Public Service or Community interpreting refers to the type of interpretation that “enables people who are not fluent speakers of the official language(s) of the country to communicate with the providers of public services so as to facilitate full and equal access to legal, health, education, government, and social services” (Carr et al, 1997).
Public Service interpreting is alsoknown as social, liaison, three-cornered, ad hoc, dialog, cultural and contact interpreting. However, there is no consensus about the definitions of these terms and whether or not they are synonymous (Gentile et al, 1996; Carr et al, 1997).
Social interpreting has not been considered a profession, and is not considered yet in most countries, but nowadays these interpreters are increasinglyrecognized as specialists.
With the aim of creating a prototype interpreter, regardless of whether the subject of discussion is a court, medical, or conference interpreter, there are several qualities identified as essential for good interpreting: language skills, analytical skills, listening and recall, interpersonal skills, speaking skills, cultural knowledge, subject knowledge and ethical behavior.This very last quality, ethical behavior, is the focus of this essay.
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR AS A QUALITY FOR GOOD INTERPRETING
Although the interpreter’s code of ethics is more important for legal interpreting than for the rest of interpreting, ethics are a major consideration for all interpreters (Frishberg, 1996; Sussman and Johnson, 1996).
Having or lacking the quality of ethical behavior,especially in Public Services interpreting, makes the difference between the practice and the practitioner. For instance, conference interpreting is a well established and extremely competitive discipline in which practitioners must undergo wide training and demonstrate a high level of skills to be able to work for very selective organizations and institutions. As a result, they demand high fees and arevery respectful professionals.
By contrast, hospital interpreters’ services, for instance, are contracted by public hospitals (in the best of cases) with limited budgets to provide services, or by medical professionals who do not value the work of the interpreter because they normally have had voluntaries to carry out that function. They can also be hired for immigrants who have very littleresources, often poor education, and do not know the workings of the health care system in their new country. As a result, hospital interpreters are rarely required to show proof of any formal education in public service interpreting; the only criterion for their selection is purported knowledge of the required languages (or, in the worst of cases, physical presence, a foreign name or appearance, andaccented speech). Because of all that, someone that assumes the role of social interpreting without any training or preparation would be focus in the language and not in the ethical issues taken part in the communicative process of a public services interpreting.
STANDARD CODES OF ETHICS FOR INTERPRETERS
“The professional code of ethics provides guidelines for interpreters on how to conductthemselves ethically for the benefit of the clients they serve, the profession they represent and themselves as interpreters” (Hale 2007:103). It also helps interpreters to justify themselves when they make a certain decision while using it in their work. Every country has a different code of ethics, but they can all be divided into three broad areas:
1. Interpreter’s responsibility to the authorsof the utterances, which includes accuracy, impartiality and confidentiality. The Interpreter shall render, to the best of his/her ability, a complete and accurate interpretation without altering or omitting anything that is stated. The interpreter shall not add to what is said nor provide unsolicited explanation. She shall not allow personal opinions to interfere with his/her duties nor add...