Translation/Interpretation online groups: Should they censor the language used by those posting?

May 9, 2013 § 4 Comments

Dear colleagues:

It is happening again: another translation/interpretation online group is giving notice that from now on there will be a “preferred language” (in this case English) and therefore one of the new group administrators is asking all those interested on posting an article or sharing information to: “…please only post your contributions in English…”  Online groups have the right to set and change their rules and if a group censors its content based on the language used by the individual writing the posting, those who participate in the group have two choices: either to abide by the new rules, even if they don’t like them, or to leave the group. In this particular case, because of the quality of the organization that backs the group, if this “English only” rule stands, I will honor it and post exclusively in English (as I am doing with this piece) even if it means that some of my articles will be excluded from these pages because when writing the article I determined that the message was better presented in another language.  Because of this new policy’s similarities to the situation we went through with the online group of ATA’s Spanish Division last year, I have decided to reproduce here the relevant parts of that posting that I believe apply to this case. The “preferred language” is different, but the policy decision was the same.  Fortunately ATA’s Spanish Division understood the consequences of such censorship and reversed its policy. There is also the possibility that I misunderstood the communication we received today, and that this online group will “dislike” a non-English posting but will not censor it.  Not the best option but certainly better that a ban from the group.  As language professionals we are used to the coexistence of many languages, and we should always keep this in mind. I just looked at the current postings on this online group and I really liked the variety of languages represented. Following are the relevant parts of my original article posted January 7, 2013. I have not inserted the entire posting because part of it dealt with the issue of online groups that limit their content based on subject matter, not language.  My dear colleagues, let’s see what you think:

“…In this modern world where we practice our profession we often encounter resources that help us answer a question, confirm a suspicion, ask for a suggestion, share information, and offer a point of view.  Many of us are taking advantage of the web and constantly visit professional websites, blogs, dictionaries, glossaries, professional chat-rooms, list-serves, and many other sites where we can find tools that in the past were difficult to get.  Just like many of you, I have fully taken advantage of these resources and often post articles and opinions on my blog (, offer links on my professional Facebook page (, and provide links to information to those who follow me on Twitter (@rpstranslations).  I also participate in many professional groups and chat-rooms…

…I personally find them very useful and interesting. It is fascinating how we can learn from a colleague 14 time zones away by simply writing a comment on a Linked-in professional group.  These practices have helped many of us grow professionally and as business people.  As many of you know, I have posted many times on many groups, chat-rooms, and list-serves that originate all over the world… 

…My experience has always been positive and useful; however, I have recently come across certain opinions that came very close to limiting the access and usefulness to some of these resources.  There was a translators professional group that was trying to limit postings to one language; an interesting policy for a translators professional group where by definition, those interested should be translators and therefore know at least two languages.  This policy risks losing many participants as a good number of translators feel more comfortable writing in the other language pair instead of the one this group wanted.  This would also limit the reach of the ideas circulated in the group as third-language professionals who otherwise may benefit of a business or good practices posting would now be kept away.  Obviously, this would also discourage many others from participating as the group can be perceived as censoring and controlling what members share just by reason of not using the ONLY language allowed.  Some colleagues defended this position stating that the group is for people who use this specific language; that those who disagree should move on to other groups. I disagree, and fortunately most of those visiting the group agreed with me: This restrictive policy was not adopted. Translators and Interpreters use at least two languages and often use them both.  The failure of this movement made me very happy although I have to say that even though the administrators of this group announced that there would be no censorship, even now this is one of the very few groups on line that still “reviews” your posting before publishing it… 

…I believe that professional groups, chat-rooms, blogs and list-serves should be open to all professionals. Of course there should be a moderator to keep us all focused on a specific topic when posting on a blog… and to keep obscenity and useless personal attacks out of the professional discussion; however, limiting access in a linguist group because of the language… can result on the demise of said professional group…”  Please share your thoughts.

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§ 4 Responses to Translation/Interpretation online groups: Should they censor the language used by those posting?

  • marzolian says:

    Tony, well said. It especially seems odd for IAPTI to take this stance: they were founded in Argentina, and some of the legal statutes that govern the association come from Argentine law.

  • Good point. To me it seems odd for T/I organizations to limit language use. AIICs policy, for instance, is clearly multilingual.

  • Ya, online groups have the right to set and change their rules.. and its good to honor their rules. .I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog post.

    • marzolian says:

      German translator: Yes, groups can set their own rules, and if the group is a “benevolent” dictatorship it’s fine for a group owner to change them. If I say, for example, “This is Steve’s group, and I make the rules. Follow them or leave.”

      But I don’t think those conditions apply here. In this case, the discussion group is run for the convenience for members of an association. In other words, the group doesn’t really belong to the group “owners”, the group owners are supposed to represent the association as a whole.

      Second, the change was not discussed among the members of the group or the members of the association, before the new policy was announced.

      Third, the proposed change is closely tied to the purpose of the group (SpanishEnglish translation). Personally, I believe that the change goes against the spirit in which the original association was founded and how it is run.

      Fourth, although less relevant, a similar issue came up in a similar group (a discussion group run for members of the ATA). Like this one, it was met with some protests (for good reasons, in my opinion), and was reversed rather quickly.

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