The Ethics of Translation

This is a guest posting from David Rainey at DAMMANN German-English Translations.

German Translators, Ethical Translations and Ethical Behaviour

In the course of their duties German translators come across a number of ethical translation issues they need to handle. As a result of this ethical behaviour, maintaining good ethical standards is necessary in order to keep to the best possible practice in translations.
There are some translating organisations, like the National Accreditation Authority for Interpreters and Translators (NAATI) in Australia, that ensure ethical standards are followed in the Australian translation environment. In fact, if NAATI believes that if one of its practitioners has not stuck to the required code that translator may lose the much sought after NAATI accreditation that allows translators in Australia to undertake translations for high profile organisations like government authorities such as the courts and the immigration service.
There are 3 bodies in the country that take part in developing ethical translation criteria in Australia and they include NAATI, the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) and for interpreters, the Australian Sign Language Interpreters’ Association (ASLIA). Also, when working with certain organisations German translators must follow the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC)

General ethical translation principles for German translators and interpreters are as follows:

  • Respect the client’s right to confidentiality and privacy
  • Reveal any conflicts of interest that are perceived or real
  • Refuse work that the translator is not competent or accredited to undertake
  • Discuss the translation job openly with the client
  • Remain professionally detached from both the client and the translation
  • Don’t use any confidential information discovered in a translation project that could bring about personal gain

When a German translator has reached the standard to pass NAATI accreditation it is acknowledging that the individual when undertaking a translation can transfer effectively information in relation to government, legal or medical matters in a way that the recipients will understand.
Many clients in Australia will not hire German translators without NAATI accreditation. This is partly because the NAATI accreditation takes a good look at ethical translation issues and teaches translators to work appropriately in this area. When German translators sit the NAATI exam they need to be able to answer questions related to ethics.
During the test the participants are given a scenario as it would take place with a translator out on the field. In the questions participants are asked to point out the ethical principle. They have to be able to state which principle a certain statement is related to.
Getting accreditation from NAATI doesn’t mean a translator can’t turn down a translation on ethical grounds. For example, a Muslim translator may refuse to translate texts related to alcohol, porn, casinos, adultery or anything that appears offensive to any ethnic or religious group as well as their own.
When it comes to translating a story found in the news media, if the translator believes the story is an exaggeration, or even a blatant lie, he or she may refuse to translate on ethical grounds. Morals, religion and ethics all play a major role when it comes to a translator’s choices. The news media gains supporters through mistruths and exaggeration and not all translators are prepared to be a part of this sort of translation work even though a translator in the end provides a very good translation, whether it’s ethical or not.
One translator turned down a translation of a whale researcher’s article because the article contained a finely tuned argument that defended commercial whaling, even down to the scientific detail that backed up the view. Sometimes, of course, a savvy translator whether he or she believes in the article or not could be doing the anti-whaling community a favour by translating such an article as it brings attention to the sort of people who are involved in the pro-whaling community.
Another relatively common ethical reason for refusing a translation project is the pay that is offered is too little and the translator doesn’t want to set a precedent in the translation community. There are times when a translator may put up with lower pay if the recipient has limited means but urgently needs a translation for humanitarian reasons. There are even some sympathetic translators who will offer their services pro bono because a client’s future depends on a reliable translation.

Ethics of a German translator

A translator resembles the role of an interpreter who has to report precisely what is said, whether agreeing with it or not. A translator might have his or her own opinion on a subject but this should not affect accepting or rejecting a job. What is more important is that the client can expect to receive a reliable and authentic translation free from bias of the translator.

Author Bio:-
My interest in writing became important to me in 2001 after I gained an MA in Applied Linguistics and I started to move into writing as a means of securing an income.  I have since then specialised in writing blog posts and web pages for a variety of clients including those in the legal and translation niches. I have built up the ability as a highly skilled writer to communicate with a variety of audiences and in an array of styles and formats. Over the past few years, I have worked with executives, entrepreneurs, industry experts and many other professionals in writing and publishing, SEO web content, blogs, newspaper articles and more.
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Multilizer / Niko Papula

I am managing director of Multilizer, a Finnish software company specialising in software for enhancing translation quality, speed and cost.