The Linguist

The Linguist 57,1 – February/March 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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FEATURES How can interpreters prepare for unreasonable demands and deal with the emotional fallout from traumatic work? Eneida García Villanueva considers interpreter ethics with a focus on public sector work Public service interpreters (PSIs) are concerned with facilitating communication between public service providers ('providers') and their 'users' with limited or no English proficiency. PSIs are bound by the codes of conduct of the professional bodies they belong to, and any code or standards imposed by the public service and/or agency they are engaged with. There are four elements common to almost every code of ethics in use worldwide: confidentiality, impartiality, professionalism and accuracy. In reality, interpreters have to use such codes with flexibility, adopting a broader ethical approach in order to overcome the dilemmas that arise. Sometimes this can only be achieved by using our own morality and common sense to find bespoke solutions to the situations that develop. This forms the basis of professional behaviour. So what happens when our codes of conduct don't provide answers to the dilemmas we face? How should we deal with the emotional burden associated with certain assignments? How do we overcome situations that are not best practice? PSIs often feel that they cannot turn to colleagues or family members as that would breach confidentiality. While this is true, our mental wellbeing cannot and should not be neglected. I once found myself simultaneously dealing with cases of child abuse, rape and a terminally ill young person. Despite my extensive ethical, linguistic and cultural training, I struggled to recover my emotional balance at the end of the working day. This was compounded by the service providers making demands that were unsuitable for the training I had received and the role I was hired to perform. On one occasion, when the job finished early, I was asked to stay in the palliative unit with the patient's family in case they needed anything. This was difficult to refuse, as the client was still paying me for my time. You can imagine the desperation of a family in that situation and my inability to avoid engaging in conversation. As a result, I found it difficult to leave behind the emotional weight when leaving the hospital. Seeking support A contingency plan is crucial when dealing with such inappropriate demands, or struggling to fully detach yourself from a distressing assignment. If you have been hired by an agency, 1 it is important to express your concerns to your agency contact or project manager, seeking support and guidance, which can offer some relief while preserving confidentiality. If the agency intervenes it is unlikely that any further unsuitable demands will be made. If you have been hired by the service provider directly, it is important that you are tactful, consistent and coherent in your approach. Bear in mind that the person who Beyond the call of duty

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