What’s New on the Business Practices List—Confidentiality and Revision

By David Friedman

confidential-264516_1280Confidentiality is not something that you can afford to take for granted in today’s digital world, where devastating disclosures of trade secrets can occur in the blink of an eye. You have to use your best judgment to determine what degree of confidentiality the documents you are translating need to be treated with in many cases if this is not explicitly spelled out to you. Below is some guidance from the ATA to help you with that.

Point 2 of the ATA Code of Ethics and Professional Practice is “to hold in confidence any privileged and/or confidential information entrusted to us in the course of our work.” The commentary on this code elaborates further on this, “It goes without saying that translators and interpreters adhere to all existing  international, federal, or state laws or acts concerning confidentiality (for example, HIPAA in the medical arena).” So we need to be aware of and comply with legislation on various levels.

Another aspect of confidentiality is how obvious it may or may not be that something is confidential information. Here is an example of a less obvious case from the commentary: “Consider the case of a company needing translations of already published marketing materials to help weigh the possibility of entering a new and competitive market. If a competitor were to learn that this material is being translated, they would realize that the company is preparing to compete in that market.”

See the discussion on the Business Practices List and read the full commentary if you want to learn more. You can also feel free to start a discussion as a comment to this blog post if you would like.

The subject of revision is something that I have personally been thinking about a lot lately, and I was grateful to have some of my questions about it answered on the BP List. I have begun to appreciate the value of revision more recently, as I have had more direct clients and gotten the chance to work very closely with a couple of different partners revising my work and serving as the reviser myself.

With the encouragement of several colleagues from the BP List, I can now more than ever consciously affirm my belief that thorough revision is indispensable. And when I am talking about revision, I am not talking about a quick simple proofreading only designed to catch typos, omissions, etc. Here is an example of what I tell my revisers when sending them one of my translations, especially for things like marketing texts/web copy: “Please change anything and everything you like in tracked changes to create the best text possible so that you can’t tell it is translated; please address my comments, please leave comments, and call me if you are not sure about anything.”

I consider it priceless to be able to discuss the best word to use in a certain sentence to make it flow better, to be able to ask “does this sound strange/sound like Swinglish/Denglish?”, and to be able to put our heads together to find the best solution. In other words, it is not necessarily just about seeking to produce a correct translation (although that is of course a part of it) but also to produce a good translation that reads well and leaves the desired impression on the reader. Although this is especially relevant for the types of texts I translate (such as web copy and corporate communications), I believe that a second set of eyes can almost always come up with a better way of saying something and find things to improve in translations.

ISO 17100 is a new translation industry standard in the works that is set to have stricter revision requirements. At the ATA Conference, check out session TIP-5 on Friday November 7 at 11:30am, “Recent Developments in Translation-Related ISO Standards” if you are interested in learning more about it. You can also check out Session T-1, titled “Revision: Necessary Evil or Added Value?” on Thursday from 11:00am to 12:00pm and follow the discussion on the BP List. And, of course, tell us what you think of revision by commenting on this blog post!

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About the author: After being born and raised in South Florida, David Friedman moved to Sweden in 2006, studied German at Lund University, and has been translating full time since 2009. He specializes in translating corporate communications from Swedish and German to English. David is the founder of a local network of translators in Sweden called Lund Translation Team. He is a member of the American Translators Association (ATA) and the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFÖ) and has been serving as the coordinator of SFÖ’s activities for translators in southern Sweden since the spring of 2014.

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