TRANSLATOR'S RIGHTS AND DUTIES

A Compendium

 

Each occupation has its own rules of professional behavior. They are based on common sense, generally acknowledged moral principles and their derivatives – laws. And though there is no analogy of the Hippocratic Oath for translators, every self-respecting one has an idea about a certain moral code that their clients expect to be respected. This guide recapitulates this code both for beginners in translation and for potential clients.

 

Rights

 

1. NO ONE CAN KNOW EVERYTHING

The translator has the right to be provided with all necessary means that ensure a high quality translation [1]:

а) for interpreting – effective communication equipment, a lower speed of speech;

b) for simultaneous interpreting – to be provided with speakers' orations the day before the event;

c) for written translation – to be provided with reference information and materials on the subject;

d) for any kind of translation – to be provided with background information, specifying the context of translation (a reason for translation, target audience, specific requests for translation from the client).

 

2. TRANSLATOR IS NOT A MACHINE

The translator has the right to take rest and meal breaks during his work session [1].

 

3. COPYRIGHT IS STILL ALIVE

If a work of art or journalism is translated and is honoured with a publication, its author, that is the translator, enjoys a copyright on this translation, protected by law [1]. It means that :

а) the work is published with the translator's knowledge and consent;

b) the translator's name must be indicated in the issued copies;

c) if the work is published for the for-profit purpose the translator has the right to royalties, stipulated by a publishing contract;

d) re-publication of the translation partially or entirely may be carried out only with the translator's knowledge and consent.

 

Duties

 

1. BE ON TOP OF THINGS

The translator must provide a high quality translation [1]. The means to achieve this goal include not only basic specialized studies, but also a constant self-training [2]. For the same purpose the conditions stated in the section “Rights”, p. 1, must be respected.

 

2. THE ORIGINAL IS SACRED

The translator's task is to transfer information without distortion [1]. He or she does not have the right to alter the text in any way, if the correspondent task of adaptation, abridgement or explanation is not stated. The translator must identify invariant elements in the source text (terms, dates, numbers, proper names) and preserve it in translation.

 

3. KEEP CALM AND BE NEUTRAL

From the p. 2 it follows that the translator does not have the right to express his or her opinion on the contents of the text to translate [1]. During negotiations or debates the translator must not take anybody's side, nor has he or she the necessity to do so.

 

4. TRANSLATOR = DIPLOMAT

Depending on circumstances, diplomatic powers may be delegated to the translator (during international summits etc.) [1]. If a diplomatic task does happen to be assigned to the translator, the latter has the right to deviate slightly from the original in order to “smoothen the sharp edges” and to “gild the pill”. Thus the translator establishes a dialog between the parts and prevents escalation. In any case, with diplomatic powers or without them, the translator remains impartial, keeps the voice level and the face neutral, slightly benevolent.

So, the translator's first priority is to contribute to mutual understanding and not to aggravate the situation. Therefore, regardless of the context being more o less formal, is is always considered to be extremely rude to insist on speaking a language that cannot be shared by all members of a group. If the translator does not lack the manners he or she will not leave anyone behind. When being forced to exchange some cues in front of a person who does not speak the currently used language, the translator feels is as his duty to translate briefly for that person the content of the dialog.

 

5. TAKE IT TO YOUR GRAVE

It is the translator's duty to respect clients' privacy and keep secret the content of the source texts (personal papers, medical reports, know-hows ets.) [1].

That is why, while listing translation experiences in your CV, works' full details may be indicated only if the original or your translation is available for public, such as literature or scientific works, advertisement brochures, speeches and lectures. Here you may feel free to indicate all the necessary details in order to trace the text any time one wants to refer to it. Otherwise, for privacy-requiring works, it will be sufficient to indicate only the subject area.

 

6. COPYRIGHT IS STILL ALIVE

If you plan to publish a translation of some literature work, for profit or for non-profit purpose, in either case you should consider the probability that the original text is subject to copyright.

Copyright does not impede publishing translations, but it requires a permission from institutions or persons who hold the copyright to the work in question [3]. Normally, such a permission is released for a limited period of time. There is also another peculiarity: copyright law and the procedure of application for permission vary from one country to another [4]. Translators interested in publishing a translation of a copyright-protected text should consult the copyright holders.

Nevertheless, there are works free from copyright, otherwise called public domain works. A work obtains a status of “public domain” when its copyright terms are expired or never existed [5]. In most countries copyright terms are composed of the author's lifespan + 70 years after his or her death [6]. Thus, practically every piece of literature edited before 1850 is in public domain now [4]. And this list is getting longer every day.


References:

  1. Alekseeva, I. S. Translator's Professional Training. St. Petersburg: Perspektiva, Soyuz Publishing House, 2008. pp. 15-17

  2. Alekseeva, I. S. Translator's Professional Training. St. Petersburg: Perspektiva, Soyuz Publishing House, 2008. pp. 9-11

  3. Bookwormtranslations: Copyright Law and Translation

  4. Public Domain Guide

  5. Wikipedia: Public Domain

  6. Wikipedia: World copyright terms


 

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