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Should a translator claim to be qualified to translate into a non-native language?
Thread poster: ysun
ysun  Identity Verified
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May 5, 2004

Should a translator claim to be qualified to translate from Chinese into English when English is not her or his native language? On the other hand, should a translator claim to be qualified to translate from English into Chinese when Chinese is not her or his native language?

In the forum “There is no business like an interpretation business in China!”, Terry Thatcher made the following remarks:

“Sounds like you are not only experienced but also possessed of excellent business ethics.

The other thing that really gets me (please don't be offended!) is people who claim to work into English when they are not native speakers...that's been discussed/argued about elsewhere, but still, my view is that when you represent to a client that you are going to do a translation, you are claiming it will be of a flawless nature. (This is why I don't work into Chinese on written work!!) Some of the KudoZ questions that appear occasionally make me wonder... 8-0”

Then, I made three comments on her remarks. Kevin suggested opening another forum on this topic so that such discussions will not distract the focus of our intended discussion on simultaneous interpretation. Therefore, I opened this forum according to his suggestion. I think I have already said too much and my opinions may not be necessarily correct. So, I'd like to hear your opinions and comments. Thank you very much in advance!

The three comments I made are as follows:

1. A "native speaker" is neither a 必要条件 nor a 充分条件!

I talked about honesty just because Kevin got an impression that I had experiences in SI, but I never said I had. If I kept silent, that would mean I have admitted having such experiences. Meanwhile, I doubt about the listings that there are nearly 100 En>Ch and nearly 100 Ch>En simultaneous interpreters in the United States. Some of them even give others an impression that he or she is able to do SI both En>Ch or Ch>En. It might be more convincing if someone changes his or her advertising to, e.g., “consecutive (En>Ch), simultaneous (Ch>En)”.

The discussion about “native speakers" is rather far from the topic of this forum. If Terry would like to discuss that issue, I suggest opening another forum on the topic.

To be brief, I just want to say that I claim to be able to translate from Chinese into English in CERTAIN fields just because my capability has been well recognized by many translation agencies. My English is not perfect, but it works well. However, I have turned down many job offers for translating something that I am not familiar with, including translating into Chinese although I am a native Chinese speaker.

Ideally, a native speaker is preferred if and only if other abilities of the translators are the same or similar. However, quite often, it would be difficult to find such an ideal translator. Moreover, it is more important for a translator to understand the content in the source language than to be a native speaker in the target language. Otherwise, no matter how beautiful the target document may look, it may be talking about something else that is quite different from the content of the source document. I have edited such documents translated by native speakers.

Someone may be able to translate Shakespeare's Hamlet very well into his native language, but unable to translate Einstein's theory at all. Just do what you can!

2. Just a suggestion

Terry,

Since you are a Ph.D. in Chinese, if your Chinese is near native, I don't see any reasons why you “don't work into Chinese on written work”. There are not many translators with Ph.D. in Chinese even in China, Taiwan and Singapore!

3. Can a native speaker guarantee her or his translation is flawless?

Terry,

In my opinion, flawless translation is only an ideal state or a goal that we try our best to reach. In reality, no one can guarantee her or his translation is flawless. No matter how perfect you think your translation is, other translators would still find some flaws in it. That's why we need a proofreader/editor to minimize the flaws in translation.

Since you mention that some of the KudoZ questions that appear occasionally make you wonder, let me ask you this question (please don't be offended!): as a native English speaker, can you guarantee all of your answers to Chinese > English KudoZ questions are flawless?

For Chinese > English KudoZ questions, my current rank is 5th in overall and 1st in Tech/Engineering filed. Even so, my successful rate is still only 75% (I answered 153 Chinese > English questions, only 114 were selected). (I don't know what your successful rate is.)

The KudoZ website is getting better and better. Everyone is able to check a member's rank and KudoZ history unless the member hides it.


[Edited at 2004-05-05 19:54]


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Terry Thatcher Waltz, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
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I think there are two separate issues here May 6, 2004

Hi,

Well, I think there are two separate issues here: translation quality and KudoZ answer quality. They are not necessarily the same!!

To say I am going to provide a quality translation into language X, I believe I need to be either (preferably) a well-educated native speaker of X, or an experienced non-native speaker of X with an excellent editor OR a client who knows, upfront, that I'm not a native speaker of X. I do limited work into Spanish for one particular client who knows perfectly well I'm not native. All the work happens to be on manuals for VCRs, DVD players and stuff like that, so it's highly repetitious and easy to find references for. But the main idea is that I told him, and keep on telling him, that I'm not native and there will inevitably be flaws in the work.

It's not a technical distinction, but when I say "flaws" I mean those nagging little errors that say "the writer isn't a native speaker." Examples in English might be wrong use of "the" or "an", noun-verb agreement, and so forth. Yes, some native speakers make these errors in their native languages, but we are language professionals, therefore we should be held to a higher standard when working in our chosen profession. My mother is a native English speaker, but you wouldn't want her written English as your translation (even assuming that she could read a second language).

KudoZ are a nice idea, but the fact that the asker -- who didn't have a clue in the first place, or he wouldn't have asked the question -- decides what the best answer is, necessarily builds in a degree of imprecision in the grading and results. This is particularly true when an asker is asked to choose the best translation into a language that is not his or her own native tongue. Many people just can't "sense" what is correct or incorrect in their second language -- particularly with regard to collocations and small nuances of usage. By the same token, a native speaker can say things beautifully but may not fully grasp the meaning of the source language.

I do wish that KudoZ could function more to teach people HOW to do terminological research and less as a forum for everyone to post their guesses (unless they are labeled as such). If I don't know how to say something in Chinese, but I know what the English means, I'll post to explain the meaning as best I can and then ask someone else to post nice Chinese. The idea isn't supposed to be to gain points -- indeed, I do not believe that KudoZ points really MEAN anything, given the method of grading and the variable opportunities different people have to participate (some folks can answer questions all day at work, others cannot, etc.) The only thing you might say KudoZ answers represent is a willingness to help and -- hopefully -- the curiosity to try to find the best translation.

Just my NT$0.66, (approx US$0.02), your mileage may vary.

Terry


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Zhoudan  Identity Verified
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Agree! May 6, 2004

Terry L. Thatcher, Ph.D. wrote:

To say I am going to provide a quality translation into language X, I believe I need to be either (preferably) a well-educated native speaker of X, or an experienced non-native speaker of X with an excellent editor OR a client who knows, upfront, that I'm not a native speaker of X.


When I was asked to translate into English, I always told my client that English was not my native tongue and they needed to have my translation edited by a native speaker.


By the same token, a native speaker can say things beautifully but may not fully grasp the meaning of the source language.


Can't agree with you more.

Zhoudan

[Edited at 2004-05-06 08:30]


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ysun  Identity Verified
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Let's keep the discussion on track. May 6, 2004

Terry L. Thatcher, Ph.D. wrote:

To say I am going to provide a quality translation into language X, I believe I need to be either (preferably) a well-educated native speaker of X, or an experienced non-native speaker of X with an excellent editor OR a client who knows, upfront, that I'm not a native speaker of X. I do limited work into Spanish for one particular client who knows perfectly well I'm not native.


Hi Terry,

Please remember that the discussion on this topic was started just because you said “people who claim to work into English when they are not native speakers...”. Apparently, in your opinion, translators who are not native English speakers shouldn't claim to work into English AT ALL, and you further related this issue to business ethics. Therefore, it is not a matter of “How should a translator claim to be qualified to translate into a non-native language”. It is a matter of “Should a translator claim …” that is the topic of this forum. You should know this better than anyone else.

To my knowledge, most of the Chinese translators honestly indicate on Kudoz or in ATA's directory that their native language is Chinese so that translation agencies will know the fact very well “upfront”. Therefore, there is no such an issue as business ethics in this regard. In my case, it wasn't me who solicited those Chinese into English jobs from the agencies by presenting false information. In most cases, it was the translation agencies that took initiatives to contact me for those jobs. Please remember, most of the translation agencies don't need us to tell them how to choose a translator.

Since you do “work into Spanish for one particular client who knows perfectly well I'm not native”, I don't see any reasons why you “don't work into Chinese on written work” since you are a Ph.D. in Chinese. Clients would not care that Chinese is not your native language. I don't even have a BS in Chinese!

It's not a technical distinction, but when I say "flaws" I mean those nagging little errors that say "the writer isn't a native speaker." Examples in English might be wrong use of "the" or "an", noun-verb agreement, and so forth.


It is quite possible that native Chinese speakers would make such errors. However, to translation agencies, those errors can be corrected very easily by a proofreader whose native language is English. In my case, some clients would ask one of their employees with Ph.D. degree in science or engineering and the ability to read Chinese to further check my translation. In their eyes, fundamental errors which are caused by misunderstanding of the source document are much more serious and totally unacceptable. For example, I once edited a translation that was translated by a native English speaker from a Chinese journal article, in which the translator made numerous mistakes, such as translating phosphonate into phosphate. The errors in such a nature are totally unacceptable.

KudoZ are a nice idea, but the fact that the asker -- who didn't have a clue in the first place, or he wouldn't have asked the question -- decides what the best answer is, necessarily builds in a degree of imprecision in the grading and results. This is particularly true when an asker is asked to choose the best translation into a language that is not his or her own native tongue. Many people just can't "sense" what is correct or incorrect in their second language -- particularly with regard to collocations and small nuances of usage. By the same token, a native speaker can say things beautifully but may not fully grasp the meaning of the source language.


It seems you are saying that many Kudoz questions were incorrectly graded. In a few cases, it may be true. However, you should believe that most of the askers are well educated translators or professionals. They are capable of making a fair judgment. If you look carefully, you will find that many askers who asked Chinese into English questions are actually native English speakers, some even have Ph.D. degrees from prestigious American universities such as Harvard, Stanford and etc. If you think a certain question was incorrectly graded, as a Kudoz moderator, you should have indicated the mistake immediately instead of wondering. At least, you could post your own answer since you are very much willing to help.

I do not believe that KudoZ points really MEAN anything, given the method of grading and the variable opportunities different people have to participate (some folks can answer questions all day at work, others cannot, etc.)


If other people made such a comment, I wouldn't say anything. However, you are a Kudoz moderator. I suggest you read Kudoz FAQ again. I would say KudoZ points don't mean everything, but they really MEAN something. It may be true that “some folks can answer questions all day at work”, but are you implying that all those Kudoz leaders have nothing to do except “posting their guesses” to Kudoz questions all day? I can tell you that in March 2004 alone, in addition to other miscellaneous jobs, I translated 7 patents (each equivalent to 5,000-6,000 English words) and 2 chemical journal articles, all were from Chinese into English. In the same month, I still answered 62 questions and got 51x4 points. If I say it doesn't mean anything, it would be an insult to those askers who showed their appreciation.

Thank you for your time!


[Edited at 2004-05-07 00:24]


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Terry Thatcher Waltz, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
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But what is our job, really? May 7, 2004

I\'d be interested to know what folks out there feel our job is. Is a translator\'s job to read the original and then write something that\'s \"close\" (\"well, the editor can correct the English, so no sweat\") or to read the original and produce a written document that\'s correct and essentially camera-ready (as they used to say!) in English (I\'m talking about C>E just now, obviously).

Then we need to think about what a translation agency\'s job is. Is it to run an editing mill?

Can we really call ourselves professionals, if the work we produce is not of professional caliber?

Sure, from a market perspective, you can \"get away\" with this sort of thing. Supply and demand might even dictate it, if there are few native English speaking translators available in an area. But would you agree that it makes sense to translate a document from French into English and then into Chinese, if there\'s a French>Chinese translator available? You\'re adding extra steps that are unnecessary. I\'m talking about the nature of our profession, not necessarily about the way it is on the market.

I think you\'re confusing a degree with competence. The fact that I have a Ph.D. in Chinese means that I\'ve memorized a whole bunch of trivia about Chinese (tracing the development of the mid-palatal consonants from Archaic to Ancient Chinese and down into modern Mandarin is a great party trick, I guess...well, actually not!) but it has nothing to do with actual modern Chinese and working with it or in it.

A degree does not equal competence (especially PROFESSIONAL competence) in a language. Sure, I have a high-level understanding of English; I\'m a well-educated native speaker who has been in translation for nearly 20 years now, and I know how to research (equally important, of course). But my translation into Chinese, while true to the meaning of the English (we will assume, for the sake of argument!) is not \"real Chinese\". What\'s the point of submitting a sub-standard product to be \"fixed\"? The only situation in which I\'d recommend that would be in the case of a text that is very difficult to understand in the first place. A professional translator should be able to achieve an acceptable rate of accuracy in reading his working languages and should have the sense to know what he needs to check on.

Most \"editors\" at translation agencies are merely proofreaders. They might clean up the occasional wrong verb or something, but they are generally (not all, I\'m generalizing here, guys) not able, don\'t have time, or aren\'t paid to check the translation carefully against the source text and then produce a version in English that is native-like (smooth, readable, fluent, and flawless grammatically and mechanically).

What you end up with is a rather mechanical rendition of the original into English (just as you would end up with a very mechanical Chinese version if I worked into Chinese). And that\'s why probably the most \"acceptable\" sector to work out of your native language is technical manuals (IMHO) because the style is SUPPOSED to be mechanical!

Correcting errors is not enough. The style and structure of the document also need to be native. It\'s a long leap from being a good English speaker to being a good writer of English (even for native speakers). Writing is a very specific skill, and it produces a lasting artefact.

As for KudoZ...look at the broad mass of C>E Kudoz, for example. The majority are asked by native Chinese speakers (probably just from the point of view of numbers; my impression is that there are more Chinese native speakers than English natives in our combination) and are often things that are unbelievably simple or are EASILY found on the Internet (names of companies, etc.) Are these queries from professionals? Not always. Yet these people are judging the accuracy of the replies.

KudoZ are an incredible psychological construct. You\'ve got professionals who usually get paid for it doing other people\'s research for free. People do like to help out, and professional collegiality is a good thing, of course. But I\'d feel more comfortable if KudoZ were graded by a team composed of equal numbers of native English and Chinese speakers with solid professional experience and credentials, rather than by the askers.

In most cases, though, the point of KudoZ is to get a quick answer to a sticky problem before the job has to go out, and for that purpose it serves admirably.

If you think a certain question was incorrectly graded, as a Kudoz moderator, you should have indicated the mistake immediately instead of wondering. At least, you could post your own answer since you are very much willing to help.


I do not have time to be the KudoZ police. And I don\'t think it would be welcome, either. I can\'t unilaterally declare what\'s right and what\'s wrong...but in some cases, it\'s obvious that the MEANING is just not right. Grading by a committee that represents both native languages would probably take care of this -- but I don\'t know how you would organize this. I think most people who see errors on KudoZ think \"It\'s just a Web site, not worth getting upset about. Overall the average is pretty good.\" or something like that.

And I still say that there are wild differences in peoples\' opportunity to answer KudoZ. For example, I don\'t have Internet at home now...so it\'s difficult for me to get online. How can I follow KudoZ regularly and post answers throughout the day? Impossible. (Well, unless this mysterious wireless network persists...I woke up this morning and found out I could get online. Maybe it\'s one of the neighbors! Let\'s hope it lasts!! )


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ysun  Identity Verified
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"An editing mill" is much better than "a garbage producer"! May 7, 2004

Again, the discussion of this forum originated from the argument that it is not ethical for people to claim to work into English when they are not native English speakers. Otherwise, I wouldn't even have responded to your point in the SI forum.

As to whether a translation should be done by a native speaker of the target language, it seems to me that all of your arguments were based on one assumption that non-native speakers will not be able to produce something that is better than or even close to what is produced by a native speaker. I just want to say that it may not always be true. The fact that you feel you are not capable of translating into Chinese doesn't necessarily mean that all the Chinese translators are not capable of translating into English. Some people tend to think in this way: I can't do this type of jobs, how can other people do?

I am not sure how you got the impression that other translators only produced something that's just "close" and could "get away with this sort of thing". I believe most of translation companies and agencies will have at least one editor/proofreader to scrutinize a translator's work even if the translator is a native speaker of the target language. Some even have another translator to back-translate more important documents to double check the translation. If they produce something that is just "close" and let the editor do the rest of the job, they will never hear from the translation companies or agencies again. So, don't worry!

On the other hand, if someone runs a translation company or agency that doesn't have such a quality system, how could he or she guarantee the translation will be flawless? In my opinion, "an editing mill" is much better than "a garbage producer"!

Kudoz points are never my motive to answer Kudoz questions. I don't need to impress translation agencies by the Kudoz points because I don't even expect to get translation jobs from Kudoz. I only bid once on Kudoz at $0.18 USD per English word for a Chinese > English translation job and I didn't expect to win since those agencies are usually shopping around for much lower rates on Kudoz, probably, $0.08 USD or even lower.

My motive is to help others and learn from others. What I treasure the most is the friendship I established with other members through the Q/A processes. This is one of the reasons why I said Kudoz points did MEAN something! I never post irresponsible answers by guessing. If I am not sure about an answer, I would rather spend a considerably amount of time searching for the right answer than guess, or simply leave the question to other professionals. Also, I rarely answer those elementary questions. I prefer to provide my help when it is needed most.

It may be true that "some folks can answer questions all day" as you said. I noticed that a native English speaker in this pair answered nearly 1,500 questions in the past several months, but only less than 300 answers were selected. That is probably the outcome of guessing. Of course, it is understandable. However, you couldn't conclude that everybody was guessing.

Your idea about "grading by a committee that represents both native languages" sounds like a perfect solution, but it's too naive. It sounds as if you were only 19 (please don't be offended! I am just kidding!).

Translation industry has a highly segregated market. As long as you compete with your capability and integrity, you will get a fair market share. No one should claim, "This is my territory! You get out!"



[Edited at 2004-05-07 22:06]


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Terry Thatcher Waltz, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
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Well... May 8, 2004

Yueyin Sun wrote:

As to whether a translation should be done by a native speaker of the target language, it seems to me that all of your arguments were based on one assumption that non-native speakers will not be able to produce something that is better than or even close to what is produced by a native speaker. I just want to say that it may not always be true. The fact that you feel you are not capable of translating into Chinese doesn't necessarily mean that all the Chinese translators are not capable of translating into English. Some people tend to think in this way: I can't do this type of jobs, how can other people do?

I'm well aware that this is not an ABSOLUTE rule, but it is true in 99% of cases. Let's put it this way: I live in Taiwan, a Chinese-speaking country. I am surrounded by Chinese native speakers doing translation into English. The results in 99% of cases are completely unacceptable if we take a professional standard to judge them. I'm happy to say there is that 1% who can do nice work into English. However, usually the 99% feel they belong to the 1%, and there is no convincing them that what they turn out is garbage (obviously, one doesn't SAY that to their faces...)

However, fortunately for the 99% here in Taiwan, "chabudou zhuyi" is alive and well, so they get on quite nicely.

It is by no means thinking that "if I can't do it, they can't either." I can read the results. I know I will be flamed for this, but a non-native speaker in 99% of cases DOES NOT HAVE the ability to make this kind of judgement about whether the English is acceptable or not. This requires a combination of native speaker-ness (not merely long exposure to the language later in life), having been educated in that language (not just college, either) and general professionalism (which is equally prevalent in both populations, of course).


I am not sure how you got the impression that other translators only produced something that's just "close" and could "get away with this sort of thing".

Because I'm surrounded by it. I see it every day.
I believe most of translation companies and agencies will have at least one editor/proofreader to scrutinize a translator's work even if the translator is a native speaker of the target language.
I can't imagine that China is more likely to act on quality consciousness (if it exists in the first place) than Taiwan, as a whole...and Taiwan has very little quality consciousness in the field of Chinese to English translation. Hiring a native speaker is prohibitively expensive compared to the cost of merely letting substandard work go out. After all, the clients mostly can't read English well enough to know the difference, so everyone makes money.[/quote]

Some even have another translator to back-translate more important documents to double check the translation.


In my opinion, "an editing mill" is much better than "a garbage producer"!

I think that percentage-wise, there are fewer native English speaking translators putting out garbage into English (i.e., serious comprehension errors) than there are native Chinese speakers putting out garbage into English (not only errors of grammar and usage, but sheer mis-representations of English meaning also). This is what's uncomplimentarily known as "Chinglish." (I don't know what it's called when foreigners write bad Chinese...we really need a term for this!! )

Your idea about "grading by a committee that represents both native languages" sounds like a perfect solution, but it's too naive. It sounds as if you were only 19 (please don't be offended! I am just kidding!).

I'd rather *look* 19, if you don't mind...


Translation industry has a highly segregated market. As long as you compete with your capability and integrity, you will get a fair market share. No one should claim, "This is my territory! You get out!"


Why? Let's say I'm a doctor trained in orthopedics. I'm pretty good at setting bones and fixing broken legs. But one day a patient asks me to do plastic surgery on his nose. Should I accept? After all, I'm a qualified doctor. It's all medicine, isn't it? The patient can always get some makeup to fix up the job and make it look as though it were done by a professional, can't he?


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ysun  Identity Verified
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Speaking of garbage... May 8, 2004

Terry L. Thatcher, Ph.D. wrote:

I'm well aware that this is not an ABSOLUTE rule, but it is true in 99% of cases. Let's put it this way: I live in Taiwan, a Chinese-speaking country. I am surrounded by Chinese native speakers doing translation into English. The results in 99% of cases are completely unacceptable if we take a professional standard to judge them. I'm happy to say there is that 1% who can do nice work into English. However, usually the 99% feel they belong to the 1%, and there is no convincing them that what they turn out is garbage (obviously, one doesn't SAY that to their faces...)

It seems to me the discussion will not go anywhere. I am too busy. Let me just put a short note here. I never intend to hurt the feelings of native English speakers as you do to the 99% Chinese translators no matter they are in Taiwan or in mainland China. I'd like to reiterate my point as mentioned above:

“Ideally, a native speaker is preferred if and only if other abilities of the translators are the same or similar. However, quite often, it would be difficult to find such an ideal translator. Moreover, it is more important for a translator to understand the content in the source language than to be a native speaker in the target language. Otherwise, no matter how beautiful the target document may look, it may be talking about something else that is quite different from the content of the source document. I have edited such documents translated by native speakers.”

A typical example is a journal article translated by a native English speaker from Chinese. The title of the article is: 膦酸盐改性的磺化聚苯乙烯负载型新型固体酸催化合成己二酸-2-乙基己酯. I was instructed by the translation agency to make corrections from the technical point of view only. I believe I corrected all the technical errors, but I must say it was still a piece of “garbage” - “technically correct garbage”. It had to be recycled to "an editing mill" and re-processed from the language point of view. I've never heard from the native English speaker ever since! If anyone is interested, I can send the garbage by email. The facts speak louder than any words!

I can't imagine that China is more likely to act on quality consciousness (if it exists in the first place) than Taiwan, as a whole...and Taiwan has very little quality consciousness in the field of Chinese to English translation. Hiring a native speaker is prohibitively expensive compared to the cost of merely letting substandard work go out. After all, the clients mostly can't read English well enough to know the difference, so everyone makes money.

I think your problems are just due to 坐井观天. Many Ph.D.s have the same problem. Holding a Ph.D. degree, they feel they know everything!

The fact that I have a Ph.D. in Chinese means that I've memorized a whole bunch of trivia about Chinese …

China has five thousand years of civilization, but you only need to memorize a whole bunch of trivia to get a Ph.D. in Chinese. It sounds like it is pretty easy to get a Ph.D. degree in Chinese from an American university. When I reach 60, I may consider getting a Ph.D. in Chinese from an American university.

I think that percentage-wise, there are fewer native English speaking translators putting out garbage into English (i.e., serious comprehension errors) than there are native Chinese speakers putting out garbage into English (not only errors of grammar and usage, but sheer mis-representations of English meaning also).

I am very curious about where you got the percentages about the “garbage producers”. My feeling is: what you said is merely 信口开河! Besides, don't forget the fact that there are much fewer native English speakers who can read and speak Chinese than there are native Chinese speakers who can read and speak English in the first place!

Speaking of percentage-wise, I'd like to remind you that a large percentage of scientific books and journal articles published in the United States every year were not written by native English speakers, and the majority (to be safe, I wouldn't say 90%) of Ph.D.s and masters in science and engineering who are graduated from thousands of American universities every year are not native English speakers. Suppose all the non-native English speakers suddenly disappeared from this country, even those nobal people might have to live in garbage bins and eat garbage!

This is what's uncomplimentarily known as "Chinglish." (I don't know what it's called when foreigners write bad Chinese...we really need a term for this!! )

I guess the Chinese people would simply call the bad Chinese 放洋屁!!!;-)[/quote]


[Edited at 2004-05-08 20:42]


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Kevin Yang  Identity Verified
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My 2 cents about Native Speakers May 9, 2004

Dear Terry and Yueyin,

Thank you for the wonderful discussion in this folder! I am so delighted to see you two experienced translators having such excellent discussion over this topic. My solute to both of you! I have to say that your heavyweight discussion set the bar so high that other translators like me got a bit intimidated to dive in. But, how can a discussion here be considered complete without having my inputs? Here come my two cents.

I read each and every message you have posted here, and often became sort of self-conscious and wondered if you were referring to the translators like me. That's OK if you did. I went through and survived from so many discussions in the past, and I can handle it. Before I go further, I should let you know a little bit more about me. I was born and raised in Huhhot, Inner Mongolia, China. To some ignorant Chinese people who are so comfortably living in their stereotyped cocoons, I am perhaps not even considered from the center of the world or their civilized society. I came to the United States when I was 24 years old. Now I am an American citizen and have lived in America for 20 years, during which I got my Masters Degree in Speech Communication and have been serving as a Chinese translator and a translation business owner. You can see the first half of my life was spent in China, and the 2nd half of my life has been in America. To be honest with you, the last 20 years actually contributed the most to my personal endeavor and perfection. In my case, I might be biased to talk about this or having an "identity crisis", but I would doubt the fairness by simply categorizing me as a native Chinese translator and telling me I might have a higher possibility to produce substandard English translations.

To this date I still remember the comments made over a year ago by a native English translator from Spain. In a public discussion on a KudoZ issue, he was so irritated by my opinion and asked Henry where Henry found me to be the Moderator, because to a perfect "English gentleman" like him, my English was horrible. As an American English learner, I could not enjoy his Spanish English either. I appreciated his frankness and straightforward style, but he did not earn a bit respect from me. I was pleased to see Henry and ProZ.com did not accept or share his personal view about my English.

English is used just about in every country in the world. We can accept the people from different countries where they speak different kinds of English; we should also give the Chinese translators a chance or time to improve their English. English can be learned and the writing skills can be improved. I read the China Daily (a major Chinese newspaper in English) and watch the CCTV Channel 9 (the English channel of the Central Chinese TV Station) on a regular basis; I am impressed by their English. So, 99% of the Chinese translators do not write English well is too high a percentage in my opinion.

I have to agree that a native speaker usually has a higher standard in terms of perfection in his/her own native language than those who are learning it as their second language. But, "Native Speaker" should not be used as the ruling criteria or standard when we judge the quality of a translation. Personally, I think the precise understanding of the source text is much more important. Because things like grammar mistakes or misuse of an English word can always be caught and corrected by a good proofreader or job coordinator whose native language is English, but the misunderstanding the source text or misinterpretation of the subtle nuances in the original language are not always easy to spot.

It is a good wish that all the English translations should be performed by the native English speakers in order to achieve the perfection, but it is not practical and unlikely to happen. China is really a unique case. There are so many Chinese translators. The native English translators are totally out numbered. Plus the poor awareness of the industry-standard English (if there is such a thing), the poor judgment and selection of translators, large volumes and cost-control considerations, etc. are unfortunately the reasons for them to end up with the English translations that do not sound good, read well or grammatically correct. But I do see the situation has been improved in a steady way comparing with 20 years ago when I was there. It is really promising to see that there are more Chinese people have been educated in the English speaking countries and learned to appreciate the good English.

For the purpose of improving the English translation in a positive way, I think the Chinese translators would become more receptive to the suggestions if we can address on the bad English, and uplift people's awareness of the unethical practice of producing bad English, and urge them to pair up with an English native speaker as a translation team when producing an English translation, instead of telling them not to translate into English. This is actually how I handle an English translation project when I know the English translation will be published later in a larger circulation. In America, I do not have any chance to provide substandard English translation. If I did, the client will notice it and will never come back.

Kevin


[Edited at 2004-05-14 07:57]


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Terry Thatcher Waltz, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:49
Chinese to English
+ ...
Exactly! May 9, 2004

Kevin Yang wrote:
In America, I do not have any chance to provide substandard English translation. If I did, the client will notice it and will never come back.


Precisely. In Asia, there are plenty of opportunities, and they are often acted upon. I know everyone is itchy thinking "She's talking about me," but I am probably NOT talking about any of you. You are the people who care enough about the issue to think about it. Those who consistently produce substandard work usually just churn it out and count their money, as well as counting themselves fortunate that the client has no clue about the quality.


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ysun  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:49
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Exactly! May 9, 2004

Kevin Yang wrote:

But, "Native Speaker" should not be used as the ruling criteria or standard when we judge the quality of a translation. To me, I think the precise understanding of the source text is much more important.

I think Kevin's point is exactly the same as mine: “Ideally, a native speaker is preferred if and only if other abilities of the translators are the same or similar. However, quite often, it would be difficult to find such an ideal translator. Moreover, it is more important for a translator to understand the content in the source language than to be a native speaker in the target language.” No one shouldn't jump to a general conclusion that non-native English speakers shouldn't claim to work into English, and if they claim, it is not ethical. By the same token, non-native Chinese speakers can also claim to work into Chinese as long as they are capable. All our discussions originated from the argument.

In America, I do not have any chance to provide substandard English translation. If I did, the client will notice it and will never come back.

Exactly, it has already been properly taken care of. No body should 杞人忧天! I work regularly on Chinese into English translation of patents and research articles for some translation agencies. At one of the agencies, the CEO is a scientist with Ph.D. degree and a native English speaker. Every time, he reads my translation personally. If he thought my translation is substandard, I would never hear from him again!

Terry,

As a matter of fact, native English speakers are not necessarily capable of doing all Chinese into English jobs. I have no intention to embarrass anybody in public, but do you think you and many other native English speakers are able to do a “flawless” job on scientific journal articles like 膦酸盐改性的磺化聚苯乙烯负载型新型固体酸催化合成己二酸-2-乙基己酯? If you tell me you are, I will post this title and some sentences of the article as Kudoz questions and I welcome you to post your answer there. I just want to prove my argument. Please don't take this as a challenge! Thank you!


[Edited at 2004-05-10 00:24]


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chica nueva
Local time: 19:49
Chinese to English
I do not claim to be qualified to translate into Chinese... May 10, 2004

I do not claim to be qualified to translate into Chinese, in fact at first I was amazed to get any points at all in the English to Chinese pair.Then I thought perhaps I might have a contribution to make to the process. I still believe that. My main strengths as I see it are native speaker understanding of the source text (unless it is specialised), ability to read and speak Chinese at a useful level,and access to the Longman English-Chinese dictionary.

What is your point exactly, Yueyin? If it is me you are talking about, my method of answering is different from others, but, hey, isn't that OK? I greatly enjoy (and benefit from) the interaction with other translators. The opportunity to work with others in my second language is also a wonderful thing.I really wish more English natives were aware of the benefits to be gained from participating in the English-Chinese Kudoz. Do I guess? If I guess, which isn't often, then I note it in the answer,like anyone else. Really the tone of your comments doesn't seem very nice (some innuendo there?), what is the point of it? As to how I choose to spend my time, Kudoz is a form of Chinese language study for me, and I do it as a hobby, after work...

"It may be true that "some folks can answer questions all day" as you said. I noticed that a native English speaker in this pair answered nearly 1,500 questions in the past several months, but only less than 300 answers were selected. That is probably the outcome of guessing. Of course, it is understandable. However, you couldn't conclude that everybody was guessing. "


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ysun  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:49
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I have already made my point very clearly. May 10, 2004

lai'an wrote:

What is your point exactly, Yueyin?

lai'an,
You should see I have already made my point very clearly if you read my comments carefully.

Do I guess? If I guess, which isn't often, then I note it in the answer,like anyone else.

If you read this forum very carefully, you should see that criticizing Kudoz Q/A “as a forum for everyone to post their guesses” is not my “invention”. Personally, I don't mind at all if you were guessing or not.

Really the tone of your comments doesn't seem very nice (some innuendo there?), what is the point of it?

"来而不往,非礼也!"

[Edited at 2004-05-10 14:16]


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Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 09:49
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Kevin May 11, 2004

"To this date I still remember the comments made over a year ago by a native English translator from England by the name "Andy". In a public discussion on a KudoZ issue, Andy was so irritated by my opinion and asked Henry where Henry found me to be the Moderator, because to a perfect "English gentleman" or a "drama queen" like Andy, my English was bloody horrible. As an American English learner, I could not enjoy his British English either. I appreciated his frankness and straightforward style, but he did not earn bit respect from me. I was pleased to see Henry and ProZ.com did not accept or share Andy's personal view."

If you want to be honest, Kevin, you will remember that the discussion in question arose because you repeatedly chose to "unhide" the questions which KudoZ answerers had posted, against their will, obviously.

That was the "crux of the matter", not your English level, so please be honest to your fellow colleagues in the Chinese forum who have not had the benefit of reading that particular thread.

"I was pleased to see Henry and ProZ.com did not accept or share Andy's personal view"

I am sorry, Kevin, but this is simply not true. You were forced to apologise and cease behaving in the manner you did by ProZ.
My question to Henry was how he could allow someone to be a moderator who blatantly ignored the wishes of the very people taking part in the system. In private, other moderators admitted you had "gone over the top" and they were looking for a way for you to "save face". I was not alone in being "irritated" - everyone else was as well.

None of this had anything to do with your command of English.

I did make a remark (which I stand by) to the effect that your English was not up to standard.
Not UK or US standard, but any standard you care to choose.

I shall do what you have significantly failed to do which is post the entire exchange for your colleagues to read and form their own opinion, if they wish.

And now we're on the subject, what is this "drama queen like Andy" supposed to mean?

Kevin, you have not learnt. Do not go behind other people's backs criticising them. You will inevitably be found out.

Saludos,
Andy

For the benefit of those who did not read the original thread.

http://www.proz.com/topic/12800?start=0

Kevin, I await your apologies.

[Edited at 2004-05-11 21:20]


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Kevin Yang  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:49
Member (2003)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Any discussion in a Forum is open to the public. May 11, 2004

Andy,

Thank you for your message and participation in this discussion.

1. As I said, I remember that discussion very well. It was a discussion about the excessive use of the Hide feature to KudoZ answers and my practice to unhide some of them I thought unnecessary for that one particular Chinese translator. Through the discussion, I learned that I should have emailed privately to that translator who had such issue and discuss with her the necessity before I had taken any action. No one from the management of ProZ.com had forced me to make an apology. I did it because that whole discussion let me see the perspectives of other translators that I did not see before, and Claudia, a moderator, emailed me and shared with me her and other mods' views on that matter. I also discussed it with Henry at the end. There was no force at all. I do not know where you got that funny idea. It was a learning experience for EVERYONE. If I know I have done something incorrect as a moderator, I make the improvement. If I am correct, I will insist on what I believe. However, NONE of those is what we are discussing here in this thread. You might be in a hurry or SOMEONE did not give you a good briefing, please take your time and read carefully the posted messages in this folder. Honesty? I have mine, but where is yours?

2. As we all can see, that was a discussion over the KudoZ issue. However, you turned around and attacked my English and also wanted Henry to respond to you how he chose his moderators. In this new message you just posted, you stated, "None of this had anything to do with your command of English." A conflicting point! Thank you for pointing that out. Then, you went on again "I did make a remark (which I stand by) to the effect that your English was not up to standard. Not UK or US standard, but any standard you care to choose." Do you remember you also said all my posted messages were bad ones? Do not worry! I have enough IQ to choose not meeting your Spanish standard for sure, but thank you for the comment though. You are not an American; please do not teach an American how to speak English, nor speak for the Americans and never play the authority to judge my English by the US standard. By the way, I do dot enjoy reading your Spanish English, nor your threatening email, so stop sending any more. To be honest, I would be really concerned if I would talk or write like you do. You are very rude and unpleasant in discussions. There is no necessity to be so dramatic. This is what I meant being a "drama queen". If you found this expression offensive, I am sorry I used it. But, do you see your own rudeness? Do you have the courage to apologize to me for that?

3. Any discussion in a Forum is open to the public. I mentioned your attack in my message and posted in the Chinese Forum, which is meant to be read by everyone in the world. As a matter of the fact, I was the person you attacked, and I certainly can mention it whenever and wherever I want to. This has nothing to do with what you said "go behind other people's back". Otherwise, you would not be here to read and respond to my message. If you felt you did not get to read my message sooner, I am sorry about that, then just tell your informer to act on it quicker next time, or leave the contact info here, so we can keep you posted.

You are entitled to participate in this discussion. Please be sure to stay on the topic.

Kevin


P.S.

Still being a free-service user after all these years? It would perhaps be more convincing to me about your care to ProZ.com if you could upgrade to a paid member for a change. Also, I wonder if you can help me to figure out the differences among the following words: contributor, free-rider, free-loader.


[Edited at 2004-05-15 18:30]


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