Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Turning Down Project For Moral/Ethical Reasons
Thread poster: Preston Decker

Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:01
Chinese to English
Nov 14, 2013

Just received email from an agency asking for a quote for translating a marketing document regarding a certain tool used by smokers. Email was general and clearly had been sent to many translators. I'm pretty opposed to smoking, and after a moments hesitation snapped off an email saying basically "I'm working on a large project now and so won't be able to work on your project." Figured there was no harm done this way- the client knows that I won't be able to help, and I've given them a response and avoided translating for an industry that I'm not a big fan of.

I'm sure there have been Forum posts in the past regarding this kind of issue, but wondering if anybody else has turned down a project recently on moral grounds? Would you have told a 'white lie' like I did, or have flat out told them the real reason for not translating this? (ALSO, I realize that many on Proz.com are not opposed to smoking/are smokers themselves, and do not mean this as a condemnation of such persons, or those who would translate/have translated smoking related documents. I'm just interested in whether others have had similar experiences with docs that crossed their own personal moral/ethical boundaries.)

[Edited at 2013-11-14 17:58 GMT]


 

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:01
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Anecdote Nov 14, 2013

Once a local head shop called me to translate marketing material for marijuana paraphernalia. I don't have a particular ethical problem with this but I had two good reasons to turn down the job.

First, I was not familiar with this field and it would have been more trouble that it was worth. Second, I didn't want to hurt my reputation by being associated with a drug that is illegal in many places.

Ethically, I believe one should be able to ingest whatever he believes is good for him. So if you like tobacco, alcohol or pot, I think ought to be able to take it. The only qualm I would have is if my life is encroached upon due to an erroneous decision made by another.


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
It depends... Nov 14, 2013

... what you mean by "a certain tool used by smokers".

I don't work for tobacco manufacturers, and if the job is for an agency, I tell them why, in the hope that they might reconsider their own attitude towards working for the industry. But I've just finished a guide to a cigar museum in Holland, and I didn't have any problem with that at all.

I also don't do translations for the defense sector, the fur trade, and spurious cosmetic products that claim to slow the ageing process.


 

Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:01
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
With you all the way, Phil Nov 14, 2013

Regarding my own experience, I said good-bye to a tobacco industry client at the beginning of this year, and I clearly stated in my related correspondence that I was no longer prepared to work for them for ethical reasons. I had been interpreting for this company for about five years before coming to this conclusion, which was a gradual process over the years.

 

Bernard Lieber  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:01
English to French
+ ...
On a Larger Scale Nov 14, 2013

... I'd like to know what fields are actually clean in the translation industry, just to name a few: Oil, Automotive, Textile, Screenprinting, Aeronautics, etc. - most of them are highly polluting and this is a mild understatement.

I've translated for a global ink producer for quite while with stringent specs, like no phtalates, etc. but soon discovered that the same stringent specs did not apply in other countries, same for the textile industry (OEKO-TEX Standard in Europe = no pesticides in cotton, etc.) as most T-shirts are produced and screenprinted overseas and not locally for obvious reasons, you know you're wearing potentially carcinogenic clothes.

In other words, if you really look into any field, you should stop translating altogether.

To add more fuel to the fire, even furniture and shoes can be lethal in some cases because dessicants fobidden in most countries are allowed in others!

Cheers,

Bernard

[Edited at 2013-11-14 21:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-11-14 21:40 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-11-14 21:41 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-11-14 21:41 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-11-14 21:42 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-11-14 22:13 GMT]


 

Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:01
French to English
White lie Nov 14, 2013

Preston Decker wrote:

Would you have told a 'white lie' like I did, or have flat out told them the real reason for not translating this?


I don't often turn projects down for ethical reasons, but I turn projects down all the time for other reasons (I'm truly too busy with other work and better paying clients, I have to watch my children because their school is on strike, my husband is in the hospital, my brother is coming for a visit, the contractor is *maybe* coming today to talk about the quote...).

Whatever the reason, in most cases, I feel like it's my own business, I don't have to explain my life and ethical concerns to clients. Just say no, usually "Sorry, I'm not available", or "Sorry, the subject of the document is not within my range of expertise".


 

Melanie Di-Costanzo  Identity Verified
Germany
Member (2013)
German to French
Ethical reasons are good reasons Nov 14, 2013

Hello Preston,

Thank you for starting this subject. It is very interesting!

I got the same issue just last month. An agency asked me to work for one of their new client, a very large and well-known international company. This meant lots of work on an almost daily basis.

I refused because of the ethic (or much more absence of ethic) of this company.
I had the "chance" that the agency wanted to drop my word price in order to take it as an argument to decline the offer.

I am convinced that you can NOT do a good translation if you really dislike what you are doing or for whom you are doing it!


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 01:01
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Ethical reasons + white lie Nov 14, 2013

As a professional translator, I try to leave my causes, my biases, my likes and dislikes and my morality at a good distance from my translation desk, but for me it is a question of comfort level — if you are not comfortable working on a project, you are certainly not going to be able to turn out your best work. If something feels wrong to me, I am willing to walk away from the money. I would refuse jobs, and I have in the past, on gambling, obscene or pornographic material, military weapons, racism…

When I refuse, in most cases, like Lori, I don't feel obliged to justify myself and just say a white lie...


 

Václav Pinkava  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 02:01
Member (2013)
Czech to English
+ ...
Allways let *your* conscience be your guide ... Nov 14, 2013

It's simple to find out what *your* inner voice of conscience advises.

Formulate your conundrum as a "yes or no" type of question on the given topic, think it, to ask yourself, yet answer yourself silently, by shaking your head, on impulse ...
That wiser part of you that speaks no weasel words will resolve your dilemma.

As for justifying "why not" in a roundabout or direct way to clients, that makes a fine example:. "Should I tell them the true reason? Yes or No?"

It's *your own* honest answer to yourself, that matters.
We all have our moral and ethical boundaries set somewhat differently, for good reasons. Different circumstances, culture, experiences. But we must all apply one golden rule, or risk regret. To live by our true inner standards.

Shakespeare put it well, through Polonius, in Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3.


"... Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
...
"This above all: to thine own self be true ,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."



P.S. A good relevant piece on this topic is here:
http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/articles/723/1

[Edited at 2013-11-14 23:56 GMT]


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:01
English to Polish
+ ...
It has happened Nov 15, 2013

Yes. I can think of at least four cases, mostly to do with bioethics. I tend to put some content restrictions in my Terms of Service. I disagree with the idea of translator neutrality in the sense of translating everything for every purpose, as that seems to presuppose moral relativism, which is not my position.

 

Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:01
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
I've accepted projects I wasn't pleased with Nov 15, 2013

Without going into too many details, I once took a project for one side of a politically-charged trial which was precisely against my own political views. I had a long talk with a friend and we came to the conclusion that under the adversarial system each side should be able to present their evidence, and then the law should prevail based on the facts at hand; thus, the outcome of the trial (and the fate of this cause I'm interested in) was out of my hands.

Just my two cents...


 

Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 02:01
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Inevitable Nov 15, 2013

Bernard Lieber wrote:

In other words, if you really look into any field, you should stop translating altogether.


Couldn't agree more.


 

liviu roth
United States
Local time: 20:01
Romanian to English
+ ...
Professionals???? Nov 15, 2013

According to this premise of turning down projects for moral/ethical reasons, we would not have had Jewish interpreters for German leaders at the Nuremberg Trial, a Muslim surgeon would not operate on a Jew or a Christian patient, we would not interpret for the parties in cases of domestic abuses (everybody disagrees with domestic abuse, isn't it?), or serial killers and so on.

If we pretend to be professionals this issue is pure artificial. If somebody doesn't like a project, he should simply turn it down without the cliche excuse of moral grounds.

My 1 and 1/2 cent!


 

Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:01
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
RE Professional Detachment Nov 15, 2013

lee roth wrote:

According to this premise of turning down projects for moral/ethical reasons, we would not have had Jewish interpreters for German leaders at the Nuremberg Trial, a Muslim surgeon would not operate on a Jew or a Christian patient, we would not interpret for the parties in cases of domestic abuses (everybody disagrees with domestic abuse, isn't it?), or serial killers and so on.

If we pretend to be professionals this issue is pure artificial. If somebody doesn't like a project, he should simply turn it down without the cliche excuse of moral grounds.

My 1 and 1/2 cent!


These examples are a bit different than mine. A translator at the Nuremberg Trials, or an interpreter for a party suspected in domestic abuse is at least involved in a process that is aimed at providing justice to all those involved. As far as I know, no part of Islamic belief prohibits a Muslim surgeon from operating on a Jewish or Christian patient.

My translation was, as stated, a marketing text for smoking paraphenelia. I would argue that especially for marketing texts, which by definition are aimed at promoting the use of whatever product they concern, it is well within any translator's rights to turn down an assignment on moral grounds. I'm also not sure why, or when, being a 'professional' in any field has been defined as seperating oneself completely from one's moral conscience. To bring up one example, I have a Catholic friend who requested her hospital not to assign her to pre-op abortion cases, a request which the hospital honored (as with smoking, I'm not bringing up this example to make a statement about my views on abortion, but as an example of a professional acting upon their moral conscience).


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:01
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A white lie is alright Nov 15, 2013

Preston Decker wrote:
I'm pretty opposed to smoking, and after a moments hesitation snapped off an email saying basically "I'm working on a large project now and so won't be able to work on your project."

Exactly my approach.

Some translators think that we have a "moral duty" to "act professionally" and translate everything that comes across, but I simply do not understand that. If we relinquish our moral and ethical dimension in our profession, we would be selling our souls and would not make a better world.


 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Turning Down Project For Moral/Ethical Reasons

Advanced search







Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »
memoQ translator pro
Kilgray's memoQ is the world's fastest developing integrated localization & translation environment rendering you more productive and efficient.

With our advanced file filters, unlimited language and advanced file support, memoQ translator pro has been designed for translators and reviewers who work on their own, with other translators or in team-based translation projects.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search