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Sample Code of Ethics

There are codes of ethics in different professions such as doctors, lawyers, etc.; and in some fields they are more standardized than in others. For example, all REALTORSĀ® abide by the articles of the code of ethics, which describe in detail how a REALTORĀ® should behave in certain situations maintaining his or her professional conduct and doing it in an ethical way.

All interpreters also abide by the code of ethics, but there is no one standard code of ethics in interpreting industry. Code of ethics for interpreters can be defined as a set of moral principles and rules that guide the professional conduct of interpreters. Interpreters may abide by different codes of ethics, which are created by the organizations where interpreters' services are needed or by professional associations. Each organization can develop their own code of ethics and ask interpreters to sign it. They then would keep a signed copy in the file so that the interpreter does not have to sign it every time he or she comes to interpret at a particular organization.

Although there is no standard code of ethics for interpreters, the rules and principles of the codes of ethics from various organizations are very similar, and they all come down to the following fundamental principles:

Accuracy

Interpreters should accurately and completely transmit the meaning of a message without omitting, deleting or editing, without embellishments or explanations, and with awareness of any cultural differences that might exist between the parties.

Confidentiality

Interpreters must protect the privacy of all knowledge and information gained during their course of duty. They should protect the interest of the clients as their own, and they shall not divulge any private information. Interpreters also should not derive personal profit or advantage from any private information that they gained while acting in a professional capacity.

Unbiased / Impartiality

Interpreters should remain a neutral third party in an interaction and should not be on one side or the other. This also includes eliminating one's own opinions and values from interpreting session.

Knowledge

Interpreters should excel in the target language to be able to recreate the message with its original style and meaning, and should have an excellent knowledge of the source language and the subject area, as well as the culture of both worlds. Interpreters must not accept a job for which they are poorly qualified (i.e. lack of knowledge of a particular subject).

Education

Interpreters should continuously improve their professional skills and expand their knowledge of both languages including learning any special terminology necessary to perform the assignments.

Professionalism

Interpreters should behave and present themselves in a professional manner at all times regardless of the familiarity or unfamiliarity with the individuals involved. Interpreters should also not accept assignments for which a conflict of interest may arise.

Discretion

Interpreters should make sound judgments in all situations so that no individual is put into jeopardy nor is the professional appropriateness of the interpreter is questioned. Interpreters must also not deceive a client by words, deeds or omissions.

Respect

Interpreters should treat all the parties involved in communication in respectful and unprejudicial manner including other colleagues - interpreters.

This constitutes a sample of the interpreters' code of ethics, which applies to translators as well. Codes of ethics of different organizations might be bigger or smaller, more detailed or more general than this sample, but most all of them are based on the principles described above.