Thursday, 22 May 2014

Ethics in Practice. Media: Case Study no. 6

Today we read, with a bit of distress, the article 9 Little Mistakes In Translation, by Dr. Arika Okrent (Arika PhD), who presents herself as a linguist (Arika Okrent).

According to the lexicon, a linguist is

: a person who speaks several languages
: a person who studies linguistics

(Merriam-Webster, linguist)

We, translators and interpreters, can call ourselves linguists then.

If we present ourselves as translators, then there is a bit of a breach of ethics in writing and publishing this article, as we know, for we must try, and try hard, to keep elegance and never depreciate our own profession.

On the other hand, it is also not OK not to refer to sources and extracts when criticizing the work of others: That is seen as irresponsible and disrespectful.

That is breaching ethics in Science.

If she were presenting herself as a journalist, things could be a bit different (we know nothing about ethics in Journalism).

Notice that if she had referred to the work of fellows in translation without having another fellow, from translation, to support what she is saying, what would be equivalent to advertising herself as an expert in translation in all those languages, she would be speaking as if she were a scientist or at least a person with capability to translate perfectly well those bits and pieces, and a person who has more capability than whoever she is criticizing, and those might be professional translators or not.

She does mention however that all that she is telling us came from a book, which has been written by professional translators (Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche). 

We also find the book quite easily when following her link (Found inTranslation). 

That a sort of excuses her, but not entirely, is it not?

It is very common that people invite common people, say friends or celebrities, to translate the words of others, and even to interpret, in real time, those words.

In case those they all criticize are not professional translators or interpreters, or in case she does not advertise herself as a professional interpreter or translator, she is not breaching ethics. 

Is that easy to accept?

Nobody says that ethics is a simple topic: We must police ourselves all the time.

It would probably be better, from an ethical point of view, that Arika had passed the marketing of this book to someone else, like to someone who is not a professional translator or interpreter, in case she has acted in such a capacity or advertises herself as such.

Notice that there is also a possible debate topic here: What is being a professional of translation or interpreting?

Some could not respect those who have come to Australia, for instance, and did not sit for an exam with NAATI because they did not have one for their language when they came. They could think that those are not professional translators. 

In this case, they could be thinking that they are defending their class by exposing the consequences of not hiring a professional translator or interpreter, what then could not be seen as breach of ethics.


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