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What type of translation work have you refused on moral grounds?
Thread poster: Tom in London

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:51
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Jun 6, 2011

I recently refused a potentially lucrative job translating documents relating to the manufacture of military systems.

I would also refuse to translate anything to do with prisons.

I also recently refused to translate an Italian political article because I found it intolerant and racist.

What kind of document have you actually refused to translate?

[Edited at 2011-06-06 17:16 GMT]


 

Ana Maria Bustos K.  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 08:51
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Many... Jun 6, 2011

Pornography; pedophilia; animal, children or adult abuse or mistreat; drug traffic.

I believe that articles related with racism would also be something I would reject.


 

Ditte Duclert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:51
Member (2011)
English to Danish
+ ...
Gambling Jun 6, 2011

I refused a long term and potentially lucrative job for a gambling website. A friend's husband has a severe gambling problem and I know first hand how devastating it can be for people.

 

Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:51
Member
French to English
+ ...
There are even agencies I have turned down Jun 6, 2011

As far as subjects are concerned, I was once asked to edit a translation about laboratory tests being done on rabbits to check the safety of some kind of wood preservative. I said no to that job mainly because it just didn't make for pleasant reading, rather than on ethical grounds as such (at the risk of sounding superficial, I'm not even sure where I stand on that issue, but love rabbits and fluffy animals in general!)

More generally, there are three agencies I have repeatedly refused to work for as their whole business models seem to entail treating people, and especially their own staff, like dirt by all accounts, even though they do usually seem to pay freelancers according to the BB (so I'd be reasonably confident of being paid).

[Edited at 2011-06-06 17:53 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:51
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
None! Jun 6, 2011

Well... I have been lucky so far. I do technical translation and so far I haven't had any morally challenging translation.

However, I have a firm idea just in case: anything conflicting with human rights is a no-go for me. All the rest, I will do it.


 

Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:51
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
Menus Jun 6, 2011

I no longer translate menus, not just because I'm a vegetarian, but because fancy Spanish menus always seem to include foie gras somewhere, and I refuse to have anything even remotely to do with the promotion of such a vile practice.

 

Natalia Pedrosa  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
A literary text on death Jun 6, 2011

Just last week I refused to do a (volunteer) translation on death. I have translated a book on life after death, but this particular text seemed to take delight in describing a dead person, probably to impress, but it nearly makes me sick.

Also, I have come to realise after three years, that there is a specific country I don't want to work for anymore, as, like Peter's said: "More generally, there are three agencies I have repeatedly refused to work for as their whole business models seem to entail treating people, and especially their own staff, like dirt by all accounts, even though they do usually seem to pay freelancers according to the BB (so I'd be reasonably confident of being paid)."

Moral seems a rare gift these times, I'm glad there is still some and in my work environment.


 

Carolinae
Local time: 13:51
French to Arabic
+ ...
Racism or fanatical views Jun 6, 2011

Articles containing extremist opinions about racism or fanatical views.

 

Oleksandr Ivanov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 14:51
Member (2008)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
In my opinion, taxation is theft... Jun 6, 2011

For this reason, I do not translate texts on taxation matters and other texts that promote government as a solution, and do not translate for government clients. Also, I wouldn't translate anything promoting torture or testimony obtained as a result of tortureicon_evil.gif.

However, I am quite happy translationwise with meat, wine, sex and gunsicon_cool.gif.


 

Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Complicated question and answers Jun 6, 2011

I believe in following: Until I am not participating in a criminal action by translating or interpreting something (i.e human trafficking, organ trafficking, promotion of child pornography, money laundering, drug trafficking, racism, sexism, etc.), I do not have to agree with what I am translating. That is one of the reasons why I get paid for my job. I get to translate or interpret a lot of documents/speeches which are not immoral per se but which do not reflect my personal convictions, still I do not feel like I am doing something wrong, even if I don't agree with their contents. I would definitely never translate pornographic/adult contents, military contents, and anything that deals with any kind of abuse to living creatures. Nothing like this has ever been offered to me. Once I have been offered to "volunteer" for Miss Universe (they wanted to decide for me!) and I declined this wonderful "offer" since I do not agree with that ideology. If they had paid me for that, I did not need to agree with it or believe in it, if I volunteer for something it is my decision and has to be something I believe in.

 

Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 13:51
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
A porn video sharing site Jun 6, 2011

The only 'no' in my entire translation career so far.

Maciek


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 13:51
Italian to English
Specialising helps Jun 6, 2011

In all my years of translating professionally, I have never had to turn down work because I objected to its content. In any case, almost all my work comes from repeat customers who want to give me jobs they already know I can do to their satisfaction.

By concentrating on a relatively limited range of texts in one language combination, I can filter out any dodgy stuff without offending the potential client. And if appropriate, I can always pass the enquiry on to one of the many very competent colleagues I know who might be interested.


 

Theo Bernards  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:51
English to Dutch
+ ...
Would refuse or have refused? Jun 6, 2011

Tom in London wrote:

...

What kind of document have you actually refused to translate?

[Edited at 2011-06-06 17:16 GMT]


Ah, the soul searching question. I have refused assignments translating gambling websites into Dutch because the monopoly in gambling lies with the state, or so I am lead to believe, and I don't see the point translating text that the Dutch audience cannot legally follow up with entering credit card details for a nice flutter on the horses.

I have once been asked to translate X-rated content and I think I even made an counter offer (I was a bit strapped for cash at the time), but truth be told I don't even feel comfortable watching meat shows and I think the pictures and films are so descriptive that any attempt to put them into words would only belittle the antics performed in such filmsicon_biggrin.gif. Besides, it is not a spectator's sport.

I regularly politely decline legal stuff, because my knowledge of the legal mumbo-jumbo is too limited. I would also very kindly pass the buck on anything illegal: translating "How to make your own self-exploding Holy Book and get away with it" is not my idea of spreading the word and I would most definitely report any prospect offering such assignments to the relevant authorities. That goes for all illegal content that would come my way.

And then there are of course the usual reasons to not take certain assignments: low rates, impossible deadlines, lengthy payment terms, unreasonable terms from agencies (there are a few agencies totally incapable of grasping the idea of the free and open market, many good agencies notwithstanding). Bullying clients, agencies or otherwise, also learn very quickly that I have no time for them.

Last but not least: agencies demanding (perhaps should I say: commanding) the use of a certain, very costly, CAT-tool. I really do refuse to entertain them on moral grounds: I don't tell them how to get their clients, and they don't tell me which expenses I must incur for the job they want me to do.


 

LARYZ
English to Tagalog
+ ...
Against government and company Jun 7, 2011

I refused to do the translations against politics. Also refused to do translations to revoke company advertisement. I reject or not to accept .

[Edited at 2011-06-07 03:32 GMT]


 

Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:51
Nothing so far. Jun 7, 2011

The only job I've done so far which was offensive in nature was an ad for adult toys. Basically, I wouldn't mind translating subjects such as human trafficking, illegal drugs, or even XXX rated videos and porn sites, unless they are illegal or consequently being an accessory to crime (such as translating a letter for a Nigerian scam, that sort of thing).

From my experience, gambling and porn pay well, since these two are some of the items where people lose their mind and cannot think properly and cater to human desires, plus some people find them offensive and the competition among these fields are not that tough.

Some of the other people on this forum mentioned their dislikes, but I would translate them maybe once to know what's really going on in the world or how people are or become prejudiced on racism or sexism. I take this as a learning something new.

[Edited at 2011-06-07 02:09 GMT]


 
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