Wording of third professional guideline for interpreters
Thread poster: Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:50
English to Polish
+ ...
Mar 27, 2013

There is a guideline in urgent need of redrafting. If we take the guideline for interpreters which says that professional ones, "interact with others only to the extent required to interpret," it reflects a bad light on the guidelines by projecting the idea they can't be read anywhere close to literally and must be taken with a pinch of salt and injected with common sense. A linguist or a lawyer should do better.

Now, a linguist must have the ability to convey his thoughts with clarity according to the purpose of his communication. Even more so must a rule drafter be able to avoid forcing the rule addressee take the rule as metaphorical more than direct. Read literally, this rule actually prohibits an interpreter from, say, answering polite questions during lunch break (where the interpreter may be the only person capable of the much needed basic small talk in one of the languages involved for its otherwise alienated speakers) or giving the time to someone who asks you what hour it is, or giving directions when asked by someone who needs them, or actually even saying hello, none of which is actually, "required to interpret."

You can interpret without being polite, let alone being professionally courteous or just helpful or kind to your fellow human beings, which might not be the top concern of strict interpreting ethicists who might not even be active interpreters themselves. Sure, you can argue that making a professional impression is necessary for the good of the translation industry and all, and by "interpret" you really mean, "interpret on par with professional standards," which include courtesy and basic helpfulness, and that the, "only to the extent," doesn't include this or that as common sense would dictate, but that's just further and further diverging from the text, leading to a complete watering down of the rule to the detriment of the authority projected by all those rules together. If exceptions are inevitable and are not actually rare, unique instances, it's better for a rule to spell them out already rather than taking hits and getting distinguished all the time.

What you want to achieve is an interpreter who doesn't unduly socalise with the audience, take the spotlight in his own right, or explicitly advertise his services, try to steal clients from his agency and so on. Proscribing only "unwarranted communication", especially one that the interpreter himself initiates, would be preferable and sufficient, even if it might from time to time let something through which an interpret should preferably refrain from. "Professional interpreters refrain from unwarranted communication," would do fine, no emphasis on any particular world.

I'm surprised how many people have endorsed a rule set which contains this rule drafted the way it is. I never would, which is a large part of the reason I'm unable to endorse the rules myself. At any rate, even if this means offending the sensibility of one or two interpreting ethicists who might not even be active interpreters themselves, you need to redraft the rule even if you prefer a more restrictive wording than my own above. The alternative means having a rule that's only half observable... or breeding a generation of interpreters who will give you a Proz rule when you ask them what time it is or where to please find the gents.


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Wording of third professional guideline for interpreters

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