Ethics
Thread poster: Alberto Orengo

Alberto Orengo  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:52
English to Italian
+ ...
May 20, 2006

Hi everybody. I would be interested to hear your ideas on translation ethics. How do you see age-old debates such as function vs. ethics, ethics vs. profit, etc. What is ethical/unethical? Does ethics still have a place? I know this is a very broad and controversial issue, but there are a few already existing lines of discussion: 1) ethics as respecting/representing alterity 2) ethics as commitment to commercial relationship translation/client 3) ethics vs. deontology 4) impossiblity of ethics when translation is based on pure cost/benefit relation. Personal thoughts from practical experience as well as scholarly remarks are welcome. Thanks, Alberto

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:52
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
What is your question? May 20, 2006

Alberto Orengo wrote:
Personal thoughts from practical experience as well as scholarly remarks are welcome.


What makes this thread about ethics different from existing threads? What is your question? How about some specifics... what exactly do you want us to discuss about ethics?


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Dan Butuza  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 21:52
English to Romanian
May 20, 2006



[Edited at 2006-05-21 10:57]


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Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:52
Member (2004)
German to English
Not sure I understand the language May 21, 2006

Hi Alberto,

Alterity isn't even in my dicationay. Can you say what you mean by "ethics as respecting/representing alterity".

I'd be interested, too, to know why you are asking this range of questions without reference to any practical examples - is it part of some academic study you are carrying out?


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John Colangelo  Identity Verified
Qatar
Local time: 21:52
Member (2006)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Alterity ... May 22, 2006

I have to be honest, I haven´t heard or seen this word until now either. In the Merriam Webster Dictionary Online, we have the following:


Main Entry: al·ter·i·ty Pronunciation Guide
Pronunciation: l-ter--t, -te-r-
Function: noun
Etymology: Late Latin alteritat-, alteritas, from alter
Date: 1642
: OTHERNESS; specifically : the quality or state of being radically alien to the conscious self or a particular cultural orientation


When I think of ethics, one of the things that comes to mind is confidentiality between translator and customer. His or her original text along with the translation should be kept private. The 2nd thing that comes to mind is the fact that as a translator you promise to transmit the meaning as well as spirit of the text.

John


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Alberto Orengo  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:52
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Ethics May 22, 2006

Thanks to all for your replies. Well, "alterity" is the perspective of the other, in translation the capacity of respecting the "otherness" of the source culture by letting it through. It was the argument of translation theorists in the 1980s who challenged the idea that "a translation should not read a translation".

to Armourel, yes, I am writing on translation ethics, and the reason why I am posting this question is that I am perhaps more interested in the opinion of practitioners than theories. I also see, as a translator, how difficult is to establish universals when the business nature of this profession so often takes over.


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Alberto Orengo  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:52
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Ethics May 24, 2006

Samuel, thanks for your post... not that I "want" you to discuss about ethics, nobody is obliged to, I am just curious about what people out there think of ethics in translation, such as priorities, approach to text, etc... as I haven't seen any other thread specifically doing so. I'll try to be more specific: "what is ethical in translation and what is unethical for you".

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hunter7335
English to Chinese
Professional ethics is not the whole story of translation ethics Oct 29, 2006

Many people equate translation ethics with professional ethics of the translator, but I think the translator is faced with far more problems in real translation activitlies, and these problems cannot be solved by professional ethics satisfactorily.

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Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:52
German to English
+ ...
Professional ethics is hard enough for most people Dec 24, 2006

You are right, hunter7335, there is more to ethics than professional ethics. Still, it would be a good start for some people if they started showing some regard for professional ethics. For example, you see people on KudoZ saying you can’t possibly translate something in the obvious way, because it’s offensive, politically incorrect, nonsensical or whatever, even though these criticisms (if they are criticisms) apply equally to the original. Our job is to translate as accurately as possible, within certain constraints. It is professionally unethical to change the content of what one translates other than for reasons of these constraints (for example, a pun, a metaphor or cultural reference that would not be understood or—worse still—be understood as meaning something completely different, or an original which can’t be translated accurately without completely defeating its purpose, etc.). It is also unethical in the standard sense of the word, because it is a form of lying.

Sometimes, ethics in the ordinary sense of the word and professional ethics come into conflict. This may depend on how one construes professional ethics, though. For example, in the document given to to translators intending to sit for the NAATI (National Authority for the Accreditation of Translators and Interpreters, Australia) accreditation exam, which includes an ethics paper, there is the following example. You are asked to review a colleague’s work, and it is hopeless. Not only that, this is also the fourth occasion you have been asked to review this person’s work, and each time it has been hopeless. The answer says that you should not tell the client the guy is hopeless, but write to him and ask him to improve. Is this going to work? Is the guy making mistakes deliberately? Or is he just too stupid to do any better? I think the latter is far more likely, and if he is making mistakes deliberately, he certainly doesn’t deserve any protection from “collegiality”. If there is such an obligation, it is surely overridden by one’s obligation to the client (who is, after all, paying for an assessment of the no-hoper’s work). In such cases, I would tell the client “This guy is hopeless, please do not ask me to review or edit his work again!”

Other problems may arise in cases where the material is either ethically dubious itself or likely to be used for ethically dubious purposes. Here, I think, you have a clear choice: either accept the job and do it to the highest professional standards or refuse it. Accepting a job but “toning down” the style or content is a complete abdication of professional ethics and of one’s own credibility.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 13:52
German to English
Translators as social activists? Dec 26, 2006

Richard Benham wrote:

For example, you see people on KudoZ saying you can’t possibly translate something in the obvious way, because it’s offensive, politically incorrect, nonsensical or whatever, even though these criticisms (if they are criticisms) apply equally to the original. Our job is to translate as accurately as possible, within certain constraints. It is professionally unethical to change the content of what one translates other than for reasons of these constraints (for example, a pun, a metaphor or cultural reference that would not be understood or—worse still—be understood as meaning something completely different, or an original which can’t be translated accurately without completely defeating its purpose, etc.). It is also unethical in the standard sense of the word, because it is a form of lying.



Yes, Richard, a form of lying. These days if a student signs up for a Shakespeare class at a US university, he shouldn't be surprised if the primary texts assigned by the literature professor are sociological studies of gender or class issues and the secondary literature consists of a few Shakespeare plays to be used for the purpose of documenting the Bard's sexist attitudes. With this kind of education it is little wonder that some of today's translators approach their task with a distorted view of their mission.

Gender Issues in Translation Studies
By Vanessa Leonardi
A brief review of literature written on the issue of feminist translation studies. The article will analyze gender differences in translation by looking at the way women have been using language in translation as a strategy to spread or communicate their feminist ideals. Broadly speaking, translation here means the act of reproducing a text whose meaning is transferred from one language to another. But what kind of relationship exists between gender issues and translation studies? How is the equivalence of a text maintained in feminist translation, and to what extent?

http://www.atanet.org/bin/view.pl/29237.html

Gender, Sex and Translation
Book review - The Manipulation of Identities

.... attempts to suppress the blatantly patriarchal and sexist references in the German dubbed versions of James Bond films;

http://www.stjerome.co.uk/page.php?id=220&doctype=StJBooks§ion=1&msg=&finds=0&string=

Gender in Translation is the first full-length study of the feminist issues surrounding translation studies. In this unprecedented and thought-provoking work, Sherry Simon argues that feminist theory challenges the traditional view of authority in translation, allowing translators to be literary activists and to create new lines of transmission. With close examinations of the history of feminist theories of language and translation studies;

http://www.amazon.com/Gender-Translation-Studies-London-England/dp/0415115361


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