Organizations often seek language services when there’s a lot at stake, for instance: health emergencies, legal proceedings, business dealings and government interactions with the public. The language translators and interpreters who provide these services are professionals who should be held to high standards given the importance of their work.
Over the years, professional associations and language services agencies have developed codes of conduct and ethics to guide their work. If you have ever wondered about the standards that guide the translators and interpreters you hire, here’s a quick overview.
Professional linguists strive to convey meaning fully and faithfully. Given the differences between languages and cultures, this is not a matter of transposing content word-for-word from one language to another; it requires rendering the ideas and information in the message with the formality, tone and spirit of the original. Language translators and interpreters do not add or omit material.
This is closely related to accuracy and maintaining the tone of spoken or written communication. A language translator or interpreter must convey meaning neutrally, without allowing his or her own beliefs or biases to impact the message. The language services professional cannot advise or counsel; does not play a role in shaping the message; and should not take assignments where real or perceived conflicts of interest may arise.
Professionals must represent themselves, their abilities, and their qualifications truthfully. They must be honest in evaluating themselves and excuse themselves from work they are not competent to perform.
Language translators or interpreters should not disclose the content of the spoken or written communication from their assignments, publicly discuss details from their work or identify their clients. Most agencies (including LanguageLine Solutions) back this up by signing non-disclosure agreements before beginning an assignment.
Language services professionals maintain an awareness of the various cultures and values affecting their work. They treat all people with respect and do not discriminate.
Language translators and interpreters should continue to enhance their skills and knowledge through education, training and collegial interaction with other professionals in the language services industry and the specialized field(s) in which they work.
Ethics and conduct make up just one aspect of language services, but it’s an important one. Learn more about other factors to consider when choosing a language services provider.