Code of Conduct

“I swear to be a loyal member of the translator’s profession, respecting its history. I am willing to share my expertise with colleagues and to pass it on to trainee translators. I will not work for unreasonable fees. I will always translate to the best of my ability” (Chesterman, 2001)

Chesterman, A. (2001). Proposal for a Hieronymic Oath. The Translator, 7(2), 139-154.

The purpose of the Code

This Code of Conduct underpins the RBSLI Code of Ethics click here for professional interpreters and translators to ensure high standards are consistently maintained amongst its registrants. It explains to service users (principles) and organisations of interpreting and translation services what they can expect from you, the registrant, during the course of your service. Service users and organisations can make a complaint where they believe a registrant has not followed the RBSLI Code of Ethics click here.

Practitioners’ responsibility

RBSLI’s ethical approach moves away from ‘rule based’ codes to reflect the reality of modern interpreting and translation as a practice profession (click here).

This practice promotes professional responsibility with a focus on practitioners making ethical decisions on how to manage communication in human interaction. This requires constant assessment of the effectiveness of decisions, likely consequences and a flexible approach to dealing with unfolding situations.

The practitioner rather than being a neutral, invisible conduit is present as a participant within that interaction and takes responsibility for promoting effective communication.

Depending on the social context, the practitioner may move back and forward between consecutive and simultaneous modes of interpreting as required. Research reports a greater degree of accuracy using consecutive interpretation, especially critical in legal situations.

It is the practitioners’ responsibility to determine the positive and negative effects of maintaining confidentiality and impartiality. There is a legal obligation for professionals to disclose suspected concerns regarding abuse or potential harm. Disclosures should be managed in a responsible way that respects cultural differences.

The RBSLI Practitioners’ Oath

RBSLI’s Code of Ethics is based on the ethical principle of ‘do no harm’. The Code is summarised below, as an oath taken by professionals to avoid harm:

‘I affirm that I will endeavor to ensure that negative translational actions, resulting in harmful outcomes for the principles, are avoided’

This oath is promoted through effective communication; interpreters and translators ensure that they tailor their service to the social situation, environment and service users’ changing language needs. Communication is managed in a sensitive and respectful way, with honesty and integrity, in the best interests of those involved.

Promoting best practice

The following Code of Conduct together with professional values work to promote effective communication and upholding the best qualities of the profession.

Registrants ensure:

Prior to accepting assignments

  • Their services and capabilities are advertised in an honest and realistic manner
  • They are physically and mentally fit, with the relevant skills and experience to carry out the assignment effectively
  • Reasonable Terms & Conditions and Fees are mutually agreed prior to delivery of the service
  • Security of clients’ confidential data
  • Safe working conditions are in place to promote accuracy and occupational health & welfare; co-workers are employed for intensive prolonged assignments
  • That any possible harm related to lone working is considered
  • They withdraw from assignments where there is a conflict of interest

Before the interpreted event: preparation

  • They understand the aims of the event, terminology and concepts and any other important information that may be relevant
  • They know how the event will be conducted
  • They discuss effective team and co-working strategies where necessary
  • Where practical, to meet service users beforehand to understand and get accustomed to communication styles and any particular needs

During the assignment: interpreted communication

  • That meaning, including intent and cultural connotations of the signers/speakers is reflected accurately
  • To intervene sensitively, where meanings are ambiguous or misunderstood, to clarify speakers’/signers’ intent, in order to promote understanding
  • To explain any cultural misunderstandings where necessary or include relevant footnotes for translators
  • To check signers/speakers’ ongoing understanding of the communication
  • To support team, co-workers and professional colleagues
  • To take positive steps to correct errors or possible misunderstandings

After the assignment

  • To allow time, if necessary, to discuss any aspects of their interpretation or translation
  • To explain any unusual or particularly relevant information if necessary
  • To allow time for debriefing where any material may have been distressing or traumatic
  • To take on board and provide constructive feedback to service users or co-workers

Further own skills and knowledge

  • To engage with professional membership interpreting/translation bodies and local networks
  • To share their expertise with colleagues and pass on knowledge to trainees through mentorships and supervision
  • Complete annual Continuing Professional Development and keep abreast of developments in interpreting and translation
  • To take steps to incorporate lessons learned into ongoing practice

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