European Code of Ethics

for Literary Translators


In consideration of the vital role played by literary translation in the circulation of ideas and information between cultures, CEATLís twenty-four member associations have developed a European Code of Ethics which sets down the ethical standards for the profession of literary translator. The Code was adopted at the Annual General Meeting of 5 and 6 October in Helsinki (Finland). It supplements the Decalogue adopted by CEATL in November 1994.



1. Anyone practising the profession of Translator confirms that they have a very sound knowledge of the language from which s/he translates (the source language), and of the language into which s/he is working (the target language). The target language should be their mother tongue, or a language in which they have mother-tongue competence, as any writer must master the language in which s/he writes.


2. The translator must be aware of his/her limitations and refrain from translating material which is outside his/her scope or the sphere of knowledge required.


3. The translator shall refrain from introducing any tendentious modifications to the thoughts or words of the author, and from cutting or adding to the text without the express permission of the author or rights holder.


4. When it is not possible to translate from the original language and the translator is obliged to translate from a translation, the translator must obtain the permission of the author and cite the name of the translator whose work is being used. 


5. The translator agrees to respect confidentiality when the assignment involves consulting confidential documents.


6. Literary translators should be well acquainted with copyright law and its application within the profession, and endeavour to ensure that the translation contract complies with this law.


7. The translator undertakes not to do anything that may be damaging to the profession, either by agreeing to conditions that jeopardise the quality of the work or by deliberately harming a colleague.