NAATI-accredited translators and interpreters in Australia are governed by their code of ethics. So if you’re about to take on a NAATI test, here are some ethical dilemmas for you to consider.
- You are asked to translate the narration of a brief video, described to you as “advertising material”. On viewing the video, you see that it is advertising for pornographic materials and, further, that it contains what is obviously publicity for a paedophilia association. What do you do now?
The fact that paedophilia is involved raises issues of disclosure and must be reported to the police. Pornography alone would require some circumspection: it is not necessarily unlawful in Australia, and disclosure without reference to the client may create professional and legal dangers for the translator.
The issue of infamous conduct may also be relevant in situation such as this. Failure to report criminal matters such as paedophilia would doubtless be infamous. But what of accepting an assignment to translate so-called soft pornographic material? This may be a matter of debate within the profession.
- You are sent some medical documents to translate. Upon reading them, you realise that they are about ante-natal testing to determine birth defects and other procedures including abortion. What do you do?
A practitioner who has strong cultural, religious or personal objections to abortion and associated issues would perhaps withdraw from such an assignment, citing inability to maintain impartiality in the face of such material. But if he or she has no strong objections to abortion whatsoever, he or she may accept the assignment and ensure accuracy of the translation by undertaking the appropriate research and not allowing personal beliefs to affect the final work.
- A client has given you a proofreading assignment. The text has been translated by another practitioner and, as you read, you find numerous grammatical and semantic errors – not simply typographical mistakes. This is the fourth time you have corrected work done by that translator and every time there have been serious errors. You now have doubts about their ability and have concluded that, in the interest of the profession, something must be done. What action should you take?
Important issues overarching this scenario are that of professional solidarity and mutual respoect as well as professional development. Before anything else, the matter must be taken up with the other translator and an effort made to resolve the difficulties in a constructive and professional manner. If this proves fruitless, the dispute can be referred to the practitioner’s professional association. In any event, alterations to a text as a result of consultation with other parties must be agreed on by the two translators directly involved.
- A translator friend approaches you with a lengthy translation which he has half-completed. He seeks your help in completing the translation, as he is unable to meet the deadline. What ethical issues are involved, and how can they be resolved?
The translator friend is in effect seeking to sub-contract the work, and this requires the client’s permission. The disclosure of the information in the document of a third party must also have client permission. Resolution in this case lies in full consultation with the client before proceeding any further. If the client agrees to the participation of a second translator, your friend is accountable to the client of the quality of your work, while the highest standard of professional diligence is expected of you.
- You are called to interpret for a terminally ill patient and his family members at a family meeting with the team of medical and health professionals. Some family members pull you aside before entering the room and ask you not to mention the word “cancer” in your interpretation, but to refer to it vaguely as “an illness”. What do you do?
If the word “cancer” is used by any party to the meeting then you are bound to render it into the other language accurately and completely. In accordance with the Code of Ethics, the interprepter is bound to interpret everything faithfully and accurately. The interpreter may, however, suggest to the family that they discuss their concerns with the trating medical staff prior to the meeting.
- You are contracted by a solicitor to interpret in a series of court cases for one of his clients. At the court, before your first appearance, the client offers you a gemstone of a type for which his country is renowned. Should you accept it?
The main issue here is that of gifts and gratuities.. In general, you should accept the fee agreed upon with your client and nothing else. While gift-giving may be culturally appropriate, the more valuable the gift, the greater is the obligation on the pratitioner to refuse with the clearest andmost polite explanation possible, so as to minimise any offence to the client.
- During a parent teacher interview at a secondary school you realise that you are not familiar with a particular core subject which students need to pass. The parents of the student for whom you are interpreting need to be advised that their child is failing this subject. You know that there is no equivalent in your language for this particular subject. What do you do?
It is imperative in this situation that you ask the teacher for clarification. If you are not familiar with the education system of the state you are working in, you must prepare yourself accordingly before the interview takes place and be familiar with the terminology which is appropriate to the situation. You must not under any circumstances omit information just because you are not familiar with the equivalent terminology in your source or target language.
- You are a sessional interpreter at Centrelink. The officer who is conducting the interview asks you to tell the client all about an applicant’s obligations and rights while the officer goes away to get a file. What would you do, and why?
This situation relates to the clause about professional conduct in the AUSIT Code of Ethics. That means the interpreter should explain his role to the officer conducting the interview by informing him that it is the role of the officer and not the interpreter to tell the client about an applicant’s obligations and rights. I am not a Centrelink officer. Accordingly, I would inform the officer that I am there only as a mouthpiece, for the purpose of facilitating the conversation between Centrelink and its client. For this reason, I can speak only when the Centrelink officer or the client does.
I must now explain to the Centrelink officer that I am not in a position to discuss anything with the client at all. Rather, it is the Centrelink officer who needs to do the explaining. The requirement of impartiality could also come into play for similar reasons, as the interpreter would risk compromising impartiality and objectivity by stepping into the Cetrelink officer’s shoes. The same conduct would be expected of the interpreter.
- After an interpreting session dealing with a rent dispute, your client complains to you that the arbitration officer has taken sides. What would you do, and why?
The impartiality requirement and in particular the need for objectivity (AUSIT 4.c.ii) is involved here. The interpreter shall not voice an opinion on any matter in relation to an assignment. Where the interpreting session has in fact concluded, it would always be best to leave the premises as soon as practicable and not get involved in conversation with a client, especially where it concerns a matter just concluded.
Where this has not been possible, it might just be in order to suggest to the client that he talks to his lawyer if he has one or considers lodging a complaint with the Tenancies Tribunal. However, I must under no circumstances allow myself to become involved in such a situation.
Other questions to consider
- Explain the meaning of a conflict of interest
- As a professional interpreter, how would you react if another interpreter criticised your interpretation? Why?
- How would you react if the client turned up late? What if the client did not turn up at all? Explain the reasons.
- What would you do if you were offered an assignment which you realised might be highly specialised and beyond your capabilities?
- You arrive early for an interpreting assignment at a hospital. The client recognises you and starts to tell you that he feels really depressed and is considering suicide. Would you advise the doctor of this conversation or would you keep it to yourself? Explain your answer.
- How would you express your limitations to others without feeling or being made to feel inadequate?
- What would you do if you were offered an assignment with which you disagreed on moral grounds?
- Should an interpreter interpret statements which he knows to be untrue? Give your reasons.
- You’re about to interpret between an officer of Centrelink and a person applying for an allowance. You realise that the applicants is a friend of a friend but is using a different name. What would you do? Explain your reaction.
- If your client is working with you for the first time, what instructions would you give to him to ensure that you work well together?
- What preparations would you make prior to attending an assignment?
- You are sent by an agency to interpret for a client. The client brings a friend along to interpret and refuses your service. What would you do?
- What actions would you take if you were offered a bribe to suppress some information during an interpreting session?
- What measures should interpreters take in order to ensure that their languages skills are up-to-date?
- You are interpreting at an interview between the police and an accused. You realise that the police have not cautioned the accused about the right to remain silent. What should you do?
- You are a freelance interpreter and receive a call from a colleague who is unable to attend an assignment and asks if you will go as a substitute. There is no time to contact the two parties to notify them that you will be the interpreter. What would you do?
- What would you do if you were interpreting between a professional and a couple, who appear to have conflicting views on an issue? Both partners insist that their partner’s viewpoint not be interpreted and the professional not be informed of their difference in opinions.
- Should an interpreter censor vulgar language used by either party?