An Agency Perspective on Ethics

In a way, today’s post picks up from where we left off last time out with a review of Anthony Pym’s On Translator Ethics. However, while Pym offered an academic take on what a translation ethics demands of us, today’s discussion provides an interesting agency perspective on ethical matters. Let’s get to it.

The Importance of Integrity Throughout the Translation Process

Maintaining your personal integrity is a priority for professional translators; have you ever considered how integrity plays a vital role throughout the translation process? A translation agency should ensure that their translators show integrity in three key areas, and in this post I’d like to share these with you.

Integrity towards the author

By showing integrity to the author of the document that sits before you, you ensure that you respect their vision for what they want to communicate. It’s not a translator’s place to say that you disagree with some of the author’s key assertions, or that their main argument is completely unfounded — even if it does seem ludicrous to you!

By showing integrity to the author, you’ll keep the accurate translation of their document at the forefront of your aims and goals. And if you really do disagree with the author’s content, then it’s probably best not to accept the contract at all.

Integrity towards the contract

Next, an agency expects their translators to display integrity to the translation contract that they’ve taken on. Displaying integrity to a contract entails more than simply abiding by the terms and conditions of your arrangement: it entails treating a particular contract with the same level of professionalism as any other.

For example, an agency like Tomedes often receives requests for very short translation assignments — sometimes the source text only consists of a single sentence! They require their translators to treat these smaller jobs with the same level of care and professionalism as they would technical, multi-document projects. They’ve found that by treating all contracts equally, they’ve managed to build a loyal clientele who respect their integrity to making and fulfilling contracts.

Integrity towards the text

Finally, a translation agency requires translators to maintain integrity to the text. Translators need to remember that they’re not an editor! Whilst providing a localized translation requires the use of editorial skills, the translator’s primary aim should be to provide a faithful translation of the source text rather than a more readable one.

Bear in mind that some clients may actually want you to perform more detailed editorial duties, but make sure you include that as an extra service in addition to translating the text, and clearly outline what each service you provide entails in your terms and conditions. On the other hand, some clients may be angry if you deviate from the source text without permission, so make sure you provide as direct a translation as possible unless you agree otherwise beforehand.

Final thoughts

By showing integrity towards the author, the contract and the text, you’ll come across as a professional translator who should be valued by their clients. How do you maintain integrity throughout the translation process? Feel free to share your thoughts with us below.


3 responses to “An Agency Perspective on Ethics”

  1. Hi Joseph and Adam,

    This was a great read. Like you said integrity is key. I’m also a big believer that you need to have a positive relationship/be able to build this relationship with an author or client, otherwise the quality of translation may suffer. Just as you referred to with integrity to the with authors work.

    SDL Trados

    1. Hi Dan, thanks for your comment, really glad you enjoyed the post.

      There’s definitely a lot to be said for integrity, honesty and openness. While there’s often an air of distrust that surrounds translators / translation (traduttore, traditore etc.) with the end product inevitably being something that the source author themselves cannot fully assess, developing this kind of relationship certainly goes some way to rectifying that!

      Thanks again and enjoy the weekend.

  2. […] Are Translators and Interpreters a Dying Breed? How to survive the freelancer Hunger Games An Agency Perspective on Ethics Video game translation tools please find […]

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