Tag Archives: ethics

Traduttore, Tradittore: Translation Ethics and Mistranslations

The Italian saying “traduttore, tradittore”, which in English means “translator, traitor” was my first encounter with translation issues. During my freshmen year in the English- Spanish Translation Program, one of my teachers introduced us to this saying, which made me think about translation, but I still didn’t fully grasp its meaning. Why would translators purposefully betray people if their purpose is to bridge cultural gaps and facilitate communication? Can mistranslations have a profound impact on the client`s business and image?

Before delving into mistranslations and some of their potentially damaging effects, it is crucial to define ethics.

What is ethics?

I believe ethics is about putting ourselves in another person`s shoes and thus, thinking about the implications of our actions on society. In the conference of Ethics and Interpreter Training, Mona Baker,an Egyptian professor of translation studies, expresses that “ethics is about the implications of everybody in any kind of encounter”. If we want to be professionals, we have to behave as such. If you schedule an appointment with a doctor, you instill your trust in them and you assume they will take care of you. You implicitly know if any health problem arises, they will do their best to diagnose and treat it. The same situation occurs with translators. The client trusts the translator, who, of course, will work to the best of their knowledge to aid in communication. However, what happens when you accept a job for which you are not prepared?

The following video is a dramatization that portrays an ironic situation of an interpreter who, instead of helping the client, causes him to experience an uncomfortable moment in front of his company`s CEOs.

Funny video, but not so amusing when you are the client. Although these situations extreme and rarely happen, it would now be important to clarify what is mistranslation.


Mistranslation implies something deeper than a bad translation; it implies the partial or total loss of the intended meaning of a message. While there could be some minor deviations in meaning like omissions, additions, bad choice of words, unclear ideas and ungrammatical sentences, some major mistakes may have financial and legal or political implications.

Faulty translations may deeply affect the clients. It is not wrong to say no if we are not qualified for or if we think we are not going to meet the tight deadline. In order to avoid mistranslations, we have to make sure we proof read and edit the text effectively, showing our professionalism and expertise.

If you liked this post, you cannot miss next week`s post on cultural differences, neologisms and when to borrow terms. Please feel free to comment. I am looking forward to reading your opinion about this topic.


Blog Proposal- Warning: Blog Under Construction, some Ideas May Change

Blog`s purpose?

After exploring inspiring blogs about the translation profession, becoming a freelance translator, seeking job opportunities, and establishing translation credentials, I have decided that I want to make my contributions to the field of translation. I do not want to imitate other posts, but simply write openly about topics I consider important as a junior translator and add my perspective. I believe other juniors and freelance translators, as well as seniors will be identified with some of the topics presented in my blog. Feel free to comment anything you consider noteworthy!

As I have seen in Transblawg, my blog posts are going to have links to legal blogs, translation blogs and language blogs. I would also like to imitate the “subscribe” option that I have seen in Thoughts of Translation blog, since I consider that widget that informs about new posts brings together writer and reader.

My blog posts are going to encompass topics related on the translation profession: finding clients, improving translation credentials, language issues, translation ethics and tools.

How to prospect new clients?

As Céline Graciet expresses in her blog, websites, profesional networking and word-of-mouth are the best way to promote yourself. At the same time, websites are double-edged sword because, as a person who works with language and makes meaning,a translator should watch their language. If you think websites are the best way to promote yourself, you are wrong. We wil try to come up with fresh ideas about promoting yourself. You could make use of all types of social networks.

How do you improve your credentials?

We will follow Marta Stelmaszak`s suggestions on her chapter, You need a CV that works, which will help us create a CV that reflects a profesional profile.

Keeping yourself constantly updated on language usage

You can resort to monolingual dictionaries in Spanish, to monolingual dictionaries in English, collocations dictionary in English, reference materials about Spanish usage, or blogs about Spanish language usage,but you must always be updated and show professionalism through your language usage.

Translation ethics?

A topic I haven`t seen addressed in any of the blogs before. And, since there are some blurred boundaries to what is ethical and what is not, it needs to be clarified. We may reflect, together with Mona Baker, some of the professional ethics that are required of a translator.

Translation tools?

Another topic I have hardly seen in most of the blog posts! We will explore some tools for translators that will make them save time and look professional with clients!

As mentioned earlier finding clients, establishing credentials, improving your language, being ethical and using translator tools are elements that are going to help you create opportunities in your professional career as a translator or future translator. Don`t drop your guard! Follow my posts and build a better future!