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Poll: How do you handle jobs on subjects which go against your personal beliefs/ethics?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 09:13
SITE STAFF
Mar 29, 2007

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How do you handle jobs on subjects which go against your personal beliefs/ethics?".

This poll was originally submitted by Percy Balemans

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 11:13
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I reject them Mar 29, 2007

I have never translated and will never translate any single word related to paedophilia, for instance. I don't care if they pay the same day using a 10 €/word rate.

People could state the same according to their political, religious, etc. points of view.


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 18:13
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Religious disbeliefs Mar 29, 2007

I was once offered a translation of what I believe to a rewriting of the history of a certain area, produced by a religious organisation. After having rejected a previous similar offer, on the second occasion I decided to take the work, basing my acceptance on freedom of expression. However my conscience never felt too good after that.

I would not now accept work which was obviously furthering a number of causes, nor obviously linked with, say, child pornography, anorexic body image, arms agreements, to name but a few.


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Reed James
Chile
Local time: 14:13
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
I accept them... but I do have my limits! Mar 29, 2007

My fields of expertise: business and law are usually pretty plain and simple. For the most part, my personal life is separate from my translating life. Almost all of my assignments are just part of the job, and if I disagree with the subject matter, I do my job and simply forget about it.

This is not to say that I do not have my limits. Once, as a volunteer translator when I was just starting out, I was assigned to translate newspaper articles of a political nature. In one of the articles, there were many strong anti-American and anti-capitalist sentiments. I opted not to translate the article and stopped my volunteer work right then and there.


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:13
Spanish to English
+ ...
looking forward to... Mar 29, 2007

I don't face the situation much since I do mostly scientific translations or reports.
I have to admit though, when I first started translating laboratory trial reports and found out what animal experiments involved I felt like crying. I was ready to become an animal rights activist!!
Fortunately, things have come a long way in animal experimentation and there's more control (laws, regulations, etc.) than there used to be. I'm looking forward, however, to the day when no animals are used.


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Buck
Netherlands
Local time: 18:13
Member (2007)
Dutch to English
Turning down work Mar 29, 2007

In my 14 years of translating, I have never turned down a job because it conflicted with my personal beliefs. I'm a legal translator, so there isn't much chance of me getting a job that does conflict. I would, however, refuse to translate pornography or anything of an explicity sexual nature.

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Claudia Aguero  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 11:13
Spanish to English
+ ...
I just said "Other" Mar 29, 2007

I'm not sure where my case falls into any of these categories.
At present I'm translating several documents for a man who is suing a former boss who I really appreciate.
When I first accepted the job, I did not realize who "the other party" was. I told my client that I had worked for that man. We talked about it and my client decided to continue sending me his documents.

Despite how much I appreciate my former boss, I just do my job.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:13
Flemish to English
+ ...
Question asked before Mar 29, 2007

http://www.proz.com/post/437040#437040

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:13
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Mar 29, 2007

and, I suppose, a certain suspension of disbelief helps.

I have worked under package contracts (and interpretation often comes as a package contract; you have no way of knowing what they're going to say next). But that can't mean that you intersperse delivery with your private comments (a discipline I uphold with conviction). The upshot is usually "grin and bear it", even though a long-term situation like this can give you a depression.

The legal practice has a way of implementing the condition that lawyers should actually believe in the cases they defend. I don't know why it's simply assumed that we're, er, parrots, and it shouldn't matter to us.

On the other hand, I really DID appreciate a client who bashfully informed me at the outset that his assignment was an "adult" affair that I might not be disposed to take on. I refused, but not because I disagreed -- I simply didn't have the specific tools (read: dicos) at hand and would've run a risk he didn't deserve.


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:13
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Refuse Mar 29, 2007

I did it once... well, once I translated some documents (legal) regarding divorce proceedings. I was still a student (Masters degree) and the guy's brother approached someone in the department and that person in turn asked him to ask me to translate.

Maybe I wouldn't have felt so bad had these been ordinary documents. But while translating them I had the distinct feeling that this person was trying to hide his financial status so that he wouldn't have to pay alimony and also that he was somehow trying to cheat.

I'm not a legal expert but it was quite evident.

I really hated it. But I did it then because I had accepted the job... and there was not something really illegal in it... I am still sure that he was trying to cheat his wife.

I felt really bad about it. So I don't translate such papers any more. No use feeling bad later on.


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Hilary Davies Shelby
United States
Local time: 11:13
German to English
Quietly refuse Mar 29, 2007

Interesting poll!

One of my specialist subjects is cosmetics, so I sometimes get asked to do texts for companies which engage in animal testing. I am COMPLETELY against this, so if I know that the company in question does it, I don't accept the job. Luckily there aren't so many that I am continually turning down work, but it does happen.

I also occasionally get medical texts which touch on similar subjects. After a nasty experience early on in my freelancing career, I always "scan" these texts now to make sure that there is nothing horrific lurking on page 9, for example, before accepting the job! I'm always happy to translate texts on medical innovations which require fewer animals to be used in medical developments and testing.

I've also translated eyewitness testimonies from the Holocaust. While this was harrowing work, and did reduce me to tears at a couple of points, I felt it was very important to do it as well as it could be done, in order to ensure that these terrible stories were told as accurately as possible.

The flip side of this is that I can use my translation skills to promote causes I DO believe in, and I do do occasional pro bono jobs for charities and campaigns I feel strongly about.

[Edited at 2007-03-29 16:57]


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:13
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
It can enlighten one, perhaps ... Mar 29, 2007

ProZ.com Staff wrote:

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How do you handle jobs on subjects which go against your personal beliefs/ethics?".

This poll was originally submitted by Percy Balemans

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


I once had to translate some tapes of male French African voices justifying female circumcision, which were pretty horrible, especially as the tapes were fuzzy and I had to listen to them over and over again. I disliked it intensely, but I think they were probably required by an organisation which was campaigning against that nasty practice, so it was for a worthy purpose.
I suppose I'd find it hard to translate something justifying the loony beliefs of "creationists", but it might make me laugh.
I sometimes tell my friendly agency clients my views of certain jobs on the phone, but I usually take the job if it's within my field.
Regards,
Jenny.


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Stephanie Mitchel  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:13
French to English
Hasn't happened yet, Mar 29, 2007

so either I've been fortunate or I have a flimsy sense of ethics!

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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 09:13
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I have two instances Mar 29, 2007

I have worked on a political magazine and I disagreed with 90% of what the articles said there, except for the stories about humanitarian work in Latin America and the efforts to put an end to drug and human trafficking.

Sometimes I felt bad voicing those bias opinions into my native language, but I'd just take a deep breath and do my job, because I understand that the magazine has a target audience that believes in those statements, so who am I to judge.

Besides, if I turned down the job someone else would take it. It's not like the magazine will cease to exist if I don't translate it. And I'd rather do it than see it mistranslated by someone else, as it was the case before I took over.

The other instance was related to religion. Since I'm not religious at all, I remained neutral and stuck to the message because I understand that there is a target audience out there that will benefit from it.

Anyway, if it was something just plain wrong, unethical, dreadful, gross... Well, I'd have to turn it down and let someone else who has the stomach to do it step up and do it.


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lexical  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:13
Portuguese to English
I voted "Other"... Mar 29, 2007

...because I've never yet been put in that position. Maybe I've got a poorly developed moral sense or (as I like to think) I'm tolerant of views that diverge from mine.

Like Reed, I think I manage to keep my personal feelings and beliefs out of my professional activity as a translator, and like Rafa, I accept that there are audiences out there that, under the principle of free speech, are entitled to air their views within the limits of the law. It's not a huge step from refusing to translate something because it conflicts with your beliefs to book burning.

We argue - quite rightly - in these forums for our professionalism, and other professionals face this dilemma. But lawyers don't refuse to defend people accused of murder or rape, and doctors don't decline to treat people who have overdosed on illegal drugs.
The lawyers may not believe a word their client tells them, and the doctors may well feel their skills would be better employed on involuntarily sick patients, but their professionalism comes first.

If we want to be taken seriously as a profession, I think we have to overcome these personal reservations and remember that translating a text about animal testing, for example, does not make us vivisectionists and translating a text about political extremism does not make us neo-Nazis, any more than defending a rapist in court makes the lawyer a sex offender. There is no guilt by association, and simple distaste could be argued to be self-indulgence.


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