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Japanese native speaking translators who claim to be "completely bilingual"
Thread poster: Raitei
Raitei
Japan
Japanese to English
Apr 14, 2009

There are some Japanese native speaking translators who claim to be "completely bilingual". It is pure comedy since native English speakers can spot mistakes in their marketing materials within seconds.

Just because the J to E market is much bigger than E to J doesn't grant someone the right to misrepresent their skills.

Am I alone on this one?

Japanese-English bilingual translators

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-04-14 14:05 GMT]


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Elodie Bonnafous  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:41
German to French
+ ...
No you are not alone Apr 14, 2009

And this problem is not limited to Japanese and English.

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Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:41
English to Latvian
+ ...
bilingual != translator Apr 14, 2009

Maybe they are but you just overestimate what “bilingual” means?

In Latvia there are many who claim to be completely bilingual in Latvian and Russian. And it is true but even though they are bilingual, their use of Latvian often sucks. They use incorrect grammar, their vocabulary is often filled with Russian slang, etc. They might even have graduated Latvian high-schools and be masters of colloquial speech but they are unable to use acceptable language standard in written, formal language.

The same can be said about many native monolinguals. Just because someone can claim that he/she is bilingual, says nothing about his language proficiency and translation skills.


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Raitei
Japan
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Bilingual Apr 15, 2009

Kaspars Melkis wrote:

Maybe they are but you just overestimate what “bilingual” means?


What I attempted to hint at when I said "completely bilingual" was people who write "native languages: Japanese and English". How dare they blatently lie when they are at the "I love strawberry, watch movie, and taking the bath" level of English! Then they get all defensive if a native speaker discovers the fraud (as if it was that difficult).

I have only met a few people who could be considered native speakers in both languages (Japanese or half Japanese who have split their time between Japan and the U.S., children who attend international school, etc.). They are also the last people on Earth who flaunt their language skills.


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Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:41
Finnish to English
the meaning of the word Apr 15, 2009

People sometimes take 'bilingual' to mean able to perform in two languages (in the UK they used to advertise for 'bilingual' secretaries). But it actually means being equally able in two languages, which I interpret as meaning a native speaker of the two.

So it is probably a rare phenomenon in many communities, such as the white UK-based one, though presumably far more common in, say, African countries, where children are brought up to use one or more local languages plus a colonial one, for example (so trilingual or multilingual perhaps).

I would think Japan falls into the first category.

best

s


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:41
English to Arabic
+ ...
They may be or they may not be Apr 15, 2009

Raitei wrote:

There are some Japanese native speaking translators who claim to be "completely bilingual". It is pure comedy since native English speakers can spot mistakes in their marketing materials within seconds.

Just because the J to E market is much bigger than E to J doesn't grant someone the right to misrepresent their skills.



I have certainly come across a lot of Arabic native speakers who claim to be perfectly bilingual. But it usually doesn't take long - sometimes a quick look at their profile - to know better.

However, just because marketing material translated from Japanese is full of errors, doesn't mean that there is no such thing as a completely bilingual Japanese native speaker, and that we should deny anyone (Japanese or otherwise) the right to make such a claim. What if they've lived the first 20 years of their life in an English speaking country, where they were also taught their native language? Every case should be judged on its own merit IMO.


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Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:41
English to Latvian
+ ...
what is a native language? Apr 15, 2009

Raitei wrote:

Kaspars Melkis wrote:

Maybe they are but you just overestimate what “bilingual” means?


What I attempted to hint at when I said "completely bilingual" was people who write "native languages: Japanese and English". How dare they blatently lie when they are at the "I love strawberry, watch movie, and taking the bath" level of English! Then they get all defensive if a native speaker discovers the fraud (as if it was that difficult).


There is a saying: Don't assume malice for what stupidity can explain.

A native language is understood as one's first acquired language. If one is born in the US and have attended English-only kindergarten he might honestly say that English is his mother tongue. Even if he later forgets his native language completely. It is possible and I have seen it happen even with 8 or 9 years old children.


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 06:41
what is your native language? Apr 15, 2009

Your native language is the language in which you are educated at school, provided your educators are proficient in this language. More clearly, your native language is your school language at the age between 6 and 18.

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Geraldine Oudin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Japanese to French
+ ...
All is relative Apr 16, 2009

Bilingual doesn't mean native, so I don't think this is something to be angry about... even though I have noticed this tendency, too.
The first time I went to Japan, Nagoya International Airport Police suspected there was something wrong about my visa. I had to explain myself in Japanese after studying the language for just a couple of months simply because...no one among the staff could speak English.

After two hours of negociating, they finally let me go and I met my boss who took me to the Japanese company where I was going to work for six months. My coworkers were all supposed to be completely bilingual >>> of course they were not able to speak a word. I consider myself lucky because in the end, my Japanese improved really fast!

So I think for many people in Japan (and France, let's be honest), being bilingual means being able to communicate in English.

Still, I do know some Japanese people who are really amazingly bilingual (American English accent included) even though they have not been raised abroad...


[Modifié le 2009-04-16 03:53 GMT]


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Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:41
English to Latvian
+ ...
could nativeness be learned? Apr 17, 2009

Bin Tiede wrote:

Your native language is the language in which you are educated at school, provided your educators are proficient in this language. More clearly, your native language is your school language at the age between 6 and 18.



I am sure that there are many people who can honestly claim two native languages even though they wouldn't qualify by this criterion. And conversely I know people with seriously deteriorated mother language skills even though they have received a high-school eduction in this language. I think that there are a lot of unknowns how the language develops and works in our mind.

The whole idea about "native language" seems to be clouded in old myths that adults are unable to learn foreign languages at native level. And these myths are largely due to ineffective language learning methods.

Basically the "nativeness" is nothing more than the sum of various linguistic experiences and capability to retain and apply these experiences. Except for accent, there are no reasons why adults could not emulate as much linguistic experiences as children. It takes time and willingness and may not be practical in most cases. But thinking in terms of specialized translations, I speculate that new teaching strategies could be developed for prospective translators to make them qualified to translate from language A to B with better results than relying exclusively on native speakers of B.


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 06:41
Rules and Exceptions Apr 17, 2009


could nativeness be learned?


For more than ninety percent adults the answer is NO.


And conversely I know people with seriously deteriorated mother language skills even though they have received a high-school education in this language.


Less than five percent adults will fall into this category


I am talking about a general phenomenon which I have observed as a translator over the years. In making my judgment I did not take the linguistic genies and the linguistic morons into consideration, so that my conclusion can be more typical.


I even know people who, despite of being educated and having lived continuously in their home country, are not proficient in their native language.

As to myself, I speak German without accent. And I know it's very, very rare for an Asian.


This site is full of language genies, even though they don't change the general rule.


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Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:41
English to Latvian
+ ...
so, it looks quite possible then Apr 17, 2009

Bin Tiede wrote:


could nativeness be learned?


For more than ninety percent adults the answer is NO.


I think that even less. Considering that translators are even more rare and usually ones with better than average linguistic skills, it makes the odds greatly in favor of learned nativeness.


This site is full of language genies, even though they don't change the general rule.


As they say, genius is 1% talent and 99% sweat. Those gifted prozians have probably found out the most efficient ways how to absorb languages on their own. Their experience can be shared and studied and more efficient methods might be developed with time.

The way how foreign languages used to be taught at schools was abysmal (and still is in some places). But generally the methods have improved with better results. The world is changing, international travel is become more accessible and combined with the new communication tools the total immersion is reality for many learners. We just have to figure out how to make the best out of it.

Appropriately or not, there are translations done by non-native speakers for many reasons. But even qualified translators often struggle with the bias if they translate into non-native target language. Instead of rejecting this practice, we can learn how to do it properly or when not to do it.


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 06:41
Genius is 1% talent and 99% sweat Apr 17, 2009

In my opinion, language talent is like music talent, whether you have it, or not. Again, in my observation, less than half of all language learners can be fluent in a foreign language. Even fewer talented language learners are ready to investigate so much sweat to be a genius. Conclusion: Geniuses are, and will remain exceptions.

Only exceptional talented linguists can make good translations into a foreign language. Most language workers shouldn't do it.


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chica nueva
Local time: 22:41
Chinese to English
"true bilinguals are also bicultural" Apr 19, 2009

France-Japon wrote:

So I think for many people in Japan (and France, let's be honest), being bilingual means being able to communicate in English.

Still, I do know some Japanese people who are really amazingly bilingual (American English accent included) even though they have not been raised abroad...


[Modifié le 2009-04-16 03:53 GMT]


Hello France-Japon

I like what Einar Haugen said about 'a truly bilingual relationship', and I wonder whether you would agree with him that 'true bilinguals' are also 'bicultural' ...:

"Any learning of a language for "tool" purposes is to be excluded from the concept of bilingualism: only if the language becomes a medium for the user's own personality in relation to other members of a language community can he be said to enter into a truly bilingual relationship which is then bicultural as well." (Einar Haugen, 'On Bilingual Competence', 1969)


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Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:41
Member (2013)
Italian to English
But it does mean being able to perform in two languages Apr 20, 2009

Spencer Allman wrote:

People sometimes take 'bilingual' to mean able to perform in two languages (in the UK they used to advertise for 'bilingual' secretaries). But it actually means being equally able in two languages, which I interpret as meaning a native speaker of the two.



The dictionary says "bilingual: adj. speaking two languages fluently. < expressed in or using two languages".

Should we complain to the OED?


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