Translating is not only translating!

31-08-2016

Many people think you are or can be a translator as soon as you can speak two different languages. But this is not true. Though good knowledge of both the languages is crucial, other professional qualities are not less important.

Some two, three years back I read a story-like Pashto article on a website that shocked me very much. Someone who was working as a translator and interpreter in California, the United States (as was clear from the information he had given in the story), had written about an Afghan couple that was seeking asylum in the United States.

According to the writer of this article, he himself was invited to translate for the couple and when he arrived at the office of the immigration agency, he found out that the couple had converted to Christianity. And when he went to the room where he had to translate at the meeting, he recognized the couple as they had been neighbors in Afghanistan.

This 'interpreter' had written in his article that he deliberately tried to intimidate and frighten the couple and when, at the end of the meeting, he was requested to drive the couple to their flat, he accepted it. He used this as an opportunity to humiliate them yet more in his car and on the way he thought several times it would be good to throw them out of the running car but then he did not do that. But, he had written further, he had frightened them so much that when they arrived in the front of the flat, the woman left the car and fell on the ground!

Imagine you have fled a war and a country where humans are nothing more than creatures that should be killed for all kinds of reasons and no reasons, no matter whatever religion and faith you follow, and you have put your life in risk and have finally arrived in a new, safe country with many hopes, and then you are put at the hands of such a translator/interpreter?

With the refugee crisis of the last year, the demand for translators, particularly in languages as Arabic, Pashto, Dari/Farsi, rose as well. Actually, there has always been a certain need of good translators and interpreters. And the first question many will ask is: Who is a good translator/interpreter?

The answer is not difficult: The person who has written the above mentioned article is absolutely no translator/interpreter even if he has excellent knowledge of both the source and target languages. Allowing such people to work in this profession, especially for vulnerable groups such as homosexuals, converts and minorities, is putting their lives, safety and privacy in great danger.

Like in any other profession, working as a translator/interpreter has its own code of conduct. Sworn translators and interpreters are mostly required to have followed certain professional trainings and leaking confidential information can lead to legal procedures. But in practice, things happen when certain individuals cannot keep their religious ideas personal and give them more importance than professional rules.

And this often leads to disastrous consequences for those who have put their trust in such a translator.

Hadi Hairan

Writing / language classes / translation/interpretation services

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