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False "native in English" translators
Thread poster: Tom in London

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Oct 19, 2008

In most countries it is illegal to publish false or misleading information, but understandably, Proz.com cannot take responsibility for what every individual member puts into their profile.

Large parts of my own market for translation work (Italian to English) are being monopolised, at reduced tariffs, by individuals who advertise their services on Proz.com as "native in English".

But just by glancing at their very poor quality translations, any genuine native English speaker can see that those "native in English" translators are either not native in English, possibly only learned English when they were children and then emigrated, or in some other way acquired an elementary understanding of English.

But manifestly they are not literate in English, not up to speed with current English usage, and certainly not competent to offer their services as professional translators.

And yet they seem to get all the work, because they're cheaper.

The agencies who hire them seem unaware that they are paying incompetent people to produce incompetent translations. Or maybe these agencies are just as crooked and dishonest as the translators are, and don't care.

It greatly saddens me to see that the end users who commission these translations, keen to do business in the English-speaking world, are let down by very bad translations.

This is particularly true of websites, where the English is often so poor that nobody in the English-speaking world would ever want to do business with them.

It is laudable that Proz.com is working to establish veracity and high quality as its hallmarks. But for as long as cheats and charlatans are able to get away with selling themselves on Proz.com as "native in English", quality standards will never rise.

I imagine these cheats are working in other language pairs too. I would be interested to share experiences.


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Alberto Balanza
Malaysia
Local time: 03:26
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Phoney natives Oct 19, 2008

Dear Tom:

Quite annoying, indeed. But I am sure most agencies can tell where they are getting the real thing or a surrogate. It is the end user who often doesnt know he is being cheated and rendered in a negative image. ( say, Chinese company with a website translated with babel Fish-like software )

However, in the context of English it is also true that millions of people who are born far away from the ethnic- English speaking countries also refer to English as their first language and are right to refer to it as their mother tongue, since that is the language they speak at home, with their mother. Malaysia, where I live, is a case in point. Granted, there are all sorts of Mal-english, from the proper one to the "patois".

I think the bottom-line is honesty; if one has another mother tongue but speaks AND writes like an educated native speaker, he could be given the license to refer to English as his mother tongue.

Hope someone else can shed some more light on the matter

Alberto

[Edited at 2008-10-19 09:31]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Flemish to English
+ ...
Sooooooooooooooo tired Oct 19, 2008

of seeing this "nativeness" issue pop up time and again. Is this the only marketing element English translators have : "being native, translations by a native"?
I am not going to waste time discussing it. It is a fact that the end-customer does not care who translated his/her document as long as it meets his/her expectations.


[Edited at 2008-10-19 09:40]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
hmm Oct 19, 2008

Williamson wrote:

of seeing this nativeness issue pop up time and again. Is this the only marketing element English translators have : being native?
I am not going to waste time discussing it. It is a fact that the end-customer does not care who translated his/her document as long as it meets his/her expectations.


I suppose not - if what the end user expects is a bad translation that will make them look bad.

More probably, the end user is not in a position to know the difference between a correct, competent translation that is free of basic grammatical and spelling errors, and one that is not.

When the end user cannot check, that's where the charlatan translator moves in, exploiting the end-user's trust that the translator is genuinely competent.

[Edited at 2008-10-19 09:51]


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 19:26
Dutch to English
+ ...
You're missing the point ... Oct 19, 2008

Williamson wrote:

of seeing this "nativeness" issue pop up time and again. Is this the only marketing element English translators have : "being native, translations by a native"?
I am not going to waste time discussing it. It is a fact that the end-customer does not care who translated his/her document as long as it meets his/her expectations.


[Edited at 2008-10-19 09:40]


... but, of course, that's possibly because you're soooooooo tired.

Tom's post is about people passing themselves off as native English translators, not the age-old debate on whether translators should only work into their native language.

You don't pass yourself off as a native speaker of English on your profile, so in your case customers know what they are potentially letting themselves in for, which is not the case with false advertising.






[Edited at 2008-10-19 10:02]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Flemish to English
+ ...
No, I do not put native English in m profile. Oct 19, 2008

No, I did not put English as "native" language in my profile, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

What matters is the level a person has achieved in a language and his/her education and background. Joe, the Plumber's native language hs English. He decides to become a translator, makes a profile on Proz.com and becomes a professional translator overnight.
His main marketing argument : "Translations by a native".

[Edited at 2008-10-19 10:01]


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 19:26
Dutch to English
+ ...
What actually matters ... Oct 19, 2008

Williamson wrote:

No, I did not put English as "native" language in my profile, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

What matters is the level a person has achieved in a language and his/her education and background. Joe, the Plumber's native language hs English. He decides to become a translator, makes a profile on Proz.com and becomes a professional translator overnight.
His main marketing argument : "Translations by a native".

[Edited at 2008-10-19 10:01]


... is that people don't go off on irrelevant tangents in these posts to drag up tired ideas from the past. And Joe the Plumber won't be around for a while anyway - he's going to be too busy with all the spin-off plumbing work from being catapulted into in the media stratosphere by the McCain circus (or facing allegations that he's not licensed to trade)

Stick to the point, we've all heard the 'proof of the pudding' mantra before and if customers are happy just because it's edible, so be it. No loss to those who cater to an audience with a more refined taste.

Tom is talking about something quite different - i.e. those who effectively lie about something specific (i.e. their native language) to get work.




[Edited at 2008-10-19 10:41]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Flemish to English
+ ...
Active marketing. Oct 19, 2008

So fast to react. A short power cut prevented me from finishing the second paragraph of my posting:

"People who are posting to be natives of any language when they are not are fooling themselves. Some speak a kind of NederEnglish (English spoken by the Dutch).

Of course, you have to take all circumstances into account. Somebody born in Suriname, brought up in say Uruguay and who lived a part of his/her life in the US, can that person put Native: Dutch/Spanish/English into his or her profile?

Don't you overestimate the importance of your profile as a marketing tool.
It also depends how active you market yourself. The proz.com profile is only 1 marketing tool". In the "old days", I used the Yellow Pages and phoned companies to ask if they needed the services of a translator.

[Edited at 2008-10-19 10:28]


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 19:26
Dutch to English
+ ...
Well ... Oct 19, 2008

Williamson wrote:

"People who are posting to be natives of any language when they are not are fooling themselves. Some speak a kind of NederEnglish (English spoken by the Dutch).



... that's at least vaguely on point. However, they are not just fooling themselves at all, there is an unsuspecting public out there too in many cases. That is what Tom is saying.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Unsuspecting public Oct 19, 2008

Yes, lawyer/linguist, I think that's the heart of the matter: "the unsuspecting public" who put their trust in an agency and a translator.

A relationship of trust can always be exploited. The end user will never know.


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Buck
Netherlands
Local time: 20:26
Member (2007)
Dutch to English
mother tongue Oct 19, 2008

[quote]Blingo wrote:

Dear Tom:

...
I think the bottom-line is honesty; if one has another mother tongue but speaks AND writes like an educated native speaker, he could be given the license to refer to English as his mother tongue.
...

In my opinion, your mother tongue is the one you grew up with, not one you have acquired over the years. Yes, there are people who were raised in a bi-lingual household, and I suppose they could claim both languages as their mother tongue. But having studied and mastered a language does not make you a native in that language. At most it can make you bi-lingual, and I think it is wrong to claim that you are a native speaker of that other language, when in, fact, you have simply mastered it.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
House English Oct 19, 2008

[quote]Buck wrote:

Blingo wrote:

Dear Tom:

...
I think the bottom-line is honesty; if one has another mother tongue but speaks AND writes like an educated native speaker, he could be given the license to refer to English as his mother tongue.
...

In my opinion, your mother tongue is the one you grew up with, not one you have acquired over the years. Yes, there are people who were raised in a bi-lingual household, and I suppose they could claim both languages as their mother tongue. But having studied and mastered a language does not make you a native in that language. At most it can make you bi-lingual, and I think it is wrong to claim that you are a native speaker of that other language, when in, fact, you have simply mastered it.


The people I'm talking about may (for instance) have grown up in England, or have one English parent, and may occasionally speak English around the house in Italy. But they may not have lived in the UK since they were children, and may never have used English as a working language. Maybe they revisit the UK once every few years. Their English is only what might be called "house English" - good enough for family conversation but not suitable for a professional setting. What's more, I often find these people can't even punctuate a sentence without making elementary mistakes.

And yet they are able to sell themselves as "native English" professional translators. The very poor quality of their work demonstrates that they are not telling the truth.

[Edited at 2008-10-19 11:21]


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 19:26
Dutch to English
+ ...
Absolutely not Oct 19, 2008

Blingo wrote:

I think the bottom-line is honesty; if one has another mother tongue but speaks AND writes like an educated native speaker, he could be given the license to refer to English as his mother tongue.



How could somebody referring to himself* as something which he is not ever be construed as honesty?

English is not that person's mother tongue and never will be, just as mine will never be Portuguese even though that's what I hear and speak most of the day.

At very best, he can describe himself - IF it is true - as having native-level competence (which certainly does exist, albeit in relatively fewer cases than some would think, and definitely not merely as the result of having access to the Internet or high-speed rail links between Brussels and London, but that's another story for another day).

Sometimes hiring a translator with specialist knowledge and near native or native-level competence is the way to go, simply because there aren't genuine natives with the necessary background in the field, but again that information must be placed at the customer's disposal so he can make an informed decision.

* using the male form purely for the sake of convenience here, not because I suspect for one moment that men are more prone to telling lies than women



[Edited at 2008-10-19 12:13]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Honesty Oct 19, 2008

[/quote]

English is not that person's mother tongue and never will be, just as mine will never be Portuguese even though that's what I hear and speak most of the day.

.......

* using the male form purely for the sake of convenience here, not because I suspect for one moment that men are more prone to telling lies than women [/quote]

Well, I'm an egalitarian. I believe women and men are equally capable of lying. Often to each other!

Regarding the more serious comment above, I've lived and worked seriously in Italy for more than 20 years, been through a university and lectured in Italian at other universities, and am often mistaken, by Italians, for an Italian.

But I would *never* translate from my native language (English) into my second language (Italian). That's because experience has taught me that you can't.

Yet there are charlatan translators, evidently (from their work I've seen) less literate than I am, who claim that they can.

[Edited at 2008-10-19 12:05]


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elherrera  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:26
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
Tom has hit the nail on the head Oct 19, 2008

I agree with Tom, the issue is calling oneself a native speaker of "x" language without actually being able to speak, write, understand, and convey that understanding to a target audience in another language.

The case here is English but it applies equally to other languages. One issue is cultural knowledge, not just mastering the language but having the intimate cultural knowledge of the source language to be able to translate that to maximum equivalent effect in the target language & culture. Idioms and other cultural references are good examples.

One criteria which should be perhaps scrupulously observed is having completed secondary education, and preferably this + a bachelor's degree, in the language of the country in quesion - as is the general criteria in East Asia to teach English.

In South Korea, this is the requirement to gain a visa as a teacher of English - proof of an earned bachelor's degree in a country whose native language is English, and for immigrants from a third country, proof of havng completed 12 years of education in a native English-speaking country - the U.S., Canada, England, Ireland, the U.K., New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, U.S. territories (Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, etc.) + this bachelor's degree.

The translations done by translators in Italy, and elsewhere, who bill themselves as native English speakers and are deceiving the public should be subjected to review by a panel of native English speakers from various countries who might publish native translations side by side next to their non-native verions or otherwise rate their accuracy and expression.

There's no reason to put up with, or encourage, this falsity and thievery.


Let their claims to native speaker knowledge be vetted, and publicly so, say I. That, in the end, is in the interest of ProZ - no matter the language.


[Edited at 2008-10-19 12:11]


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