Translation Ethics and Accuracy

By Slava
Dec 25, 2009 · 3 min
Redundancy aside, the work of professional translation agencies and their individual agents is to translate, and that is what they're supposed to be accurate in. Precise yet understandable reproduction of a text's message from one language to another is the hallmark of an excellent translation service. On the flip side, the accuracy of the content itself isn't the responsibility of the translator but is instead the author's. People involved in the human translation industry are fully aware that if the author provides a dubious or outright erroneous claim, that is none of their business whatsoever. Tragically, a lot of professional translation firms and individual translation services spend too much time and effort attempting to catch faults in the original document; since they're essentially rewriters of a given script and aren't editors of it, they should just try to reproduce the source material's intended meaning and nothing more. Then again, it's understandable why they do it. After all, they could be blamed for any inaccuracy found in their translated work regardless of how it came about.Disagreements, Mistakes, and So ForthThere are translators who want to show the world that they are even more knowledgeable and adept than the original author. However, they shouldn't be ashamed that they're just translators and that their job description doesn't include the creation of content that they could call their own; to be more specific, they shouldn't feel compelled to correct or fix any mistakes from the source material's author because doing faithful yet understandable human translation is already a tall order for them to do from the get go. Translators acting as editors can be described as unethical, even. Ethics in this context refers to the fact that a translator should uphold and transfer the intended message of the source material into a translation above all else. On the other hand, there's a bit of merit in correcting certain aspects of a work in terms of the concepts of accommodation and adaptation. Modification or change is also an inevitable side effect of a localization project as well. Besides, doing so could help an agent avoid unwarranted criticism and win some confidence from his clients.Translators are not EditorsNevertheless, the above concept only works in terms of the adaptation paradigm; in all other contexts, it's always better to polish up your work instead of worrying about problems that the original author should instead handle. In many ways, when a translator indulges in content editing, it's nothing more than wasted time and effort. Additionally, by doing a job that's outside your original job description, your clients will start demanding that you always go the extra mile in future jobs and projects. Editing source material gaffes will propagate the mistaken impression that it's within a translator's scope of duty to notice message errors and mistakes found in the source material. Besides, a properly handled translation is textual analysis in the purest sense, so doing it correctly should be enough to handle any wrong information because the intended, underlying message will shine through anyway.

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