A new code of ethics for translators and interpreters working in Australia and New Zealand has been released to ease concerns about the quality of language services on offer in the public sector.

Experts from the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT), with support from Monash University, worked together to compile the code, using best practices from around the world. The completed guidelines are backed by the National Accreditation Authority for Interpreters and Translators and they are the first of their kind to be used by a whole region and not just a single country.

The standards have been designed to protect both language service providers and their customers. Clients often have no way of determining the quality of work provided by a translator or interpreter, but the code is a way of ensuring transparency.

Maintaining a professional detachment, objectivity and impartiality is one of the main best practices outlined in the new code, along with guaranteeing confidentiality. The code also obliges language service providers to continue their professional development, adhere to dispute resolution procedures and promote quality working conditions. It expects linguists to turn down any work that is beyond their competence.

President of AUSIT Annamaria Arnall says it is vital clients feel confident in the service they are getting, particularly as it is in a different language to the one they speak, which makes it difficult to monitor.

Adelaide-based translator and interpreter Christian Schmidt, who helped compile the code, notes that the job of an interpreter is to facilitate communication and assist parties in understanding each other. He points out that this is a complex task that requires interpreters to have background knowledge of the subject and sector they are working in, as well as language skills, which makes it “very challenging”.

Mr Schmidt adds: “Our code gives detailed guidance on professional boundaries. Legal or medical advice should only come from a legal or medical professional and not from a language professional.”