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translating into one\'s 2nd language
Thread poster: Troy Fowler
Troy Fowler
English to Japanese
+ ...
May 18, 2001

I recently started translating full time the automobile industry, doing JapaneseEnglish technical translations. Out of 7 translators, 2 are Americans, 5 are Japanese, and the direction of the material is split 50/50. The job requires everyone to translate in both directions, something I understand is \'taboo\' for truly professional translators.





While I want to perform the duties of my job well, I also want to get started on the right foot as a translator. I\'m curious, has anyone else had to deal with a similar situation? I enjoy the job, but I feel like saying something to my boss. I will say, that translating into my 2nd language has helped expand my scope of both languages, but I know I\'m bound to make (potentially costly) mistakes. Any suggestions/thoughts?





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Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 12:03
Member
English to Dutch
+ ...
May 19, 2001


Absolutely true Troy

I have been in similar positions quite often and I can only confirm that it does help expand your scope of the languages involved.

As long as people know that e.g. Japanese isn\'t your first language but that you do master this language more than the average native speaker, I don\'t see too many problems. Of course, you\'ll make mistakes (we all make mistakes, even in our own language) but if you have a good proofreader/editor sitting next to you, then you should be able to sleep comfortably.



Enjoy this new venture as it comes along & good luck,

Evert



Quote:


On 2001-05-18 18:18, troyfowler wrote:

I recently started translating full time the automobile industry, doing JapaneseEnglish technical translations. Out of 7 translators, 2 are Americans, 5 are Japanese, and the direction of the material is split 50/50. The job requires everyone to translate in both directions, something I understand is \'taboo\' for truly professional translators.





While I want to perform the duties of my job well, I also want to get started on the right foot as a translator. I\'m curious, has anyone else had to deal with a similar situation? I enjoy the job, but I feel like saying something to my boss. I will say, that translating into my 2nd language has helped expand my scope of both languages, but I know I\'m bound to make (potentially costly) mistakes. Any suggestions/thoughts?







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Carla Zwanenberg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:03
Member (2002)
English to Dutch
+ ...
May 20, 2001

Maybe we need to distinguish between freelance translators who work for many companies and in several fields, and in-house translators like you Troy, who have always a native speaker at hand and deal with very specialized texts.

It all depends on the expectations of the customer c.q. employer, don’t you think?. If they expect your translation to be ready for publication, you might be feeling more comfortable when only translating in your native language (I think this goes for most freelance translators as their customers ask for letter-perfect translations). In your case however, if all your text will be proofread by your Japanese colleagues and your eventual mistakes are considered normal and acceptable, there shouldn’t be much of a problem... So if you ask me, the thing to find out is, what exactly do they expect from you?



Carla


[addsig]


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Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 15:33
English to Hindi
+ ...
May 24, 2001

Linguistically, one should work in two languages if and only if one possesses truly bilingual or trilingual capability. Again, this ability does not remain constant across various disciplines. If one doesn\'t possess that ability, one is being unfair and would certainly carry a bad conscience. What the client makes of such a translator is surely a tertiary matter. I am sure that translators themselves would not like to sully their reputations by such actions. Finally, no client tells you to begin translating in your life. You do it yourself based on some linguistic abilities, some degrees, diplomas and so on. The client comes quite late in the day.

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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:03
French to English
May 24, 2001

Not so clear-cut as it might first seem. When reading tehcnical background material to keep myself up to date with my chosen field, I sometimes translate short extracts into French to check my ability and understanding (particularly architectural and other technical developments in yacht contsruction). I do so with a view to improving my understanding and ability to translate into English, my mother tongue. On the very odd occasion, clients do ask, almost beg me to translate into French. I speak pretty much like a native speaker with almost no accent (I\'m told), - not that unusual - which is apparently why some of my French-speaking clients refuse to believe I do not translate into French. I refuse to anyway, even if it \"just to help me understand\". A great one, as why else would any level of translation be required, were it not to help someone understand?



From a commercial point of view, it could be suicidal. Good work may not always be shouted about from the rooftops, but bad work will get talked about!



That said, the in-house argument raised in previous answers does make sense to an extent.



I shall continue to translate into English only!

[ This Message was edited by: nikscot on 2001-05-24 14:57 ]


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Yuri Geifman  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:03
Member
English to Russian
+ ...
May 24, 2001

Hi Troy,

I haven\'t the time to read everyone else\'s posts right now, but what I have to say relates strictly to my personal experience, so I\'m not really expressing an opinion or commenting on anyone else\'s position.

I make a point of translating into English rather than into my native language (Russian) for several reasons, the most important of them being simply that I enjoy it more. It helped to have a great proofreader go over my work for the past 5 years of working for a Toronto agency, I believe I learned more from this collaboration than I would ever have at any school, but the point I\'m trying to make is that I would never have learned anything unless I dared to do it in the first place.

So (IMHO) all the power to you for trying!

Yuri



Quote:


On 2001-05-18 18:18, troyfowler wrote:

I recently started translating full time the automobile industry, doing JapaneseEnglish technical translations. Out of 7 translators, 2 are Americans, 5 are Japanese, and the direction of the material is split 50/50. The job requires everyone to translate in both directions, something I understand is \'taboo\' for truly professional translators.





While I want to perform the duties of my job well, I also want to get started on the right foot as a translator. I\'m curious, has anyone else had to deal with a similar situation? I enjoy the job, but I feel like saying something to my boss. I will say, that translating into my 2nd language has helped expand my scope of both languages, but I know I\'m bound to make (potentially costly) mistakes. Any suggestions/thoughts?






[addsig]

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Troy Fowler
English to Japanese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
May 29, 2001

Hi Yuri, Carla, Roomy, Evert, Nikscot, others,





Thanks for the interesting feedback. Obviously, there are pros-and-cons with translating into one\'s second language. Depsite the prevailing taboos, I agreed to a job that requires \"into-my-2nd\" translation. Carla commented that a distinction should be made between in-house and freelance positions. This makes sense. I do have an ample supply of Japanese management and other translators that I can check my work against for any substantial errors. This would probably not be the case if I were freelancing.





Furthermore, as Yuri stated, I enjoy the challenge of translating into my second language (I feel like I\'ve given my brain a good workout at the end of the day!) Plus, I need to put my new $200 ENG>JPN dictionary to good use!





Any additional comments are welcome.





Ciao tutti!




Troy











_________________



[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-06-02 17:01 ]

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-06-02 17:02 ]


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xxxBarbaraW
German to English
+ ...
Aug 21, 2001

Troy,



I thinks it\'s great that you enjoy the challenge of translating into a language not your native. It is definitely an asset having friendly co-workers around who don\'t mind being asked \"insider questions\" and gladly take the time to share their native language with you to the extent of their ability and knowledge. It\'s all about connections and goodwill.



I have noticed that the majority of pro translators objecting to translating into a second language are located in their native country, being exposed to their native language on a daily basis only (verbal exchange, shopping, e.g.). In my opinion, once working in the second language/country constantly, and/or interacting with native speakers of your target language on a daily basis (more than in your native language), one, inevitably, has an advantage over translators permanently residing in their native country not being exposed to the same circumstance on a daily basis. Their target language is not as \"present\" as it is to us ordering lunch in China Town today, or talking to a cab driver in NYC tomorrow. Naturally, it all depends on the individual and his/her ability to \"imitate\" a language LIVE. I was a good translator to the U.S. Military in Germany having been taught by Oxford-educated teachers. Now, after having lived here for 8 years, and dropped my British accent, I think I would be of more use to them now, knowing what I do about their culture and speaking their U.S. English.



This may not make sense to many, and I have received my share of negativity and hatemails on the issue, but I prefer keeping my positive attitude and semi-objective opinion toward professionals who can deliver very nice translations into a language not their native.



Good luck to you! Everything\'s a challenge but self-assurance once we succeed!





[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-08-21 20:23 ]


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xxxivw
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Aug 22, 2001

Very well said, Barbara!

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JpBaugh  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:03
Member (2009)
Japanese to English
Translating into your second language = learning to write with your other hand? Mar 7, 2009

This may be a strange analogy for the present topic but there was a story of a professional footballer who began to start playing with his left foot only as the result of injury which left him unable to use his right foot for a long period.
To some extent, learning to translate into your second language is like playing football with your wrong foot, it will give you more marketability and potential, but few people can truly claim to be as good in their second language, and there is always the example of the polyglot who speaks none of the languages perfectly, but all of them adequately.
I think that there is a particular dilemma of whether to work into the second language in the case of Japanese. For example, when I was studying translation, the vast majority of students in the Japanese stream were native Japanese, and the vast majority of Bilinguals in Japan are without a doubt of Japanese nationality. The demand to translate Japanese to English domestically is high, which is why there are so many translations performed by non-native speakers for better or for worse.
I was recently asked to translate into both my languages as part of an interview, and I was not surprised to learn that these translations would have been solely for the purpose of communication in-house, and that I was merely translating the meaning without any of the necessary graces of style we would expect from a published document. To rephrase Carla's point below, the question of whether to write with your other hand depends on the goal and necessity of doing so.


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solejnicz  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:03
French to Dutch
+ ...
Someone's "first/ second etc." language does not mean that much May 2, 2009

I think the difference between someone's "first" or "native" language and his or her "second", "third" etc. language is not really that important, so the restriction "only native speakers can quote" is often exaggerated. As for myself, I am a native speaker of Dutch and work mainly as a translator into that language, but in particular areas I sometimes find it easier to write in or translate into other languages - for example in English - than in my "own" language (the grammar of which is indeed in many respects more complicated than that of for example English, as people often say).

I believe that if you practice good and long enough, you can learn to write and speak every language you want, even if this language is totally different from the one you learned in your childhood. My brother who is also a native Dutch speaker once went to Thailand, and after he had been there only for some months he had still learned to speak rather good Thai (the grammar of that language is far less complicated than that of all the Indo-European languages; in fact, there is hardly any grammar). At the moment, I could read some texts on a technical subject written in French or English more easily than a very juridical text written in a Dutch. One 's "first" or native language is certainly not the only factor that determines whether he or she is good at translating into a certain target language, and perhaps not even the most important one.

In my own country, I hear and read so often very poor Dutch which has been generated by 100 % native Dutch speakers.

[Bijgewerkt op 2009-05-02 19:26 GMT]

[Bijgewerkt op 2009-05-02 19:33 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:03
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Two more variables May 2, 2009

solejnicz wrote:
I think the difference between someone's "first" or "native" language and his or her "second", "third" etc. language is not really that important, so the restriction "only native speakers can quote" is often exaggerated.


Definitely!

The first variable is the subject area. Being familiar with the subject is more relevant than being a native.

For instance, I don't know enough German to get a decent meal in Zurich. For a fact, unless the place had a French- or Italian-speaking waiter, I didn't! Nevertheless once I got a text in German about my #1 specialty. I showed it to my mother, who spoke flawless Austrian German, and she couldn't get any idea from it. Then I showed it to my Berlin-born mother-in-law, who speaks German fluently and correctly, and she couldn't understand it either. So I scanned it, OCR'd it and put it through Babelfish, much more primitive at that time, to translate it into English. Of course, it came out all wrong, but I understood perfectly what it meant. I fixed that English text, to have the author check if I was translating (into Portuguese) from a proper original. As far as I know, he is still using that translation in English.

On the other hand, there are some subjects that I don't understand in any language, from the first to the umpteenth!


The second variable is intent or purpose.

It is very unlikely that someone will be able to write/translate really catchy advertising copy outside their #1 language. Likewise, inspirational and several other kinds of literature will be beyond their reach. Simply living outside the target language country may be enough to prevent someone from writing in contemporary style.


As far as I know, technical literature is universal. Anyone having adequately deep knowledge of the subject in two languages - and the languages themselves can write in both. Grammar in such cases is rather clear-cut, vocabulary is very specific.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:03
Member (2008)
Italian to English
You should never do this. May 2, 2009

Those who say it's possible are probably translators who don't do the kind of work that requires stylistic ability, the need to deal with ambiguity, nuance, mood, irony, etc. and who only deal with mechanical translations of lists of components, etc. Even then, I wouldn't attempt it.

[Edited at 2009-05-03 23:20 GMT]


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polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
but is it cost-effective? May 3, 2009

I have been in the translation business for many moons and I remain, despite all arguments, firmly convinced that it is better - if not imperative - to work into your mother tongue(s).
There are a number of reasons why I hold to this belief.
But before I pursue, let me say two things:
1) the following comments are generalisations and there will always be exceptions to the rule. That said, exceptions remain no more than that...
2) I have found myself in the situation decribed by Troy, in my earlier days in the profession, and I voted with my feet. I changed jobs. OK - in those days, demand was often in excess of supply (for in-house translators). Also the situation was not of my making: the company I worked for was taken over and I was absorbed in a bigger team that played to different rules.

The reason why I believe in translators - in-house, in particular - working into their mother tongue is simply one of common sense. 99% of the population working into a "foreign" language will take much longer to complete the job than the average native. For an employer, having slower workers is hardly the ideal. On top of that, the work, once finished, will have to be checked by a native, probably a more senior employee (time is money). This is surely counter-productive ? I say that as one who has for years checked the work of new recruits, albeit working into their native language, and who knows how much time this can take, especially if you bother to explain your changes to them afterwards....

Now I can perhaps understand where Troy's employers are coming from. Clearly the balance of translation in the company is towards Japanese. But they also must occasionally need translations into English and therefore it suits them to have someone on hand for the purpose. Having said that, I do wonder why they didn't opt to have 1 US and 6 Japanese rather than 2 to 5. I also wonder whether they wouldn't be better off with ALL Japanese natives and outsourcing any work into English. But one supposes they have done their homework. One also supposes that Troy was recruited with both parties knowing what the job specification was. In which case, no need to feel complexed. Just use it as part of the learning experience. Unless the stress is too much. If so, you know what to do.

Strangely, I have a slightly different attitude to interpreting. There one is increasingly expected to work in both directions, even in the booth. And, at times, it helps to work FROM your mother tongue, if only because you have a better chance of grasping the speaker's meaning. But that is not the issue here....


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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sometimes you can't avoid it May 6, 2009

I have done some short and simple English to Spanish translations in the early days of my career. It's probably safe to say that I am not the first person to have done this nor will I be the last.

I agree that it is best to stick with translating in to your first language. No matter how proficient I am in Spanish, I will always be most familiar with English.

There is a reason I have both language pairs in my profile. I am mainly a consecutive interpreter. We can't get around that "native language only" recommendation. You might remember a similar post I recently made in the forum on translation theory and practice. (It's about translating slang in to your non-native language.)


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