Institutionalism and professional ethics

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Professional associations help structure how their professions work, for the benefit of their members and clients. However, only a few translator and interpreter associations have defined standards of practice through codes of ethics.

Per the wording approved in November 2022 by its Board of Directors, the American Translators Association’s (ATA) Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility comprises seven standards published on ATA’s website. Though these standards are applicable in their country of origin (the US), they may not work in the same way in other countries where ATA members practise. This creates an ethical and deontological gap that may result in a disadvantage for either the professionals or clients depending on the professional standards in the country where service is rendered.

Nevertheless, it is encouraging to note that associations working in disability-inclusive sectors, such as the US’s Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), have more elaborate codes of professional conduct where ethics are defined based on their values, governing principles, and procedures.

Looking at the reality in Latin America and with Peru as an example, we have the Code of Ethics of the Colegio de Traductores del Perú (CTP, 2017), including such sections as the preamble, scope, and general rules. These rules comprise 34 articles that define the professional conduct that is expected of members and outline the sanctioning bodies responsible for determining the corrective measures to be applied in the event of misconduct. However, there is no document describing the sanctions applicable to each type of misconduct, which leaves a gap in the regulations as they pertain to professional ethics.

Furthermore, contrary to the assumption that the most disadvantaged sectors – such as those of Indigenous-language speakers – would lack regulatory frameworks, the Executive Council of the Judiciary of the Republic of Peru has issued a Code of Ethics for Interpreters and Translators of Indigenous Languages listed in the Special National Registry of Interpreters and Translators of Indigenous Languages of the Judiciary (RENIT). This Code is divided into chapters, articles, and principles, with Chapter IV addressing the implementation of sanctions pursuant to RENIT rules. The National Office of Justice of the Peace and Indigenous Justice (ONAJUP) is in charge of handling complaints related to Code of Ethics violations.

Finally, this overview invites us to reflect: a professional code of ethics is merely a proposal. Thus, it is crucial to go further and enforce it with the firmness and imperative nature of mandatory adherence to established regulations and codes. Such enforcement should be required among association members to ensure quality service and, most importantly, to uphold the rights and obligations of all parties involved.

Nari Cecilia Cárdenas Gaudry (CTP)

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