This morning when I woke up, two lively threads of conversation caught my eye on one of the fora that I haunt. The former was talking about interesting specialisations (including classical music, trains, veganism and highly specialised medical topics) and the latter about whether it is okay to turn down a translation because one feels ethically opposed to it (e.g. tobacco advertising or weapons trade translations).
Although on the surface these seem to be quite different from each other, I believe that in the end they boil down to the same topic: personal choice. As freelance translators, we're very lucky to be able to manage our own business, unlike our in-house colleagues who may sometimes be obliged to translate a text that they aren't particularly thrilled with. For some, this means accepting all work for financial reasons, which is perfectly acceptable. Others choose to turn down topics which grate with their moral compass, or to only accept controversial texts provided they will not be misused.
Similarly, those who choose a very specialised specialisation must be doing so because of some deep-seated personal or financial interest in the topic in question. So why is it that we see taking on a specialisation as being something separate to deciding whether or not to translate a text on moral grounds?
As Jean-Paul Sartre pointed out, "We are our choices", a phrase which is particularly apt when it comes to a one-man show such as a freelance translation business. At the end of the day we all need to be able to live with our choices, even if they are made for business reasons.