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I just declined an offer because of the client the translation would be for
Thread poster: Inez Ulrich

Inez Ulrich  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:57
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Nov 14, 2017

Mario Chavez wrote:

Some comments indicate that translators who will translate any text, regardless of the ethical principles of the company (client) involved, "just don't care."

Personally, I don't put any of my colleagues in a straitjacket for accepting or refusing a translation job based on my principles, beliefs or ethical stance. In my opinion, the moment we start mixing personal ethics with professional ethics, we risk creating a toxic environment in which some translators will feel vindicated, justified or morally superior, or alienated or ridiculed because their personal ethics don't align with what the others support.

If a translator decides to stop translating medication information from a multinational that uses shady practices to promote its products (such as sending visiting salesmen to doctors, paying doctors a fee for a product endorsement of some kind, etc.), that's fine by me. It's a personal choice. Just keep it personal. No need to brag about it or announce it on social media to let others know how much you care for this or that.

As a translator, I only care about the quality of writing, about whether the communication of information is successful or not. I may opt for declining a job offer because the topic or the end client are unpalatable to me, but I keep it to myself. Professionally, I don't get assignments or get paid my fees because of my personal principles. Suggesting otherwise is, well, not germane to what we do as professionals.


I think you got this completely wrong.
It never was about bragging or sth like that (seems you absolutely want me to pin that on me), but to see how other handle this dilemma, and for me it is a dilemma. I also want to follow my principles in my job as it is such a big part of my life. I'm well aware that others will do those jobs if I reject them and that is ok for me. I also don't judge others for this - it is always a matter of attitude, opinion, convictions, as I have repeatedly mentioned. It is just that I don't want to do certain topics or jobs.


 

Inez Ulrich  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:57
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Nov 14, 2017

Michal Fabian wrote:

Mario Chavez wrote:

Just keep it personal. No need to brag about it or announce it on social media to let others know how much you care for this or that.


What do you mean?


 

Michal Fabian  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:57
Member (2012)
Dutch to Slovak
+ ...
. Nov 14, 2017

I mean: "It would appear that Mr Chavez just played himself." But he will tell us he did not.

 

Elena Aclasto  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:57
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
agree with you Inez Nov 14, 2017

Inez Ulrich wrote:


I think you got this completely wrong.
It never was about bragging or sth like that (seems you absolutely want me to pin that on me), but to see how other handle this dilemma, and for me it is a dilemma. I also want to follow my principles in my job as it is such a big part of my life. I'm well aware that others will do those jobs if I reject them and that is ok for me. I also don't judge others for this - it is always a matter of attitude, opinion, convictions, as I have repeatedly mentioned. It is just that I don't want to do certain topics or jobs.


I totally agree with you and I do the same when it happens to me - in the past I have already declined jobs when they dealt with something against my personal code of ethics, I knew this meant more opportunities for others and well, good for them.


By the way, like you, I try and behave as much eco-friendly as I can in my everyday actions. It is not much, but this is the only planet we have (so far).


 

Inez Ulrich  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:57
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I see :) Nov 14, 2017

Michal Fabian wrote:

I mean: "It would appear that Mr Chavez just played himself." But he will tell us he did not.


thanks for the explanation


 

Inez Ulrich  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:57
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Nov 14, 2017

Elena Aclasto wrote:

Inez Ulrich wrote:


I think you got this completely wrong.
It never was about bragging or sth like that (seems you absolutely want me to pin that on me), but to see how other handle this dilemma, and for me it is a dilemma. I also want to follow my principles in my job as it is such a big part of my life. I'm well aware that others will do those jobs if I reject them and that is ok for me. I also don't judge others for this - it is always a matter of attitude, opinion, convictions, as I have repeatedly mentioned. It is just that I don't want to do certain topics or jobs.


I totally agree with you and I do the same when it happens to me - in the past I have already declined jobs when they dealt with something against my personal code of ethics, I knew this meant more opportunities for others and well, good for them.


By the way, like you, I try and behave as much eco-friendly as I can in my everyday actions. It is not much, but this is the only planet we have (so far).


Thanks, Elena - I totally with you and I don't want another planet


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Drawing a line Nov 14, 2017

Pretty much everything we translate is spin or lies or propaganda in some way. That's kind of the point of communication.

You just have to draw your own line.

PS lol @ Michal!


 

The Misha
Local time: 01:57
Russian to English
+ ...
So what is the point of your post then? Nov 14, 2017

Inez Ulrich wrote:

I don't climb any ladder


What do you expect - a pat on the back? A medal? Most of us have our own ideas of what's ethical and what isn't, and they may well be very different from each other. Me, the closest I have ever come to declining work for ethical reasons was with a series of UN-related projects - because I consider the modern-day UN one of the most destructive, wasteful and corrupt bureaucracies ever known to man (the project ran its own course and dried up all by itself, saving me from having to make that difficult decision, but that' beyond the point here). Yet this is but my personal opinion, and I am not running around looking for validation. Neither should you.

We all have our opinions, and the business we are in makes it fairly easy to put your money where your mouth is. Don't like it? Well, say no - but do it quietly. Anything else is propaganda - and it "odet" to high heaven.


 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:57
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Lies, lies, lies Nov 14, 2017

I can think of a few subjects I wouldn't translate to actively further or promote certain things - the most obvious ones, already mentioned here, children and hate stuff. Did feel a bit odd once when I found myself translating a sentence that read "a new feature which vastly increases the kill range", but that was once, and that kind of blaargh isn't my usual diet.

But I know I translate misleading, deceptive, cynical and downright untruthful texts nearly every day. To write this,
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I can think of a few subjects I wouldn't translate to actively further or promote certain things - the most obvious ones, already mentioned here, children and hate stuff. Did feel a bit odd once when I found myself translating a sentence that read "a new feature which vastly increases the kill range", but that was once, and that kind of blaargh isn't my usual diet.

But I know I translate misleading, deceptive, cynical and downright untruthful texts nearly every day. To write this, in fact, I've just left off translating a whole shedload of such stuff. I'm not proud that I can't say it bothers me, but then it's not my stuff, and if people believe it, then tough. Kalashnikov later regretted his most highly acclaimed invention, apparently (which gained him nothing, I read once, except maybe a nice flat in Moscow), but then it was his invention.

[Edited at 2017-11-14 15:22 GMT]
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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:57
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Pecunia olet Nov 14, 2017

Money does literally stink in some places, though. I can remember a nasty niff off certain notes in a certain place.

 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 23:57
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Moral ladder or freedom? Nov 14, 2017

Mario Chavez wrote:

While I respect your ideals, Inez, I disagree with you in using them as a reason to climb up the moral ladder to stand taller than the client (be this a person or a company) you are refusing to do a translation for.

First and foremost, we are communicators. We do a translation to communicate a message, not to agree or disagree with it. Consider also what court interpreters in difficult cases have to do. If a defendant who committed a heinous claim wants to insult the judge or explain his/her twisted logic to do the crime, who am I as an interpreter to take away his/her freedom of expression? How is his/her lawyer supposed to do his/her job if I were to refuse to interpret for the criminal because I find the crime too horrible to discuss? What about interpreting for victims of horrible crimes, if the interpreter is against foul language or incest, child molestation, sex traffic, death by decapitation, etc.?


First of all I don't think that Inez is using her principles (not ideals) "to climb up the moral ladder to stand taller than the client". She is simply exercising her right as a free person and freelance translator. What we as translators (and interpreters and lawyers) all have the right to do is refuse a job for whatever reasons. Whether we don't have the time, we are sick, we don't like the client or the pay or the message, we are not in any way obligated to accept every job that is offered to us. If we didn't have that right, we would all be slaves to our profession.


[Edited at 2017-11-14 16:00 GMT]


 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 07:57
Member (2016)
English to German
There is more than black and white Nov 14, 2017

I think that moralising while translating is (or would be) fraught with a lot of practical problems. Not all examples are black-and-white like Tom's cluster bomb example where the moral compass gives us strong directions.

I spent the last hour translating texts for a cruise line for one of my "regulars". I actually like this stuff, often you get to translate descriptions of interesting places somewhere in the world. Now, going on a cruise myself is not my idea of a vacation, but I'd
... See more
I think that moralising while translating is (or would be) fraught with a lot of practical problems. Not all examples are black-and-white like Tom's cluster bomb example where the moral compass gives us strong directions.

I spent the last hour translating texts for a cruise line for one of my "regulars". I actually like this stuff, often you get to translate descriptions of interesting places somewhere in the world. Now, going on a cruise myself is not my idea of a vacation, but I'd sure like to visit some of these places myself one day. But then, I always read articles about how environmentally harmful the (booming) cruise industry is, producing extreme amounts of carbon dioxide and burning particularly "dirty" fuels at that. Also, working conditions on many of the ships are said to be bad.

What do you think? Should I decline future cruise line translations due to their environmental impact? I could do that without harming my business directly, I have enough other content to translate in the pipeline. Of course this agency might not be happy with my decision and stop giving me other work as well, I couldn't be sure about that.

Or maybe I should learn more about the environmental impact of cruise lines and their labor conditions before making this decision? I could collect tons of information on the internet regarding pros and cons of cruises in order to make a really informed moral decision.

Of course I could also directly ask the agency or client about the environmental impact and the labor situation on their ships and then make it clear that I will only translate for particularly clean, environmentally responsible, sustainable and worker-friendly ships.

Is all this realistic and practical? For now, I have decided that it I am not the authority on the moral qualities of the content I translate. If there are other authorities I can lean on, I will: if the content is obviously illegal, I won't translate it, and if it is obviously fraudulent or harmful (like Tom's cluster bomb example), I won't either. But in the less obvious cases, I don't research the moral aspects of the content beforehand. I would simply not get anything done if I did.
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Inez Ulrich  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:57
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Nov 14, 2017

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:

I think that moralising while translating is (or would be) fraught with a lot of practical problems. Not all examples are black-and-white like Tom's cluster bomb example where the moral compass gives us strong directions.

I spent the last hour translating texts for a cruise line for one of my "regulars". I actually like this stuff, often you get to translate descriptions of interesting places somewhere in the world. Now, going on a cruise myself is not my idea of a vacation, but I'd sure like to visit some of these places myself one day. But then, I always read articles about how environmentally harmful the (booming) cruise industry is, producing extreme amounts of carbon dioxide and burning particularly "dirty" fuels at that. Also, working conditions on many of the ships are said to be bad.

What do you think? Should I decline future cruise line translations due to their environmental impact? I could do that without harming my business directly, I have enough other content to translate in the pipeline. Of course this agency might not be happy with my decision and stop giving me other work as well, I couldn't be sure about that.

Or maybe I should learn more about the environmental impact of cruise lines and their labor conditions before making this decision? I could collect tons of information on the internet regarding pros and cons of cruises in order to make a really informed moral decision.

Of course I could also directly ask the agency or client about the environmental impact and the labor situation on their ships and then make it clear that I will only translate for particularly clean, environmentally responsible, sustainable and worker-friendly ships.

Is all this realistic and practical? For now, I have decided that it I am not the authority on the moral qualities of the content I translate. If there are other authorities I can lean on, I will: if the content is obviously illegal, I won't translate it, and if it is obviously fraudulent or harmful (like Tom's cluster bomb example), I won't either. But in the less obvious cases, I don't research the moral aspects of the content beforehand. I would simply not get anything done if I did.


Yes, true, it's not all black and white. I guess I have made it quite clear what exactly is it I have problems with. Sure, where to draw the line? That is a matter of one's own principles. We have seen in this thread that people have totally different opinions on things and I asked this question to see how others handle such issues. This client was only an example, but an important one in my case. Other don't have any problems whatsoever with such clients but would never translate any sexual content (with which I wouldn't have any problem, as long as it's legal). So I suppose in the end everybody has to choose for him-/herself what or if to reject a job.
(And like you I also love translating such travelling texts, for the exact same reasons, and I also have the same concerns. Maybe I'll have to think that over in the future, too.)


 

2G Trad  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:57
English to Italian
+ ...
Subjects I decline Nov 14, 2017

The subject I decline is tobacco and smoking related documents.
I conversely translated for anti-smoking associations for many years with great pleasure and free of charge.

So, Inez, I'm totally with you.

Cheers
Gianni


 

Jan Truper  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:57
English to German
+ ...
grey zones Nov 14, 2017

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:

Not all examples are black-and-white



Some time ago and over the course of several years, I translated over a million words for websites of a luxury hotel chain -- until I could not take it anymore. Like you, I enjoyed the depictions of the various locales, of architectural elements and of the cocktails in the hotel bar; it was a bit like taking a mini-vacation, and I learned a lot about the world while researching. Unfortunately, all of these jobs also contained exclusive spa treatments which I hated translating.
My breaking point was the flowery description of some spa treatment which was entitled something like "six brown hands massage". I envisioned this -- basically, the result of the text I was translating would be that some fat white b**** was spending her a-hole husband's dirty money on getting kneaded by three impoverished exploited third-world ladies, with the profits not landing in their six "brown" hands, but rather in the small white hands of some a-hole shareholder. I was thoroughly grossed-out by the picture this text conjured up in my mind. I finished the job and informed the agency that I was not available for this client anymore.
This was not really a conscientious decision based on researched facts (you could argue that the hotel was boosting the local economy, for example) -- I just could not handle the accumulated "luxury hotel vs. impoverished locals" aspect anymore.

Nowadays, I often translate game content which is geared towards convincing adolescents to spend their little money on inane stuff like "the black-jeweled dragon-stifling switchblade", or to rob them of their time and a youth which they could otherwise spend frolicking through real forests.
Other games I've translated had such poorly written source texts that I could only surmise that the whole game must have been some sort of money laundering or tax deduction scheme, because clearly no one would invest real money into such a hopeless, bound-to-fail endeavour.
For some reason, both of these scenarios don't bother me much.

It's pretty much impossible to be a translator and not get your soul soiled in some way. But I deem it a relevant aspect of being a "professional" translator to as honestly as possible assess what I am actually really doing in regards to the bigger picture, and to try to steer my career into areas that I can sustain.


 
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