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Whose interests does a translator represent during negotiations?

Sometimes in a business negotiation, it can feel like you and the other party are speaking a different language. You both have something the other wants, but getting to an agreement is challenging.

Negotiation can be even more difficult when you are trying to communicate with someone who lives on the other side of the world and speaks another language. A translator is helpful, but when you do not speak the other person’s language, it is hard to know the accuracy of the translation.

Here’s what you should know about a translator’s duty to both parties in a business negotiation.

Up for interpretation

The translator’s job can be a challenging one. No matter what the relationship, there are elements to language that are difficult to translate. The translator is in the middle trying to convey both the translation of each person’s statements and, as much as possible, any cultural nuances that add meaning.

Translators are supposed to remain neutral and act in good faith. When there is more than one meaning for a statement made by one of the parties, the translator should confirm intent with the speaker before moving forward with the translation.

My translator or yours

In many cases, a phrase or sentence can have more than one meaning. Your first inclination might be that the person who hired the translator will get a more detailed translation and more information about colloquialisms.

When you hire a translator, try to agree on a third-party provider with a code of ethics that is the same or similar to that of the American Translators Association (ATA). While a code of ethics is not foolproof, it will help you have recourse for any violations.

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