God Complex

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God Complex

By Marcia Pinheiro | Published  03/5/2013 | Translation Techniques | Recommendation:
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Quicklink: http://www.proz.com/doc/3749
Marcia Pinheiro
English to Portuguese translator
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Not only a few times do we experience conflict when translating documents.

Since breaching the law implies breaching the ethical code, we should worry about whether what we do is legal or not.

Not only a few times do we notice inconsistencies in the data that appears in the documents that we are translating.

A major problem is then deciding on whether we disclose our discomfort with such inconsistencies to the readers of our texts or not.

I have learned that even traditional institutions from first world nations may not care enough about the documents that they emit. A number of my own documents contain at least three different names for one of my one year postgraduate courses and none of them is the name of the course that I have attended.

The inconsistency in the material in this case is, by no means, a sign of criminal activity.

The risks involved in such a situation are several. One of them is that the readers blame the translator, instead of the institution that has emitted the documents, for all those inconsistencies.

We should then make use of notes: It suffices that we tell the reader, through those, that the original document brought precisely that wording for us to be safe.

I used to inform the readers of the documents that I translated about inconsistencies at the beginning of my career. I thought that that way I was making it clear that I was not collaborating with any criminal, therefore I was protecting myself against any possible legal guilt over the distribution and use of likely-to-be forged documents.

With time, however, I changed my mind (for I myself have been a victim of negligence of governmental and private institutions, in terms of documents, many times, and I am completely honest, like I have never tried to criminally modify any part of my human history on earth so far). I have decided for at most explaining that the inconsistencies in my work are compatible with the inconsistencies in the original document.

I also write a statement of compliance with the ethical code at the end of my pages (something that be understood as to the best of my knowledge, this is a faithful reproduction of the original document in the target-language) and mention the source of the documents I translate (to maximum amount of detail) somewhere in my documents (for instance, if I have received my source-language document via electronic post, I then write something like the original document has reached my hands via electronic post, through the address…).

The presence of the just-mentioned data (the statement of compliance with the ethical code and the statement of disclosure of the source) guarantees, to the reader of the translated version of a document, that the translator of the piece does not suffer from a serious case of god complex.

A god complex sufferer would obviously believe that they can guarantee that their work and service agreements are perfect in all senses, also legally speaking.

They believe that they can judge others in terms of their moral standards and that they can use their profession to warn third parties about their own clients.

There is a tiny line splitting protecting ourselves from legal consequences that we cannot foresee by the moment we are translating a text from accusing others of criminal activity through our service provision however.

Whilst self-protection is a necessity and not having standard procedures in place for that end is irrational, accusing others of criminal activity may constitute crime.

We should definitely put more emphasis, when we teach others our profession, on standard procedures that aim self-protection.

Giving names that stick to mistakes that we really want to avoid when working in Translation might be a good way of doing that.

We should also do our best to heal our apprentices from the god complex for good, that is, to guarantee, for instance, that they acknowledge the statements of compliance with the ethical code and disclosure of the source as essential parts of our texts.

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