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Translators abroad - What do you think?
Thread poster: RosaT
RosaT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:42
English to Spanish
+ ...
May 26, 2004

Hi there,

Today an agency refused to use my services, saying that their policy is to only use translators who are based in the country of their native tongue.

It is not the first time I hear this, but I really believe it is a very unfair practice. I have replied to the agency saying exactly that, that I thought this was a very risky and unfair policy, that translators who work from their country of origin are by no means a definite guarantee in any respect. A qualified and/or experienced and, above all, professional translator, should deliver quality translations into their native language regardless of their geographical location. Otherwise, they should not call themselves 'professionals'.

I am interested in reading other points of view. Any thoughts?

[Edited at 2004-05-26 12:29]


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Anne Seerup
Ireland
Local time: 20:42
English to Danish
+ ...
Agree May 26, 2004

I received excactly the same type of reply literally a minute ago, and I need to let a little steam off too. I just cannot understand why they would not choose someone who is hearing and speaking the source language every minute of the day. Surely this would lead to a higher proficiency in any foreign language. I cannot accept the lame excuse that one's native lanugage is being forgotten and is not as up-to-date as translators who stay at home,because I am sure that most professional linguists and translators keep in touch with there home country in various ways so that their native language does not deteriorate.

Discriminating, maybe, but at the end of the day these "clients" are the ones losing out by deselecting the services of excellent translators based on an ill-founded theory. Luckily enough there are loads of customers out there who ARE interested.


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ntext  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:42
German to English
+ ...
You Can't Win May 26, 2004

My favorite statement on this topic is by Danilo Nogueira:

If you translate into a foreign language, your style will be non-native. If you translate into your own language, you'll miss the point of the original. If you live abroad, your native language will get a bit rusty, and you'll never write the foreign language like a real native does. If you are a translator, you'll fail to grasp the fine technical points of the original or to convey them to the reader using the appropriate language. If you are a non-translator you should be doing your thing, not translating, because you do not know how to translate. If you do not have a degree, you lack the necessary theoretical foundation. If you have a degree, you lack the necessary practice.

You can't win.


Read the complete article here: http://accurapid.com/journal/12xlator.htm


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:42
German to English
Amateur agency! May 26, 2004

Quite a long time ago, there might have been a certain logic to the position that translators should reside in the/a country of their native language. International communication was poor, and quite a lot of translators living abroad more or less went "native" to the extent that their native language skills deteriorated massively.

In today's world, that argument no longer holds true. A translator with a lousy command of his or her own native language will have that "negative" skill irrespective of where they live.

Some agencies think that they have a marketing edge if they can tell their clients they only use translators living in the/a country of their native language. Some clients fall for this nonsense, but to be honest, it's simply not an issue for the vast majority of them. In all my 15 years as a full-time translator (and I've lived abroad for 20), not once have I lost a job or been turned away by a prospect because of where I live.

What matters in today's world is skill/talent/ability (however you want to call it), substantial subject area knowledge and the ability to deliver first-class work on time. In our global economy, agencies that think like the one you cite are merely provincial.

Robin


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:42
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Living in a country where your native language is spoken May 26, 2004

I've always taken this to be an excuse for the potential customer to tell you you haven't been selected to do the work.

If anything, it is better to live in the country of your source language, at least in my case. There always seems to be plenty of native English-speaking ex-pats floating about wherever you go and lots of written material in English everywhere.


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IrinaGM  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:42
English to Georgian
+ ...
I agree with RobinB May 26, 2004

It all depends on a person as well. For example, I do not live in my native country any more but while interpreting into my native language, I often get asked by the native speakers how am I able to remember all the slang and tiny nuances. I even surprise myself sometimes when I use a certain word or a phrase.
On the other hand, my younger sister who also lives abroad, is completely immersed into the English language. She often forgets simple Georgian phrases and it takes her two-three hours every day to switch to Georgian after she gets back from her German-American bilingual High School.

I guess, it all comes down to a combination of personality, surroundings, contacts and desire. But most importantly, a good translator/interpreter should only be judged by their performance, not by where they were born, raised, where they live now or other ridiculous qualifications that I've heard over the years.


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Victor Sidelnikov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 22:42
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
It's makes sense May 26, 2004

I think, that in the certain degree such requirement is meaningful.

Regardless to abilities and experience of the translator living abroad, he appears separated from cultural and terminological environments of mother tongue.

For example, if Russian lives in the English-speaking country, he naturally has less opportunities (desire, time, etc.) to read the literature in Russian and thus to watch terminology (I speak about technical translation now). On the other hand, it is logical to assume, that if in the USA make translation from English on Russian, this translation is intended for use in Russia and, hence, it is necessary, that terminology corresponded to the terminology working at present in Russia.

Certainly, here it is a lot of nuances, but in my opinion the carrier of language, participating in development of language, will provide more adequate translation, than the carrier which has been torn off from mother language.


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Agnieszka Hayward
Poland
Local time: 21:42
German to Polish
+ ...
Yeah... May 26, 2004

Regardless to abilities and experience of the translator living abroad, he appears separated from cultural and terminological environments of mother tongue.


following this logic, it would be best to live in the county where your native language is being spoken, have a language-aware girl/boyfriend who is a native speaker of your first foreign language, and a suitable number of language enlightened lovers to match your language pairs...
Isn't life too short?


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Victor Sidelnikov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 22:42
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Yeah... Yes May 27, 2004

tygru wrote: ...following this logic, it would be best to live in the county where your native language is being spoken

I think - undoubtedly

have a language-aware girl/boyfriend who is a native speaker of your first foreign language,

May be. But it is better that she/he had a degree Ph.D. in your field of specialization.:-)

and a suitable number of language enlightened lovers to match your language pairs...

Not necessarily.
If you live in the country where your native language is being spoken and translate on native language for clients in this country, you will automatically support and update the terminological level.

[Edited at 2004-05-27 04:33]


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 22:42
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Is there any guarantee at all? May 27, 2004

RosaT wrote:
...translators who work from their country of origin are by no means a definite guarantee in any respect.


Just like translators who do live in their countries of origin.


A qualified and/or experienced and, above all, professional translator, should deliver quality translations into their native language regardless of their geographical location. Otherwise, they should not call themselves 'professionals'.


And that is exactly the proper approach! This agency may be too cautious to use your services but there will be others who will, and they'll come back again and again after you prove your reliability and quality.

Happy translation and good clients to all!

Oleg


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Anne Gillard-Groddeck  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:42
German to English
Agencies tying themselves up in knots May 27, 2004

In the interests of business the agency should be out to get the best translators it can find, i.e. on the basis only of merit, and not by imposing artifical restrictions and constraints. They are obviously not in a position, i.e. not qualified, to recognise merit. If they were such a policy would be quite pointless.

Talent is rare (believe it or not) and although "talent" is not as readily recognised in translation as in other areas (or maybe not at all), its mark will be felt sooner or later.

It seems strange that while there is so much "headhunting" in other professions there is so little of it in this area, but rather continuing attempts to build up barriers and, it seems to me, often by people who haven't got a clue anyway.

Still they are entitled to have their own policy. They must sink or swim by it. Let's hope for their sakes that it doesn't turn out to be a millstone round their necks!


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Marketing-Lang.  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:42
English to German
+ ...
Nonsensical, really! May 27, 2004

What can be the justification for wanting only translators from the "target" country? Up-to-date knowledge of technical standards, for example.

Seems logical. But on second thoughts: How well does a translator understand technical issues in the source material?

It's swings and roundabouts and basically unimportant. The perfect translator is obviously in both countries simultaneously.

How ridiculous.

-Mike-

[Edited at 2004-06-10 14:49]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
It's a fair practice, if somewhat annoying May 27, 2004

RosaT wrote:
Today an agency refused to use my services, saying that their policy is to only use translators who are based in the country of their native tongue.


Insisting on using a native speaker is simply a method of quality control. It is not flawless. Nor does it imply that all native speakers are necessarily good translators. But from a random group of translators in a language, chances are that the best translator is a native speaker and chances are also that more of the native speakers are good translators than of the non-native speakers.

The same goes for insisting on a local translator. It doesn't guarantee a good translation. But it does to a degree improve the chances of getting a good translator.

Why? Because local native speakers are immersed in the culture that speaks the language. They have a better ear to the ground. The foreign native speaker can remain in touch with the language through the web, newspapers, satellite television, chat rooms etc, but ultimately he no longer lives in a place where the language *surrounds* him.

The same goes for regional variants. As a South African I'm able to translate into English, and although South African English follows British English closely, there are differences in the idiom. I wouldn't touch a creative writing translation if the target audience is Britain. Similarly a British translator might use words or phrases unknown to a South African audience.


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Victor Sidelnikov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 22:42
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Agree May 27, 2004

Samuel Murray-Smit wrote:

local native speakers are immersed in the culture that speaks the language. They have a better ear to the ground. The foreign native speaker can remain in touch with the language through the web, newspapers, satellite television, chat rooms etc, but ultimately he no longer lives in a place where the language *surrounds* him.


Translators abroad are willy-nilly drown by the language environment of a host country. Moreover, for example I observed as the managers working in representations of the foreign companies, in usual life start to talk with accent (when speak on native language) and construct phrases by rules of the employer's language. These are realities.

[Edited at 2004-05-27 12:13]


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xxxCarruthers
French to English
I agree May 27, 2004

a rule that should also apply to "foreign correspondents". They too should stay at home.
As for writers in exile (a nasty lot if ever there was one), take a look at Finnegans Wake for proof of the depths to which one might sink. (notice the missing apostrophy)
I rest my case.


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