Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 9.30.52 AM

Ethics in Interpreting & Translation


What does ethics mean to you? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it means the following;Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 9.33.34 AM

eth·ic noun \ˈe-thik\

: rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad

ethics : an area of study that deals with ideas about what is good and bad behavior : a branch of philosophy dealing with what is morally right or wrong

: a belief that something is very important


 Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 9.42.47 AMThe National Association of Judiciary Interpreters & Translators is an oragnization that promotes quality services in the field of legal interpreting and translating. The preamble describes the function of interpreters and translators are to remove the language barrier so that every persons’ access to justice is the same as an English speaking persons’. The courts place a high degree of trust in court interpreters and their responsibility, uniform ethical standards that will guide and protect court interpreters in the course of their duties as well as hold up the standards of the profession as a whole.

 According to the NAJIT is that many ethical decisions are straightforward, no code of ethics can foresee every conceivable scenario; court interpreters cannot mechanically apply abstract ethical principles to every situation that may arise.[1] The code of ethics is intended as a guide for interpreters to follow but to encourage them to use their best well-informed ethical judgment. All NAJIT members are bound to comply with this Code. The NAJIT Code of Ethics is as follows:

Canon 1.  Accuracy

Source language speech should be faithfully rendered into the target language by conserving all the elements of the original message while accommodating the syntactic and semantic patterns of the target language. The rendition should sound natural in the target language, and there should be no distortion of the original message through addition or omission, explanation or paraphrasing. All hedges, false starts and repetitions should be conveyed; also, English words mixed into the other language should be retained, as should culturally bound terms which have no direct equivalent in English, or which may have more than one meaning. The register, style and tone of the source language should be conserved.

Guessing should be avoided. Court interpreters who do not hear or understand what a speaker has said should seek clarification. Interpreter errors should be corrected for the record as soon as possible. [2]

Canon 2.  Impartiality and Conflicts of Interest

Court interpreters and translators are to remain impartial and neutral in proceedings where they serve, and must maintain the appearance of impartiality and neutrality, avoiding unnecessary contact with the parties.

Court interpreters and translators shall abstain from comment on cases in which they serve. Any real or potential conflict of interest shall be immediately disclosed to the Court and all parties as soon as the interpreter or translator becomes aware of such conflict of interest. [3]

Canon 3.  Confidentiality

Privileged or confidential information acquired in the course of interpreting or preparing a translation shall not be disclosed by the interpreter or translator without authorization. [4]

 Canon 4.  Limitations of Practice

Court interpreters and translators shall limit their participation in those matters in which they serve to interpreting and translating, and shall avoid giving advice to the parties or otherwise engaging in activities that can be construed as the practice of law. [5]

Canon 5.  Protocol and Demeanor

Court interpreters shall conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the standards and protocol of the court, and shall perform their duties as unobtrusively as possible. Court interpreters are to use the same grammatical person as the speaker. When it becomes necessary to assume a primary role in the communication, they must make it clear that they are speaking for themselves. [6]

 Canon 6.  Maintenance and Improvement of Skills and Knowledge

Court interpreters and translators shall strive to maintain and improve their interpreting and translation skills and knowledge. [7]

 Canon 7.  Accurate Representation of Credentials

Court interpreters and translators shall accurately represent their certifications, accreditations, training and pertinent experience. [8]

Canon 8.  Impediments to Compliance

Court interpreters and translators shall bring to the Court’s attention any circumstance or condition that impedes full compliance with any Canon of this Code, including interpreter fatigue, inability to hear, or inadequate knowledge of specialized terminology, and must decline assignments under conditions that make such compliance patently impossible. [9]

Take the Ethics test and see what kind of person you are.


By Mark Pastin

Today’s workplace is no longer the bastion of Ward Cleaver, with his white, short-sleeved shirt and cup of “one cream one sugar.” Companies today are as likely to have as many bicycles in the parking lot as minivans, and as many sandals under the desks as penny loafers. Different workers, be they Boomers, dot-com thirty-somethings or even the young members of “Generation Y,” each tend to bring a differ- ent sense of ethics to the workplace.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 9.35.28 AM

The Council of Ethical Organizations, based in Alexandria, Va., has been advising businesses, government, and the public on operating ethically and effectively since 1980. Whether you’re 23 or 53 you can gain better understanding of your ethics and the ethics of the people you work with by taking the Council’s On-the-Job Ethics Test.

1. If my boss asked me to lie to cover one of his/her mistakes, I would:

A. Quit.
B. Lie.
C. Say it made me uncomfortable.
D. Do it this time, but refuse if it became a pattern.

2. If I knew that a fellow employee spent time in the office writing personal e-mail, I would:

A. Report the employee to our supervisor.
B. Keep an eye on the employee to make sure it doesn’t affect her work.

C. Talk to the employee, and then decide what to do.
D. Try to convince the employee that this may not be a good idea.

3. If I knew my boss and a coworker were having an affair, I would:

A. Try to transfer to another department. B. Ignore it.
C. Wait to see if I were affected.
D. Talk to my boss to clear the air.

4. If a headhunter approached me with an attractive offer, I would:

A. Discuss it with my boss before proceeding.
B. Ask my current employer to beat the outside offer.
C. Meet with the headhunter, and talk to my boss if I was

serious about leaving.
D. Ask each side for their best offer and take the highest offer.

5. If I thought an employee I supervised had a drug problem, I would:

A. Exercise my right to ask the employee to take a drug test. B. Wait and see if the employee’s performance declines.
C. Talk it over with the employee.
D. Seek guidance from the human resources department.

6. If a fellow employee was being discriminated against because of his/her sexual orientation, I would:

A. Document the problem.
B. Offer my support if the employee complained.
C. Complain to a superior likely to be sympathetic.
D. Advise the person that he or she might be happier elsewhere.

7. If I took a job with a competing company, I would:

A. Never use information from my current job.
B. Use information to support my new employer.
C. Use only general information.
D. Talk to my own lawyer before using information.

8. If a key software vendor who was also a personal friend offered me a free laptop, I would:

A. Turn it down and report the vendor to our purchasing officer.
B. Accept the gift if it was personal rather than business related.
C. Ask my supervisor if there was a problem with accepting the gift.
D. Accept the gift but tell the vendor that they will get no special consideration.

This material is proprietary and protected by copyright registration to the Council of Ethical Organizations. Reproduction or dissemination—by any means—including photocopying and transmittal by FAX—is a violation of federal copyright law (17 USC 101 et seq) punishable by fines of up to $100,000 per violation. Violators will be prosecuted. Do not copy, quote or disseminate without specific written permission.


There is no strictly “right” answer to any of the test questions, but some who take the test show identifiable patterns of ethical approach. Based on years of experience in workplace ethics research and consulting, the Council has identified four such patterns.

If you answered A most often, you are a Conformist. You tend to be inflexibly “by-the-book.” You will run into work-related ethical conflicts unless you work for an organization with rigid rules and little room for compromise.

If you answered B most often, you are a Negotiator. You tend to try to make up the rules as you go along. You will eventually run into trouble if your job requires you to exercise judgment without guidelines.

If you answered C most often, you are a Navigator. You have a basically sound moral compass as well as flexibility to make ethical choices even when none of your alternatives is perfect. You can act ethically and succeed in most organizations, but will leave those that are unethical.

If you answered D most often, you are a Wiggler. You will run into trouble when others sense that you dodge ethical issues to protect your own interests.

(Mark Pastin, president of the Council of Ethical Organizations in Alexandria, VA, is a long-time adviser to corporations and associations worldwide. )

This material is proprietary and protected by copyright registration to the Council of Ethical Organizations. Reproduction or dissemination—by any means—including photocopying and transmittal by FAX—is a violation of federal copyright law (17 USC 101 et seq) punishable by fines of up to $100,000 per violation. Violators will be prosecuted. Do not copy, quote or disseminate without specific written permission.

[1] NAJIT Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibilities preamble

[2-8] NAJIT Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibilities

[9] Ethics Test was obtained from the


 la full logo