Translation industry ethics

I recently polled my LinkedIn network to get a feel for the reasons why more translators don’t speak out about translation industry ethics and shady practices.

What do I mean by that? Well, many things, among them low rates and a failure to honour payment terms.

The poll was by no means exhaustive but does give a snapshot of the general feeling among translators and other language industry professionals.

I asked: Why don’t more translators and other language service providers speak out about unfair rates and unethical business practices?

Response options were:

  1. Scared to lose clients
  2. Grateful for all work
  3. It spreads negativity
  4. Not our job to speak out

Almost three quarters of respondents attributed the silence to a fear of losing clients while a quarter felt that speaking out spreads or is perceived to spread negativity. That people stay silent out of a fear for their jobs is no surprise. Moreover, it highlights the power imbalance in an industry that would not survive were it not for the goodwill of its army of freelancers.

Time will tell how the advent of AI impacts translation industry ethics and the willingness (or otherwise) to call out unethical behaviour.

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