A few years ago a German translator gave me one of her translations to review. The original document was a university diploma that had been authenticated. As such the original was attached to a first page certifying that the signature on the document was genuine. There was also a ribbon along with a seal. The translator did a fine translation, and felt that she needed to recreate the extra-textual elements such as the seal and the ribbon. She didn’t go as far as to punch a hole in rejectedthe translation and affix a blue ribbon, but she did scan the original with a view to copy and paste the images of the said elements into the translation.

A similar issue arose a few weeks ago. An unhappy customer presented us with a translation that she had had redone by a NAATI-accredited translator based in Australia. The translation we issued and that which the client got from the other translator looked very different. While ours was obviously a translation – it was printed on our letterhead, had the heading ‘Translation xxxx’ etc., stated ‘logo]’, ‘stamp]’ and ‘signed]’ where appropriate – the second translation looked like it had been issued by the same authority as the original. The two documents looked exactly the same, the translation even bore a copy of the official seal. The only indication of its true nature was a line in small print at the end stating the name of the translator.

AUSIT’s Code of Ethics clearly states that ‘interpreters and translators [should] maintain clear boundaries between their task as facilitators of communication through message transfer and any tasks that may be undertaken by other parties involved in the assignment’. If a translation is issued by the same authority as the source text, it should be clear from the start that the reader has a translation in front of his/her eyes – reproducing stamps, signatures, coats of arms etc. may lead to unnecessary confusion, and borders on unethical practice.

In that regard, it should be noted that the NZSTI and AUSIT Codes of Ethics are now fully aligned. The NZSTI membership will formally vote on this at the AGM later this month due to be held at the conference.