On 13th January, The Times published the ethical dilemma of a public service interpreter:
bq. I am a self-employed as a public-service interpreter and occasionally I
have to translate a statement that both the speaker and I know is a lie. I
know that I am employed as a machine into which you pour one language and
out of which you get another, but I am uncomfortable with this situation. I
could, of course, cover myself by reporting the lie to a superior officer,
but I may then find that very little work is coming my way. Any
The Ethicist’s answer is only available to paying subscribers. You can have a one-week subscription, but I haven’t.
He says she has to tell the truth, even if she is just hired as a kind of machine.
If she is not certain it is a lie, she can translate it. Lawyers may doubt a client’s innocence but still argue that the client is not guilty, but lawyers are not allowed to lie. This may cost her some work.
It’s easy to answer questions if you know you have to be ethical! I would have said she can lie if it’s a trivial matter. I also wonder if ‘lying’ is really a problem in practice. Normally the interpreter will have no idea about a lie. Interpreters probably have more qualms about opinions and manners. It looks like a query invented for the ‘ethicist’ to me.