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What You Need to Know about an Interpreter’s Code of Ethics

With the recent events at the presidential summit in Helsinki and the request for the Trump/Putin interpreter to be subpoenaed to testify about what was discussed during this meeting, many have started to wonder and ask about the interpreter codes of ethics.


As with many different types of professionals, interpreters abide by a strict code of ethics for the assignments they handle. Although each type of interpreting professional (medical, community, court, etc.) could have a different code of ethics, the basic components remain the same across the board.

· Accuracy. An interpreter cannot embellish, omit, or change anything that is said. He or she must interpret only what is said, exactly as it is said. This remains true for the usage of slang, obscenities, inflections of tone, etc.

· Impartiality. The interpreter must remain impartial and neutral during the assignment. He or she should not reveal his/her opinion about the discussion, nor attempt to sway anyone listening, with word choices or emotion.

· Proficiency and accurate representation of credentials. That is to say, the interpreter must be qualified for the assignment he or she accepts, and should be willing to continuously improve his or her skill set via workshops, conferences, trainings or other classes.

· Confidentiality. Unless otherwise authorized, an interpreter must not discuss what he or she has heard while on an assignment. This is often likened to attorney/client or doctor/patient privileges.

If you do decide to contract an interpreter for a hearing, deposition, or meeting, you can rest assured that a professional will adhere to these core components of their code of ethics. Breaching the tenant of confidentiality (or any other) could easily ruin an interpreter’s career or have other serious repercussions.