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Ethical People & Interpreters
by Justin Goujon
October 2nd, 2000

My paper will focus on what it means to be an ethical person and an ethical interpreter. I will also touch upon morals and how they relate to ethics. Finally, I will discuss why I want to be an interpreter.

In order to be an ethical person, you must make ethical decisions in all aspects of your life. These decisions come in your relationships with other people, everyday life, and your profession.

The first step in being an ethical person is thinking. You must think about how your actions will effect the people in the world around you. Once you have thought about the possible outcomes of your actions you must stop and think. Then you must apply your thoughts and choose the action that causes the least amount of harm to others.

Ethics do not only apply to interpersonal relationships; One must also apply ethics to everyday decisions on how they live their lives. Suppose you found $100.00 in an unmarked envelope and spent it on new clothes. While that action does not specifically hurt anyone, it may not be the ethical decision. Do you have the right to spend that money even if there is no way to give it back to itís rightful owner?

Once, while in New York City, I encountered that situation. I was sitting in a restaurant when I found over $1000.00 in twenty and fifty dollar bills. My first reaction was to ask the wait staff if they had lost the money. When they informed me it was not the restaurantís money I had to make an ethical decision. In fact, they put the decision on me and told me the choice rested in my hands - I could decide what to do with the money.

After leaving $100.00 for the staff I quickly left the restaurant and got into a cab. After several hours of debating in Times Square, I decided to donate the money to charity. There was no way to determine where the money came from, but my gut was telling me a drug dealer happened to drop it (I was in the East Village when I found it). I did not feel it was right to spend money on myself that most likely originated from the sale of drugs.

Was my choice ethical? I think so. I am sure others would disagree. The culture and individual that is deciding what is ethical has a strong impact on "what it means to be ethical". I strongly believe there is no one course of action that can be considered ethical in all situations and almost no one shares an exact belief as to what is ethical.

I approach ethical decisions on a case by case basis, and I do not have any one set code of ethical behavior. The exception may be my one basic rule, "to each his own". I strongly believe in allowing people to make their own decision about how they want to live their lives; as long as their choices do not have a negative effect on others.

Morals are the beliefs that guide decisions that make up ethical behavior. In other words, anyone living an ethical life is following what he has decided to be right (his morals). What is believed to be moral varies from person to person.

For example, someone may decide that blowing up an abortion clinic is the moral and ethical thing to do in order to stop abortions. I strongly disagree with his decision on what is right. My world view looks at that act of violence as highly unethical. The bombers world view on the other hand looks as the act as a justifiable way to stop what he believes to be an immoral act (abortions).

What is "ethical interpreter"? Is an ethical interpreter any different then an ethical human? Can someone be an ethical interpreter and not an ethical person? I do not believe so. In order to be an ethical person you must be ethical in all areas of your life: relationships, everyday decisions, education, and profession. That being said, an ethical interpreter is an ethical person, someone who considers every course of action and the possible outcome of that action before acting.

For example, an ethical interpreter will consider how his word choice effects the power balance between the Deaf and hearing consumers before deciding how to speak. An ethical interpreter should also consider every other action he does while taking on the role of interpreter and judge what the result of that action will be.

The RID code of ethics is a guide interpreters should use in order to help them decide what are right and wrong actions when one is working in the field of interpreting.

It is important to state the code does not decide what is right and wrong though. For example, the code says an interpreter should keep an interpreted situation confidential, but it does not give the level of confidentiality. An ethical interpreter must decide what level of confidentiality is acceptable in every individual situation. Again, ethics comes back to a person considering his actions before acting.

I want to become an interpreter because of the Deaf community and American Sign Language. Without these two things I would never have been involved with this field. I have a respect for the community and language, and could not imagine a life without it. Of course those are not the only reasons I want to become an interpreter.

I want to be an interpreter for several reasons. First, I enjoy working with people in everyday situations. I like the challenge of being an interpreter; The process of changing one language into another while realizing all the factors that have an effect on that language is exciting.

I also love the freedom that comes along with the job. While freelancing, you have the power to decide in which situations you will work. I also enjoy the fact that those situations change on a daily basis. Getting involved with life and being in situations I may have never experienced for myself is another advantage of the job. I will encounter real life - and learn from it.

The responsibility of learning about the world around me is another aspect of the job that I enjoy. An effective interpreter must be someone with a broad knowledge base and a willingness to learn. I enjoy having to keep myself up to date on the world around me.

Finally, I want to have a positive impact on the world around me. I will have a direct impact on peopleís everyday life and I feel ready to accept the responsibility and rewards that come with that challenge.

In closing, an ethical human is someone that thinks about his decisions and their impact in every single aspect of his life. I am ready to discover my own ethical beliefs about interpreter and apply those beliefs to my own professional development.

Proper Citation of this Document

Goujon, Justin. "Ethical People & Interpreters." American Sign Language Interpreting Resources, 2 October 2000.