The Translation Service works closely with the New Zealand Police and the courts whenever they need translations and other language related services to support their investigations and court cases involving non-English speakers. These jobs may require translating online chat or text message conversations, transcribing and translating audio files, listening to recordings, translating the minutes of an interview into a foreign language etc. And more often than not these jobs contain material that may be controversial, offensive and/or disturbing.

How should you deal with such material?

First, if you are uncomfortable with the material we’ve asked you to transcribe, translate or listen to, and would rather not take on the assignment, please let us know as soon as possible. This will allow us to find another linguist and still meet the deadline (and keep our client happy).

Second, if you decide to complete the assignment athough the content makes you slightly uncomfortable, you must make sure that just like for any other type of translation, you fully render the meaning of the original. This means that you will need to keep the controversial, offensive and/or disturbing parts equally controversial, offensive and/or disturbing. Any watering down of the content may in fact compromise the investigation or court case, and damage the reputation of the Translation Service.

Finally, you must bear in mind the purpose of these translations or transcriptions. They have an immediate impact on our society and the lives of peopke, and as such they truly matter for several reasons:

  • They play an integral part in the success of an investigation or case, and contribute to the justice process and making New Zealand a safer place.
  • They help informing non-English speakers of police and justice proceedings and support their ability to exercise their rights.

If they make you feel uncomfortable, I hope that you will consider these points before declining the assignment. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss this issue further.

Why ‘pardon my French’? As a Frenchman I’ve always been puzzled by this expression. Why do obscenities and derogatory language qualify as French? Click here to find out more.