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Being an Ethical and Professional Translator

What does it take to become a professional and ethical translator? Is professionalism and ethics something you're born with or something you need to learn for yourself over a lengthy period of time? Does a professional translator need to join a professional translation firm or an individual translation service in order to succeed? Does professionalism entail constant training in order to achieve a truly high-quality human translation portfolio even though your translation work is decent to begin with?

At any rate, it's imperative for you to ask yourself what you need to do as a translator in order to become the epitome of professionalism, grace, and ethics. Being able to do so will not only help you answer the above questions or advance your translation service career, but it will also assist you in enhancing the overall level of professionalism in this particular industry.

The True Professional Translator

The distinction between a professional translator and an amateur one doesn't depend on whether you're an employee of a professional translation agency featuring both machine and human translation services or a freelance translator who's fluent and literate in at least two or more languages. Instead, professional translators are determined by their overall work ethic and dedication.

For instance, an amateur translator is a person who does part-time translation jobs by using the knowledge he gained from a separate field that he's actually good at in order to do translation work. A bilingual French cook who translates a book on gourmet cooking from French to English shouldn't be considered as a professional translator because of his lack of purely linguistic knowledge.

Professional translators are those whose main source of income depend solely on translation services and are applied linguists by trade. They use their ability to handle language in order to write well and create work suited for their target audience (i.e., their clients). They are also marked by their willingness to improve and nurture their fluency in both their source language and target language, recognizing that translation is both a skill and an art that needs constant honing and honest effort.

Translator Business Ethics

Developing a deep respect and regard for business ethics is also part of being a professional translator. Ethics typically include when to accept or refuse a translation job, how to charge your customers, and how to respond to clients who disrespect you or take you for granted. Always keep in mind that conducting yourself in an ethical manner is beneficial to you and your business in the long run.

One of the most common instances of ethics being a factor in translation is seen whenever you get a hold of covert information (which could be the specifications of a computer chip, a pharmaceutical patent, or the financial plans of your client's company). A lot of people would pay good money for such important pieces of information and intelligence, but giving in to greed and disregarding your principles will come at the cost of your integrity, professionalism, and-if you've signed a confidentiality or nondisclosure agreement-your criminal record.

Endangering your professional honor and self-respect is not worth the money or the risk, even if you get away with it. To be a professional translator or a professional "anything", you must be honor-bound to the agreements you make with your client; there are no two ways about it.


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