An interpreter has been facilitating communication between a client who resides abroad and their construction project manager in the U.S.. Sometimes the project manager contacts the interpreter to set up a meeting with the client and informs of the reason for the meeting. The interpreter has been acting as a relay with the client.
Recently, the project manager informed the interpreter that in the next interpreting session they will suggest that the client save money on construction costs by cutting out a few steps specifically ordered by the homeowners association. The proposed technique will meet city codes but not the special requirements of this condominium's bylaws.
In the interpreter’s personal view, the client should not agree to the proposed cost-cutting construction techniques. The project manager argues that there will be no inspection, so no one will ever know.
The interpreter is uncomfortable being a party to this discussion, but feels obligated to continue interpreting for this client. The interpreter wonders what the liability would be if the client and project manager do decide to proceed and the bylaws violation is later discovered.
The interpreter poses this question to the Ethics Panel: “What should I do?”
Interpreters must faithfully render the source message without allowing their own views to interfere. As people, we certainly have opinions. However, while in our role of interpreter, expressing a personal opinion would breach neutrality and violate the interpreter’s code of ethics. Interpreters must take pains to remain impartial and should withdraw from an assignment if their own personal views interfere with the accurate transfer of meaning.
Regarding liability, insurance policies for translators and interpreters (Errors and Omissions) cover claims related to inaccuracies in the transfer of meaning from one language to another.
A best practice, whenever possible, is to encourage direct communication between parties and avoid acting as a messenger.
The Standards of Practice and Ethics for Judiciary Interpreters, while specifically for the legal arena, provides detailed information on best practices regarding neutrality, impartiality and confidentiality.
(c) Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society A Chapter of the American Translators Association
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