, accurately, and impartially.

    What does this mean?
    Translators and interpreters must uphold linguistic integrity. They must be faithful, accurate, and impartial. Their translation or interpretation must convey the message as the author or speaker intended with the same emotional impact on the audience.

    This does not mean a word-for-word rendering of what is spoken in the source language but it is important that nothing is added or omitted in the target message. For example, when faced with culturally specific terms that do not exist in the target country, the translator or interpreter must come up with an appropriate term given the nature and purpose of the document or proceeding

    Impartial translation and interpreting require the translator or interpreter to adopt a mantle of neutrality.

  2. To hold in confidence any privileged and/or confidential information entrusted to them in the course of their work.

    What does this mean?
    Information obtained are to be held in strict confidence and this includes the fact that the translation and interpretation have taken place. Translators and interpreters must adhere to all existing international, federal, or state laws or acts concerning confidentiality.

    While some information is sensitive and confidential, for example, the information contained in personal documents, financial statements, and court proceedings. There is other information that may not be so obvious and translators and interpreters must be mindful not to disclose this information.

  3. To represent translators’ and interpreters’ qualifications, capabilities and responsibilities honestly and to work always within them.

    What does this mean?
    Professional translators and interpreters must accurately reflect who they are and what they can do, practically and professionally in their resumes, websites, brochures, business cards, and business demeanor.

    Similarly, professional translators and interpreters should decline assignments that are beyond their expertise or capacity.

  4. To enhance those capabilities at every opportunity by continuing education in language, subject field, and professional practice

    What does this mean?
    With the rapid changes and advancement in language, technology, and business models, professional translators and interpreters should travel frequently to countries to enhance their languages and cultural sensitivity. They should also seek continuous education in subject areas, business practices, and other skills by for example attending conferences, seminars (both live and online) or participating actively in online fora.

  5. To act collegially by sharing knowledge and experience.

    What does this mean?
    Sharing of information benefits everyone. As professional translators and interpreters, sharing information, both informally and formally is much-encouraged conduct.

    They can share their knowledge and experience through activities and different platforms such as:

    – Participating in online fora and social media communities
    – Volunteering (both for professional societies and humanitarian causes)
    – Authoring articles and books
    – Presenting at conferences and seminars
    – Mentoring

    Through these sharing processes, professional translators and interpreters can benefit from not just learning by teaching, they can also enjoy increased exposure and improved perception of their expertise and abilities.

  6. To define in advance by mutual agreement, and to abide by, the terms of all business transactions among professional translators and interpreters and with others.

    What does this mean?
    It is widely considered best practice to use a contract or other agreement tool to avoid misunderstandings. The responsibility for this is shared by both parties to an agreement. There is a range of instruments available, from a simple email or telephone conversation all the way to a formal contract that undergoes full legal review.

    The agreement must be fair and acceptable to both parties. Independent translators and interpreters often have templates ready to use with clients who do not have their own contracts or agreements for translators or interpreters to sign.

  7. To ask for and offer due recognition of our work, and compensation commensurate with our abilities.

    What does this mean?
    Due recognition means that translators may seek acknowledgment for their work. Translators can negotiate to have their names included and mentioned. All language service providers are free to negotiate fees that realistically reflect their experience, skills, and quality of service.

What is the recommended code of ethics prescribed for professional translators and interpreters?

In general, the code of ethics for translators and interpreters provides standards of conduct for all to adhere to and respect. They are broadly classified as follows:

Professional conduct

That translators and interpreters behave in a courteous, polite, and dignified manner at all times. They shall at all times maintain a professional attitude in their dealings with other parties and they should strive for professional detachment at all times.

Confidentiality and non-disclosure

That translators and interpreters shall exercise the utmost discretion in all matters relating to their functions and should not communicate and disclose any information obtained from consultation or communication to any parties.

Competence & Accuracy

That translators and interpreters shall only accept assignments that they are competent to perform. During the course of an assignment, if it becomes apparent to interpreters and translators that expertise beyond their technical or language competence is required, they shall offer to withdraw from the assignment.

That translators and interpreters shall convey with greatest fidelity and accuracy the whole message and shall not embellish, omit or edit anything from their work.

Impartiality & Clarity of role boundaries

That translators and interpreters are bound to the strictest impartiality and shall not give legal advice to any person, whether solicited or not. They shall frankly disclose to their supervisor any actual or apparent conflict of interest that may arise during the performance of their duties.

In summary, it is important to know and accept that the functions performed by interpreters and translators require them to act faithfully, independently, impartially, and with full respect for the duty of confidentiality. Failure to abide by these principles may harm interpreters and translators themselves, their fellow professional linguists, and those they serve.

Source:

https://atanet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/code_of_ethics_commentary.pdf

THE CODE OF ETHICS OF INTERPRETERS AND TRANSLATORS EMPLOYED BY THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA


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