Translating the principles of good governance: in search of accountability in Spanish and German
Good governance is a key factor in underpinning the integrity and efficiency of an institution, whether it is a private company or a national or international organisation. The core principles of good governance are now often defined as fairness, accountability, responsibility and transparency. Although these terms are familiar to all those involved in corporate social responsibility/sustainability and business ethics, and are frequently discussed in the European Parliament and European directives, they often pose a challenge to the translator, since obvious equivalents for all of them do not exist in all EU languages. In this paper, I take the example of accountability, and examine the way that it is represented in both Spanish and German in the EUROPARL7 parallel corpus of European Parliament Proceedings, available in the Sketch Engine corpus platform. Accountability in English can be defined as an assurance that individuals or organizations will be evaluated on their performance or behaviour related to something for which they are responsible, or more simply, as being responsible for explaining what you do and able to give a satisfactory account of it to those whom your actions affect. The English term accountability thus differs from responsibility and transparency, although it overlaps with both. However, not all languages allow us to distinguish easily between the concepts they designate. In fact, the majority of Spanish translations of accountability found in EUROPARL7 simply use responsabilidad, while others make reference to rendir cuentas or rendicion de cuentas, and a few actually use transparencia. In German, the picture is less confused, with the closer term Rechenschaftspflicht employed as the usual translation, but an abundance of alternatives such as Verantwortlichkeit and Auskunftspflicht also appear. In my conclusions, I discuss the rationale that may underlie the different choices, point to problems that might arise from poor translations, and suggest reasons we should strive to maintain clear definitions of these key concepts.