Making Ethical Decisions in Translation

Michelle Dawson, a French translator in Washington D.C., is employed by a United Nations office that functions to strengthen NGO’s through grants, training programs and a wide range of other programs.  As a translation worker, Michelle’s job is to evaluate grant proposals from various groups that seek funding from the United Nations.  The proposals that she receives and reviews are for new programs that are meant to promote global good.

While proposals are meant to contain factual information and be transparent, sometimes the writers see proposals as a marketing tool that can convey exaggerated promises, silenced risks and huge rewards. As a result, some proposals are almost entirely based on fabricated research results.  One inherent problem becomes obvious when proposals are written to generate funding for additional research and additional funding is recommended in previous research results. Generally speaking, the more successful the previous research has been, the more likely that large donations and grants will be awarded for additional research.

Because Dawson is a noted social scientist and professional translator, she has strong knowledge in conducting research, applying statistics correctly, stating realistic objectives and writing honest and ethical recommendations.  As a translation service provider and research analyst, her job is to evaluate the merit of each proposal.  Her current project involves reviewing and translating the proposals for a project that has a goal of bringing clean drinking water to people in Africa’s most polluted nations.  The first proposal that she reviews and translates from French to English is from a prominent United Nations ambassador and a professor at a Nigerian university.  The ambassador wants to implement a portable water filtration system that he had previously been awarded money to develop.  While independent research from world renowned testing laboratories confirm that his filtration system is completely ineffective, the ambassador attempts to mislead reviewers by including contrived charts from ambiguous and suspicious tests and making unfounded claims.

While reviewing the ambassador’s proposal, Dawson notices that the details contained in the proposal don’t match the findings that findings that he had recorded in the field.  In fact, the ambassador has skewed the data to make his water filtration system look successful.  Upon further review of the ambassador’s records, Dawson determines that the ambassador has underlined findings that make his invention look wonderful and has crossed out findings that detail huge and potentially dangerous flaws.

Dawson must now make an ethical decision in translation and decide if she should confront the ambassador, mention something to her superiors or simply overlook her findings.  By announcing her findings, she could be viewed as a whistle blower and face acts of retribution from everyone in her office.  She might even be forced to quit her job or worse.  Based on the two ethical frameworks that we discussed previously, what would you do?

A Summary For Translators And Writers Of Proposals

Before concluding this section on proposals, we thought we would provide a summary of the posts that we have made on this subject.  To start, most Washington D.C. translation workers define a proposal as an offer to do something or a suggestion for some action. Among the various types of proposals that can be generated, there are three main types that consist of the planning proposal, the research proposal, and the sales proposal. Among these various types, they can take the form of an internal proposal, an external proposal, a solicited proposal or an unsolicited proposal.

A Houston Portuguese Translation profession explains the differences between the three main types of proposal using the following clarification.  A planning proposal is typically written and translated to address the benefits of following a suggestion for change.  Alternatively, a research proposal tends to explain why a research project would be valuable to an organization.  In doing so, the research proposal must explain why the researcher is qualified to carry out the project and identify the likelihood of its success.  Finally, the sales proposal should be written to explain why your client can do a better job at fulfilling the needs of the customer better than a competitor.  Regardless of the type of proposal, a well written one will answer the necessary questions concerning what, why, how, when, and how much.

To ensure a good proposal, several professional Atlanta translation workers offer the following suggestion:

l. Use the appropriate format and supplements.
2. Be sure that your subject is focused and your purpose worthwhile.
3. Identify all related problems.
4. Offer realistic methods.
5. Provide concrete and specific information.
6. Use visuals whenever possible.
7. Maintain the appropriate level of technicality.
8. Create a tone that connects with your readers.

As you plan to write your proposal, work from a detailed outline that has a distinct introduction, body, and conclusion:

I. In the introduction, answer the what and why and clarify the subject, background, and purpose of your proposal. Establish need and benefits, along with your qualifications. Identify data sources, any limitations of your plan, and its scope.
2. In the body, answer the how, when, and how much. Spell out your plan by enumerating methods, work schedules, materials and equipment, personnel, facilities, costs, expected results, and feasibility.
3. In the conclusion, summarize key points and stimulate action.

Writing And Translating The Conclusion Of A Proposal

In previous blog posts we have covered the three main parts of a proposal that include the introduction, the body and the conclusion.  In addition, we have provided a recommended outline for writer and translators.  In the last section, a Houston Translation expert in the area of translating proposals will discuss the conclusion.  The conclusion restates the need for the project and persuades readers to act.  It answers the questions readers will ask:

• How badly do we need this change?
• Why should we accept your proposal?
• How do we know this is the best plan?

It is advised that translators conclude their proposals on a strong note that is assertive, confident, and encouraging.  As a final word of advice, translation workers should ensure that the conclusion is kept short

In some instances, particularly when the proposal is lengthy and begins with a comprehensive abstract, translators can skip the conclusion. When a few lines or short paragraphs can answer the readers’ questions in each section, a short proposal will suffice, but a complex plan calls for a long, formal proposal. The following section illustrates a formal proposal accompanied by all necessary supplements.

Authoring And Translating The Body Of A Proposal

The body section of the proposal will receive the most attention from readers. It should be designed to answers all the following questions that are applicable:

o How will it be done?
o When will it be done?
o What materials, methods, and personnel will it take?
o What facilities are available?
o How long will it take?
o How much will it cost, and why?
o What results can we expect?
o How do we know it will work?
o Who will do it?

Authors or translators should use the body section to spell out the client’s plan in enough detail for readers to evaluate its merit. If this section is vague, many Miami Certified Translation workers believe that your client’s proposal stands no chance of being accepted. Besides being clear, the plan must be realistic and promise no more than you can deliver. The main goal of this section is to prove that the plan is failsafe.

As a translator with The Marketing Analysts Seattle Translation Services explains, “Spell out the problem, to make it absolutely clear to the audience and to show you understand it fully.” As a Chicago French Translation worker, use your resources wisely to explain why the problem should be solved or the project undertaken. Identify any sources of data. In a research or sales proposal, state your qualifications for doing the job. If your plan has limitations, explain them. Finally, define the scope of your plan by enumerating the specific subsections to be discussed in the body section.

If a proposal is unsolicited, a writer or translator must carefully emphasize why the problem is important by making it vivid through details that arouse concern and interest. Consequently, an introduction might be longer than it would be in a solicited proposal, where your intended readers and decision-makers would already agree about the severity of the problem.

How To Author and Translate A Winning Proposal

Like all writing projects that are designed to present and explain facts and numbers, proposals have an introduction, body and conclusion. For writers and certified translation workers who are authoring a proposal, the following format is one that is encouraged because it follows a good layout with recommended sections and subsections.

I. Background
A. Objective and Purpose
B. Definition of the Problem
D. Need
E. Qualifications of Personnel
F. Data Sources
G. Limitations
H. Scope

A. Methods
B. Timetable
C. Materials and Equipment
D. Personnel
E. Available Facilities
F. Needed Facilities
G. Cost
H. Expected Results
I. Feasibility

A. Summary of Key Points
B. Request for Action

This outline is intended to be flexible and the subsection headings can be rearranged, combined, divided, or deleted as needed. Although not every proposal contains all subsections, each major section must answer certain reader questions, as illustrated below

Writing And Translating The Introduction

As one Chicago French Translation worker suggests, the introduction should answer all the following questions – or all those that apply to the situation:

o What situation are you trying to prevent or what problem seeking to fix?
o In general, what remedy or idea are you proposing?
o Why are you offering to make changes?
o What are the advantages or positive returns?
o What are your qualifications for this project

Right from the start, your purpose as a Houston Portuguese Translation worker that translates proposals should be to promote your client’s strategy, to persuade the audience that the project must be completed and that your client has the ability to do it. If your introduction is long-winded, evasive, or vague, your audience may ignore it entirely. Therefore, you should make it concise, specific, and clear.

In addition, the author of translator must spell out the problem, to make it absolutely clear to the audience and to show you understand it fully. Explain why the problem should be solved or the project undertaken. Identify any sources of data. In a research or sales proposal, state your qualifications for doing the job. If your plan has limitations, explain them. Finally, define the scope of your plan by enumerating the specific subsections to be discussed in the body section.

How Technical Should Your Proposal Be?

When preparing your proposal for international audiences, several items must be considered.  As Washington D.C. French Translation workers suggest, a single proposal might address a diverse audience that could include sales managers, marketing directors, human resources personnel, operations supervisors and engineers.  A scientific or medical related research proposal might be read by experts in the field, who then advise the granting agency whether to accept or reject it. Planning and sales proposals might be read by colleagues, superiors, and clients (who are generally non-technical employees). Informed and expert decision-makers will be those who are most interested in the technical details of the project.

Non-technical employees will tend to be the most interested in the projected outcomes of the study, but they will need an explanation of the scientific or engineering details too.  Consequently, Houston Translation workers claim that it’s critical that both the researcher and the translator be familiar with the terminology, needs, desires and concerns of the intended audience.

Unless your proposal gives all readers what they need, it is not likely to move anyone to action. This is where supplements are useful, especially abstracts, glossaries, and appendices. Let your knowledge of the audience guide your decisions about supplements. Who is your secondary audience? Who else will be evaluating your proposal?

However, if the intended targeted reader is an expert or highly informed in the subject matter, the author and translators should keep the proposal technical. If there are some uninformed secondary readers, most certified translation workers recommend the inclusion of an informative abstract, a glossary, and appendices that explain specialized information. If the primary audience has no expertise and the secondary audience does, follow this pattern: write the proposal itself for lay persons and provide appendices containing the technical details (formulas, specifications, calculations) the informed readers will use to evaluate your plan.

The Criteria For A Powerful Proposal

Foreign readers will evaluate your proposal according to how clearly the author answers their questions about what, why, how, when and how much and how clearly the translator translates the material. An effective proposal is clear, informative, and realistic and conforms to the following guidelines.

An experienced Tampa Translation worker may format a short proposal into a letter or memo format depending on whether they are internal or external.  Longer memos or letters, however, are more easily read if headings are used. Sometimes authors even include appendices for support material (maps, blueprints, specifications, calculations, and so on) that would interrupt the text.  Therefore, as a translation worker who is occasionally asked to translate proposals, you should be familiar with using applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator and other image editing applications.

While short proposals will serve many purposes, some projects call for a long format design. And different readers inside and outside your organization will be interested in different parts of your proposal: some need only a summary; others already know about the problem and will want only your plan; others want all the details. Or perhaps the company requesting proposals will specify a certain format and supplements. Such cases may call for a long proposal that, like the formal report, has various supplements. A number of Philadelphia translation services workers realize that an abstract consisting of a statement of the problem and causes, a description of proposed solutions, and an assessment of the plan’s feasibility is particularly important to nontechnical readers.

Since the decision makers are busy executives who appreciate clarity, a proposal should start with a title that is absolutely clear about the intent.  If your client is submitting a proposal concerning improvements to a canal system in Angola, the heading shouldn’t be “Recommended Improvements”.  Instead, make the recommendation that your client use “Recommended Canal System Improvements.”  Portland translation services workers suggest that the goal should be to come up with specific titles that represent the specifics of a detailed proposal.

Design your proposal to reflect your attention to detail. A hastily typed and assembled proposal suggests to readers the writer’s careless attitude toward the project in general. Avoid, however, any “decorations,” such as flashy covers, colored paper, or catchy titles. Keep layout, typeface, and bindings conservative and tasteful.

Preparing and Translating Proposals that Plan An Improvement

A planning proposal suggests ways to solve a problem or to bring about improvement. Many Washington D.C. Translation Services companies are familiar with writing and translating proposals that take the form of a request for funding to expand the manufacturing output, an architectural plan for new office building on a corporate campus, or a plan to improve leadership training and skills in a major corporation. In every case, the successful planning proposal answers this central question for readers: What are the benefits of following your suggestions? The following planning proposal is external and solicited.

Disappointed with the results of earlier, in-house software development initiatives, a division of Exxon Mobil has contracted a team of software developers to design results-oriented workforce management application. The authors of the proposal worked with a Houston Translation Services company to to persuade decision makers in 3 countries that their plans for software development are likely to be completed faster, more efficiently and produce better results than prior approaches, which were not give enough priority. In their proposal, addressed to the director of the division, the consultants offer concrete and specific solutions to clearly identified problems.

After a brief introduction summarizing the problem, the proposal writers develop their proposal under two major headings (“Assessment of Needs” and “Proposed Plan”) to give the audience a clear forecast of the contents. Under “Proposed Plan,” subheadings offer an even more specific forecast.

The “Limitations” section shows that our plan is careful to promise no more than what will realistically be delivered. At Exxon Mobil, upper management resistance seems to underlie most other problems. Because this ultimate problem apparently has gone unrecognized, the final head, “Related Problems,” is inserted for emphasis.

Because this proposal is external, it can be cast as a certified translation of a letter. Notice, however, that the complimentary closing (“Best wishes”), and word choice (“thanks;” “what we’re doing on our end;” “Michael and Howard,” etc.) create an informal, familiar tone. Such a tone is appropriate in this particular external document because the writers and reader have spent many hours in planning conferences, luncheons, and phone conversations.

Like any document that gains reader acceptance, this one should be the result of careful decisions about content, organization, and style.

Understanding and Translating Proposals

Despite their variety, most Atlanta Translation workers find that the proposals that they are tasked with translating can be classified in three ways, according to origin, audience, or intention.

Based on its origin, a proposal is either solicited or unsolicited, that is, requested by someone or initiated on your own because you have recognized a need. International business and government proposals are most often solicited and originate from a customer’s request.  Once the request is approved, a purchasing manager invites companies to submit proposals.

Based on its audience, a proposal may be internal or external, that is, written for members of your organization or clients and funding agencies. Based on its intention, a proposal may be a planning, research, or sales proposal. These last categories by no means account for all variations among proposals.  In fact, certain proposals may fall under all three categories, but these are the types you will most likely have to write. Each type will be discussed in upcoming blog entries.

An Introduction To Proposals For Professional Language Translators

A proposal is an offer to do something or a suggestion for action. To many Denver translation workers, the general purpose of a proposal is to persuade readers to improve conditions, authorize work on a project, accept a service or product (for payment), or otherwise support a plan for solving a problem or doing a job.  Frequently, translation workers are asked to assist in writing and translating sales proposals by their clients.

As a translation service worker, your own proposal may be a letter to a San Francisco Translation company to suggest collaboration on a project; it may be a memo to your translation company’s director to request funding for a training program for new employees; or it may be a proposal to translate a 1000-page document for a United Natons community development program in an African country. You might write the proposal alone or as part of a team. It might take hours or months.

Whether in business, science, industry, government, or education, proposals are written for decision makers: managers, executives, directors, clients, trustees, board members, community leaders, and the like. Inside or outside your certified translation company, these are the people who decide if your suggestions are worthwhile, if your project will work, and if your service or product is useful. In fact, if your job depends on funding from outside sources, proposals might well be your most important writing activity. To be successful, a proposal must be convincing.


The basic proposal process can be summarized simply: Someone offers a plan for something that needs to be done. In business and government, this process has three phases:

I. Client X needs a service or product.

2. Firms A, B, C, and so on, propose ways to meet the need.

3. Client X awards the job to the firm offering the best proposal.

The complexity of events within each phase will of course depend on the situation.