Interpreters and translators are faced with an abundance of ethical issues they must work through on a daily basis while professionally interpreting or translating in the field. There are a variety of scenarios in which professional interpreters and translators must maintain a high ethical standard in order to stay neutral and avoid intervening in a situation or perhaps muddling intended meanings. The ethical responsibilities taken on during language services, are just as important to the success and completion of the translation or interpretation as the actual conversion of words. Ethics is not something new to professionals working in the language service industry. Most educational interpretation and translation programs include an ethics course as part of required training, but if you want to brush up on your knowledge and understanding of ethics within the language field, Apex Interpreter Development Corporation offers a three hour course entitled, “Ethics for Interpreters and Translators,” that serves as a refresher course for active professional interpreters and translators. In the course you will review and discuss the Interpreter’s Code of Ethics (a code comprised of gathered best practices) and apply these ideas and strategies to real-world situations.

There are different ethical situations faced by interpreters and translators due to the nature of oral interpretation and translating written words. Both professions unite under the same ideology, that stays committed to ensuring their clients receive language services which maintain the utmost confidentiality with private information and remain true to intended meanings. It is the obligation of translators and interpreters to conduct business while abiding by established and universally agreed upon ethics.

General Ethical Principles Observed by Both Interpreters and Translators:

  • Professional Conduct
  • Competence and Accuracy
  • Confidentiality
  • Impartiality
  • Clarity of Role and Boundaries
  • Maintaining Professional Relationships
  • Respect All Individuals
  • Accountability

Ethics in Interpretation:

Many people find it difficult to divulge personal, medical, legal or perhaps financial information to a service professional or medical provider. There is a necessary level of trust that must be established so that a person can feel comfortable enough to speak freely. Language barriers call for the addition of a third party interpreter to be introduced into the conversation, and that trust should exist between the client or patient and the interpreter as well. It is vital that the interpreter be trustworthy and remain unbiased in situations, even if their personal convictions may not coincide with the material that they are interpreting. The interpreter is there for one reason and one reason only, to facilitate communication between individuals who do not speak the same language.

The American Translators Association (ATA) has established a general code of ethics to be followed and The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC), provides a code of ethics for interpreters in regards to interpretation services provided to the healthcare industry. There is also a standard “Code of Ethics,” that is abided by legal interpreters, however, there are not ethical guidelines written for every industry that utilize interpretation services, most interpreters follow the general guidelines provided below:

  • Keep a Neutral Objective, Do Not Intervene
  • Stay Detached From the Situation
  • Respect a Client or Patient’s Right to Privacy
  • Uphold Confidentiality
  • Don’t Disclose Any Information to Third Parties
  • Don’t Misuse or Share Any Inside Information
  • Disclose Any Possible Conflicts of Interest
  • Resist Arguments, Disagreements or Conflict of Any Sort
  • Don’t Accept Work Beyond Known Competence Level
  • Don’t Relay Inaccurate or Partial Information Between Parties
  • Refrain From Using Specialized Position to Gain Favors from Clients

Ethics in Translation:

Ethics in regards to translation is a bit different since translators are dealing with translating someone else’s work. Translators have the job of translating text from one language into another while striving to maintain the author’s original concept, intention, style, tone, cultural essence and nuances. The ethics in relation to this type of translation pertain to the translator’s decisions; what is the best possible treatment for this text, and how can they successfully execute their decisions while maintaining the original intent? It is important for the translator to avoid any kind of distortion of the original meaning and that involves ensuring translation equivalence from the source text into the target recipients’ understood language. There are often times not a word for word equivalent and the translator is left to their best judgment on how to remain faithful to the authors the original meaning. Situations may call for omitting text or inserting additional explanations so that the target reader can further and better understand the translated work, but these are the times in which it’s important for the translator to uphold a strong ethical value in order to translate the authors intended work and meaning with minimal to no deviation.  

Ethical Documentation Translation:

Translators often times translate important governmental, legal or perhaps medical documents that display private information that should never be shared or repeated. Translators must respect the privacy of the information contained in all documents provided by clients. Translated information should never be shared, disclosed or reproduced; confidentiality is key in displaying positive ethical behavior and maintaining industry standards.

To be ethical means to adhere to moral principles of decent human conduct, and that definition holds true in life as well as in the language service industry. If your business, medical facility or legal office is in need of professional interpretation and translation services with a strong hold on ethical values, then Niki’s Int’l Ltd. is the language service provider that you’ve been searching for. Niki’s Int’l Ltd. prides itself on its strong ethics and core values and can provide you with translators and interpreters who are highly recommended within the language service industry. Interpreters and translators provided by Niki’s Int’l Ltd. exercise wise ethical judgment, confidentiality, professional competence and they ensure accuracy within their work. Working with a professional language service provider will allow you to be connected with interpreters and translators who faithfully, accurately and impartially, complete your project in a timely manner. Ethics within the language service industry are important to uphold and it is vital to your reputation that you provide your clients, customers or patients with a value only professionals can provide.

Niki’s Int’l Ltd. is a WBENC-Certified Women Business Enterprise with 20 years of language service experience. A global network of highly skilled interpreters and translators are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for on-site, telephonic and video remote interpretation services. Our linguists are available in over 350 languages and dialects, and our network includes certified interpreters and translators. Our work is guaranteed with a $1 Million Errors & Omissions policy, so that you can be confident that your project will be completed with the highest level of quality and professionalism within the field. For more information contact us at 1-877-567-8449 or visit our website at

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