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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

January 13, 2010

Morningside’s motto is “if the client wants it, it can be done.” Morningside is a translation company that prides itself on meeting our clients’ requests, no matter the time or circumstance. But just like an attorney will not comply with a client’s requests if it would violate his code of ethics, we will never ask our translators to produce a translation that does not comply with the translation industry’s standards and norms. What does this mean?

The cardinal rule of translation—and especially of certified translation—is that the completed translation be the most accurate rendition possible of the source document. In other words, a completed translation should be a mirror image of the document that has been translated, except in a different language. Of course translation is not an exact science, and sometimes to produce the best translation possible a skilled translator must make minor changes in word order or sentence structure to accurately convey the meaning and intent of the source document.

But an ethical translator—and in turn an ethical translation company—cannot “insert” words into the translation (especially a legal translation) that did not exist in the source document, or re-arrange paragraphs and sentences in such a way that the intention and meaning of the source document is altered. This would be unethical, and given that certified legal translations are often submitted in court, in some cases this would also be against the law. Again, changes that make the translation more readable and comprehensible (if the source document was garbled or contained syntax and spelling errors) are permissible in most cases, and Morningside will always try to accommodate our clients’ requests. But we will never ask a translator to change and certify a translation that he does not believe is a true and accurate reflection of the original document.

To sum up—Morningside will do everything possible to meet our clients requests and give them what they want—unless we can’t for legal or ethical reasons. And we think our clients—especially our legal translation clients—respect that.