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Defining \"bilingual\"
Thread poster: xxxeams
xxxeams
Spanish to English
May 24, 2001

Hello to all!



In postings made to this forum the term “bilingual” has used. It would be constructive to define and clarify the meaning of the term.



I would like to contribute with a definition:



“A truly bilingual person not only fully masters both languages involved but also has concurrently experienced and internalized their cultural and social context, being able to think as a native in either language, mastering nuances and contexts.”



This definition is restrictive and leaves out professionals that consider themselves “bilingual” although they are only highly versed in a second language and have not attained a truly cross-cultural background.



If we accept that a professional translator should translate only into his native language, and only truly “bilingual” translators should offer “to and from” language pairs, then today’s translation market is full of “translators” offering services for which they are not technically prepared. The results are obvious to those of us that read, work, and suffer with previously translated texts.



Many costly problems and embarrassing situations could be avoided if translators limited their scope to their language pair. Unfortunately, when we translate from a client’s native language into a target language that our client does not master, he is not in a position to judge the quality of the work he receives. Many times I have translated or corrected text that had already been translated and published - at a high cost - with translation deficiencies that rendered it useless and even detrimental to the clients image. We owe our clients the highest possible quality: if a text is to be published our work must be first class, and if a gist translation is required, it may not be polished but it must be accurate.



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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:32
French to English
May 25, 2001

I first studied in France in 1981, spending one year at university in Provence. I subsequently moved to France in 1991. It is now 2001, my French is excellent but I shall never ever consider myself bi-lingual. My children ARE what I consider to be truly bilingual. They are growing up with two languages. Never the less, I still have to explain lots of things about English culture. They don\'t know what milkman is, but they do know the difference between a \"galette\" and a \"crêpe\", for example. I agree to a large extent with the previous posting. When I see job advertisements in the press asking for \"bi-lingual\" secretaries (niveau bac +), I realise that bilingualism is a very subjective definition indeed.

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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:32
French to English
May 25, 2001

In reply to CTRANS :



I am afraid that I cannot let the last one go uncommented. Many agencies are cowboy set-ups, fly-by-nights, whatever you might wish to call them. I seldom work with agencies as my full-time work load womes from direct clients, obtained through word-of-mouth or direct contact when I think there is some work for me out there. In all honesty, the main reason I am averse to working for agencies as a rule, is that I have come across too many who simply relayed requests for work from over-rushed clients who refused to pay anything other than a pitance (2/3 my current just above break even rate), and typically 3 months after the work had been handed in! Put me off for life!



Notwithstanding, there are some decent agencies out there and some highly qualified people too. I know some people who have translation degrees and yet they could not write their way out of a cardboard box. Likewise, there are others, who might appear to be less qualified who translate beautifully. Language degrees help but having been on the receiving end of translated texts in past employment, I always appreciated reading a text written by someone who knew what he/she was writing about. I would maintain that degree level education plus relevant experience is a minimum. Where this is the case, and where that experience is overseas there is a greater chance that the language and the technical feel of the document will be right. If, on top of that, there are a whole host of langauge qualifications to boot, then so much the better!!! I tend to be a little wary of X years of langauge qualifications and no technical professional experience to back it up!



I find that whilst clients are perhaps unable to produce texts in English of the sort I am asked to translate, they are increasingly aware of the quality of the work they get back. You cannot pull the wool over their eyes, you have to be able to write on equal terms in your chosen fields. There is no escaping the fact that experience and hard graft are needed to keep up to date!



It comes down to the age-old thing of a rich blend of qualifications and experience. There are of course exceptions to the rule in all circumstances...



As for PROZ members, I think it much more helpful to be constructive. Obvious ability stands out, as does lack of it.









[ This Message was edited by: nikscot on 2001-05-25 09:53 ]


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:32
French to English
May 25, 2001

Hello again, (and this is the last thing I have to say ont his one...) as in my answer to the matter of translating into one\'s 2nd language, in which I too said that you can be almost sure that bad work gets talked about fast and loud, but that this is not always true of good work. One detail, but a sizeable one. Good work may not be shouted about, but your clients will come back and refer others to you, perhaps not noisily, but they do. At the risk of repeating myself, good work stands out and so does bad work!



Over and out,



Nikki


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
May 26, 2001

I\'m fascinated by the CTRans/Nikscot discussion, and at the end of the day I must agree with Ctrans about the general quality levels, as it\'s clear that there are far more cowboys/girls than there are real professionals. In Spain where I work,this is absolutely the case, which is basically how I got into the profession myself, i.e no barriers to entry, I met someone on the Camino de santiago and that\'s how I got my first assignment!. But now that I\'ve done it a number of years, I do take it seriously and am gradually acquiring theoretical knowledge/qualifications as, when and how I can. That said, I think there\'s more to translating than having qualifications, I suggest the following qualities:



- a profound knowledge of one\'s own language that includes an interest in language per se, literature, grammar, acquiring knowledge, etc



- a profound knowledge of the second language BUT depending on what you\'re translating. I find it hard to believe someone could translate a contemporary novel without actually living in the source language country (e.g. imagine an Italian translating Nick Hornby or that book I detest \'Bridget Jones\' after a few years in the UK in the early 70s!). At the same time, living in the source language country means that you have a tendency to \'translationese\'. One dilemma after another! However, when it comes to scientific language, e.g. a technical manual, there are hardly any cultural nuances to be taken account of.



- a sensitivity to language that first of all and as an absolute MINIMUM means that one NEVER translates into a language that is not one\'s own. There\'s far too much of that, all you have to do is scroll through ProZ profiles, and compare poor, incorrect,badly spelled presentations, in English for example, with the offer to do translations into English. The mere fact that someone will do this is an indication of a total lack of sensitivity to language and what it is, does and means. That said, the overall quality of translation in a country obviously depends on the level of economic advancement of a country.



- another kind of sensitivity that involves being aware of one\'s own limitations in respect of language, field, etc, of not taking anything for granted, of pursuing words to the bitter end, via endless web pages, and through tons of dictionaries, via various languages, etc



- investigative skills on the Internet and resourcefulness in finding terms, which by now comes down to how well one can handle the Internet. All the info you need is out there, it\'s a question of being able to locate it and use it correctly. I\'ve had to do a Portuguese course with a pathetic dictionary since I haven\'t been to the right country to buy one, yet have managed on the Internet, possibly better than if I relied only on a dictionary/ies, even the biggest and best (dics don\'t provide context)



- and the qualities that clients are interested in, at the end of the day they might prefer a reliable, timely translator over and above a gifted one who may not be dependable.



Not to forget that there is room out there for less than perfect translations in a less than perfect world. I\'m not justifying the former, but the reality of deadlines, pay etc means that that\'s what there is. There is a whole quality range that starts with machine trans that costs nothing, to translations where every word is significant and is paid accordingly.



So the problem really comes down to a profession that is difficult to regulate, where there are few barriers to entry, and where clients don\'t particularly want /don\'t know what a good translation is, because they themselves consider it an extra, unnecessary expense, don\'t appreciate the work involved, or the skills required etc.



I don\'t think one needs language degrees and translation qualifications, but certainly all translators should have to prove potential ability (via studies) or an ability (via a professional exam). Gb for example offers the latter, but Spain no.



And obviously, long-term success will depend on building up a client base; these come back to you again and again, because you\'ve proved yourself to THEIR satisfaction, and not because you\'ve got degrees and masters, which was probably never raised to begin with!.













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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:32
French to English
May 27, 2001

On the matter of diplomas being required...



The more discerning clients DO ask to see my CV before working with me, unless they have come through to me via an existing client. Again, whilst the level of education is certainly an interest, what they really want to see is the type of work I am used to doing and a list of contactable satisfied clients.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:32
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jul 21, 2001

¡Uuuf! Eduardo, I just have to say it. A bilingual is not necessarily a translator.

Where the society itself is bilingual (or worse), language can be a mish-mash. I finally got English straight when the nuns in school began to fine us for not being able to end a sentence in the language we began it in (they were Belgian, and so, I suppose, pretty neutral). But the fines were not a law, and everybody mixed-mash.

I grew up with Spanish in an environment hostile to it and losing in the competition. Up to now, I have problems.

To make things worse, my parents moved to Germany, where I didn\'t translate (I was 10 years old). And when I\'m confronting confronting a German text, I still hear Frau Rothenmayer\'s explanations (no English).

I had to read Karl Marx in Tagalog before I got this one sorted out.

What you guys are talking about is an ACT OF WILL.



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xxxeurotransl
German to English
+ ...
Jul 21, 2001

Bravo, Eduardo.



Your comments about bilinguals are very true. Unfortunately, many ProZ members even offer their services in language combinations that don\'t even include one native language of theirs. Just look around: examples galore.



And then, we have those that outright lie about their first language(s). That\'s why I have been telling clients of mine to always verify the credentials and qualifications of translators found through ProZ - otherwise, they will get burnt.


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Cidália Martins
English
+ ...
Jul 22, 2001

Always an interesting topic. I am not, as of yet, a full-fledged translator but I generally only work in one direction. I only translate into my \"second\" language if it\'s a straightforward, non-technical text. I do consider myself bilingual in Portuguese and English, both linguistically and culturally as I was born and have lived all my life in Canada but am also the child of Portuguese immigrant parents who spoke nothing but Portuguese at home (it was the first language I learned before attending school) and I\'ve always been very much involved in the Portuguese culture. I\'ve also spent time in Portugal as a child, where I lived for a year and attended school, and blended in comfortably. HOWEVER, while my Portuguese is fluent, I don\'t feel that I am bilingual in all subject matters. Native speakers are fluent in their language, but that doesn\'t mean they can understand a legal or technical text.

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xxxBarbaraW
German to English
+ ...
Jul 31, 2001

Too touchy a subject to leave my previous post up...



Interesting reading your opinions, though.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-08-14 07:10 ]


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Karintha
German to English
Aug 5, 2001

Speaking of Germany, and \"non-professional\" translation into the second language-- it is my understanding that the state certification exam in Germany actually requires high-level translation into the second language. And this is the only certification accepted by the professional organizations for membership. (I was told the American and British cetifications wouldn\'t count unless they are state-certified.) This strikes me as odd-- in order to be certified in Germany I would have to put a huge amount of effort into translating into my second language, which I have no intention of doing professionally.



Any comments from German translators or others on this situation? What\'S the situation in other European countries?



On the issue of \"what is bilingual\"-- within linguistics there are several different definitions used. But very few people are totally fluent in ALL areas in both languages-- even if they speak them both from birth. It\'s not efficient. But it wouldn\'t mean they are not bilingual.



In fact, the only people who need to be fluent in all areas in both languages (to call themselves bilingual) are translators and interpreters.


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AndrewBM
Ireland
Local time: 16:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
Bidget Jones Oct 31, 2001

Dear Ailish,

I can assure you that it is only because I have been living near Dublin (though not London) since the late 90-s, I was able to appreciate the scent of Mr Clinton\'s post-modernity and laugh and laugh and laugh.. non-stop. This \"mmmm.. shopping!\" character is so funny and vivid. Though, I must agree with the rest. ()



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AndrewBM
Ireland
Local time: 16:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
Bidget Jones Oct 31, 2001

Dear Ailish,

I can assure you that it is only because I have been living near Dublin (though not London) since the late 90-s, I was able to appreciate the scent of Mr Clinton\'s post-modernity and laugh and laugh and laugh.. non-stop. This \"mmmm.. shopping!\" character is so funny and vivid. Though, I must agree with the rest. ()


[addsig]


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:32
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Qualification requiring translation into the foreign language Oct 31, 2001

Quote:


On 2001-08-05 02:08, Karintha wrote:

...Speaking of Germany, and \"non-professional\" translation into the second language-- it is my understanding that the state certification exam in Germany actually requires high-level translation into the second language. ...This strikes me as odd-- in order to be certified in Germany I would have to put a huge amount of effort into translating into my second language, which I have no intention of doing professionally.




Actually, this is also the case in the US. I got my MA at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (Calif.) Both the qualifying exams (if you pass, you proceed to the second year) and the professional exams (at that time, you had to pass these also to get the degree) are given *into* as well as *out of* the language being studied. Our professors mentioned frequently that most professional translators don\'t tend to translate into their foreign langs., but we had the requirement to meet nonetheless.


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Tao Weber
German to English
+ ...
A fascinating topic Nov 20, 2001

As a \"truly\" bilingual person (Air Force brat father U.S. mother German, the first twenty years of my life Germany U.S. in two year intervals) it happens all to often that I encounter proofreaders/editors evaluating a text which is not their mother language. All too often have I encountered persons with language degrees, fifteen years of experience, and a \"I-am-the-language-God attitude.\" telling me my translation makes no sense to a native???? And in all their accuracy and their being oh so literate they produce translations like \"no one sucks like Electrolux\"



How about recognizing that it is not the degree, and the teaching position that make a translation really perfect. It is blending in with all those little flaws and lovable \"obnoxiousities\" only a native speaker would truly understand.

Language is something very alive. Ever evolving, ever changing, never quite the same. Lets not forget that when we edit and dig up terms out of our glossaries which we have used ten years ago.


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