Mobile menu

Pages in topic:   [1 2 3 4 5 6 7] >
English: Who needs the natives?
Thread poster: xxxIanW
xxxIanW
Local time: 20:21
German to English
+ ...
Jun 1, 2004

At the risk of opening up a can of worms, I would like to bring up something which has been bugging me since I first became a regular on this site.

As a native English speaker, I translate only into English. At this point, let me state quite clearly that this is not an attempt to promote this approach – I am well aware of the “pros and cons” of translating into a non-native language, and do not wish to rehash the arguments here. As far as I am concerned, if other people choose to do so and their customers are happy, then good luck to them. I’m often surprised to see people on the site translating from one foreign language into another, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t affect my rates, my workload or my reputation, so I really don’t care.

However, I do sometimes answer KudoZ questions in one of my source languages – chiefly French and German – and am occasionally forced to bow to superior knowledge. Or, more often than not, to native speaker knowledge. If a French native speaker – and particularly a translator, who by definition has an excellent command of his/her language – points out that my answer “doesn’t sound right”, I say “Merci beaucoup”, hide my face, hide my answer and chalk it up to experience.

What infuriates me, however, is that this same respect is rarely afforded to native speakers of English – a language, it seems, that everyone can claim to master if they learnt it in school and still have the dictionary. Granted, the vast majority of our ProZ colleagues who work with English have a good command of the language and often offer up some grammatical insight which would never have occurred to those of us who have never had to learn it as a foreign language, Sometimes, however, there are nuances which virtually only a native speaker can detect. But when an English native speaker states that “it doesn’t sound right”, this is often ignored … or disputed.

And, I’m sorry to say, the English monolingual site is often plagued by willing ‘helpers’ with a minimal grasp of the language – the blind leading the temporarily perplexed. Not that we natives are infallible, of course, but when a string of Anglophones from all corners of the English-speaking world cry out in unison that a certain word is not used in a certain way, then it takes a breath-taking level of arrogance for a non-native to continue to claim the contrary. How would they react to an English speaker with a similar command of their native language dictating to them how to speak it? I suspect they would be as livid as I am.

I’m not going to post links, since this would be akin to naming names, but there have been some scream-inducingly awful instances in recent months. I also know for a fact that many of my colleagues steer clear of the English monolingual site because it has descended into a kind of free-for-all. What puzzles me, however, is that the quality of the French and German monolingual sites is still as high as ever. If anyone else has an explanation for this, or any other thoughts on this matter, I’d be very interested to hear them.

[Edited at 2004-06-01 19:34]

[Edited at 2004-06-01 19:35]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Mandy Williams  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:21
German to English
Hear, hear! Jun 1, 2004

Thanks for your comment, Ian. About time somebody said it. It is bad enough to hear clients say things like "I could translate it myself but I haven't got time..." but when fellow LINGUISTS have no respect for the knowledge and experience of a native speaker it drives me up the wall. As I said in another thread, I suspect it's an "English thing" because, as you pointed out, so many people overestimate their command of our language.
But I'm not really sure there's anything we can do about it - except change jobs!
Looking forward to other people's responses...
MW

[Edited at 2004-06-01 21:08]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 14:21
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Oy! Jun 1, 2004

(Hear! Hear!)
At times like these, it's best to remember wise words from our Bard:
"The truth will out"

Nancy
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, etc, etc

Don't avoid the Eng monolingual; be sure to support the correct answers, to help the asker.
N.

[Edited at 2004-06-01 20:47]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:21
French to English
Rarely was a truer word spoken Jun 1, 2004

Agree with Ian down to the last comma, and further comment on my part would be superfluous. Well said, sir, well said.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 21:21
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Fully agree with Ian Jun 1, 2004

as far as English monolingual is concerned. However, native English speakers may be proud that English is Lingua Franca of today and should not ignore the fact that there rightfully exists such a thing as European or International English- that is English in which, say, a Finn communicates with a Portuguese. And while I fully agree with Ian that I should not interfere with monolingual English KudoZ questions (actually I seldom do:)), but, OTOH, we daily deal with manuals in English, written, say, by Hungarians, which have to be translated into ... name it.

And then questions arise no native English speaker can answer and suggestions from anyone are welcomed.

So it's a double-sided sword, Dear Sirs

Uldis

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
William Shakespeare, "Hamlet",
Act 3 scene 2


[Edited at 2004-06-01 21:29]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Amy Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:21
Italian to English
+ ...
quite right Jun 1, 2004

I totally agree with your observations, Ian. I sincerely hope that your posting might go some way to improving the situation, or at least maintaining and improving standards. I've heard that English is relatively easy to learn to an intermediate/advanced level but exceptionally hard to learn to near-native level; maybe this has something to do with it?

Well put.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

jerrie  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:21
German to English
+ ...
Particularly goat getting! Jun 1, 2004

Especially when 'notes' like this are added:

Asker:
I want to learn the whole range of connotations of *** from native speakers.

Note:
I am afraid "native speakers" not always have the mastery of their own language that you assume , but I will refrain from participating, since you specifically request their help.

By way of example, only, to rest a tiny part of your case.

I think it would be a crying shame if native speakers were to abandon the English mono questions.
As already voiced, we should persevere, and try to engender a modicum of quality and accuracy to the postings, so that non-native peers can perhaps learn some of the more idiosyncratic foibles, nuances and quirks of this language that simply cannot be taught by more traditional methods (to whatever degree).

In total agreement with your entire posting, Ian.



Direct link Reply with quote
 

Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 21:21
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Could you, please, repost that in English? (ggg) Jun 1, 2004

jerrie wrote:

As already voiced, we should persevere, and try to engender a modicum of quality and accuracy to the postings, so that non-native peers can perhaps learn some of the more idiosyncratic foibles, nuances and quirks of this language that simply cannot be taught by more traditional methods


Uldis


Direct link Reply with quote
 
RHELLER
United States
Local time: 12:21
French to English
+ ...
Thank you, Ian for pronouncing the words in my head! Jun 1, 2004

I am totally with you on all points.

I would like to add:

Uldis and other proponents of a new language called "International English" need a separate area for their new and different language. It is NOT English (of the British, Irish, U.S. or New Zealand variety).

Consistently, 80-90% of the native speakers agree with one entry while the non-native speakers propose wildly unrelated grammatical forms and punctuation.

If Finns and Hungarians wish to converse with each other in a language different from the English language, taught in ESL courses all over the world, they need to use a different label.

The important question here is: will U.S. and U.K. clients be happy with the quality of work that this new "International English" has furnished?

Let the customer decide. Personally, I would much rather read grammatically-correct text written by a Brit than read some hodge-podge of well-meaning International English advocates. We have seen that they cannot agree among themselves as to grammatical rules, vocabulary, or punctuation.

("The lady doth protest too much, methinks")
Seems to me that it is not the native speakers who are the protesters here. Rather, those who are shifting from the traditional, accepted language are the anti-establishment protesters.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 21:21
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Dear Rita, Jun 1, 2004

I hope my English is not so bad, nor do I advocate ignoring British or American English and all of us start using Pidgin English from this moment on, I only wished to point out you that there more subtle points to this- also Romans were not able to introduce pure nor even Vulgar Latin onto Albion- though English has 60% of Latin roots or so, I've been told...

And if English is Lingua Franca of today, it has to bear its burdens along with its glory- as Latin did. And that's that, I'm afraid, nothing in the world will change in this aspect because of or mutual postings on ProZ…

BR,

Uldis

Rita Heller wrote:

I am totally with you on all points.

I would like to add:

Uldis and other proponents of a new language called "International English" need a separate area for their new and different language. It is NOT English (of the British, Irish, U.S. or New Zealand variety).

Consistently, 80-90% of the native speakers agree with one entry while the non-native speakers propose wildly unrelated grammatical forms and punctuation.

If Finns and Hungarians wish to converse with each other in a language different from the English language, taught in ESL courses all over the world, they need to use a different label.

The important question here is: will U.S. and U.K. clients be happy with the quality of work that this new "International English" has furnished?

Let the customer decide. Personally, I would much rather read grammatically-correct text written by a Brit than read some hodge-podge of well-meaning International English advocates. We have seen that they cannot agree among themselves as to grammatical rules, vocabulary, or punctuation.

("The lady doth protest too much, methinks")
Seems to me that it is not the native speakers who are the protesters here. Rather, those who are shifting from the traditional, accepted language are the anti-establishment protesters.





Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
So right! Jun 1, 2004

Ian Winick wrote:

.......the English monolingual site is often plagued by willing ‘helpers’ with a minimal grasp of the language – the blind leading the temporarily perplexed. .... it takes a breath-taking level of arrogance for a non-native to continue to claim the contrary.....


Agree wholeheartedly, particularly about the "arrogance". To me an important part of being a translator is being sensitive to what one DOESN'T KNOW, including of one's own language. But "native intuition" (= it sounds right) is not about knowing/not knowing, it's gut feeling, and you don't need to be a translator, but you do need to be a native, to decide whether something sounds right or not.

I wouldn't EVEN DREAM, after 15 years in this part of the world, of arguing a point as a non-native in the Spanish forum.

Thanks for bringing up the subject:-)


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:21
Dutch to English
+ ...
Jun 1, 2004



[Edited at 2004-06-13 15:12]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

chica nueva
Local time: 08:21
Chinese to English
Post a neutral or disagree comment...? Jun 2, 2004

This seems the natural way to make the whole thing more robust, (help answerers 'dig deeper' & support and justify their case, get some discussion going, discourage askers from selecting oddball answers...)

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Hacene  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:21
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
Interesting, but maybe a bit too generic Jun 2, 2004

Ian Winick wrote:

What infuriates me, however, is that this same respect is rarely afforded to native speakers of English – a language, it seems, that everyone can claim to master if they learnt it in school and still have the dictionary. Granted, the vast majority of our ProZ colleagues who work with English have a good command of the language and often offer up some grammatical insight which would never have occurred to those of us who have never had to learn it as a foreign language, Sometimes, however, there are nuances which virtually only a native speaker can detect. But when an English native speaker states that “it doesn’t sound right”, this is often ignored … or disputed.


In response to this argument, I cannot speak of others, only about myself. You see Ian, I am a French speaker who has spent over 25 years learning English and who has been living in England for the last 7 years. Despite all those years, I still consider myself a learner. When a native speaker gives me a comment, I pay attention to it, make a note of it and ask friends of mine who are native speakers. It often happens that the native are not always right even if they have a gut feeling. In linguistic, these phenomena are called hypercorrection and rule blindness.

And, I’m sorry to say, the English monolingual site is often plagued by willing ‘helpers’ with a minimal grasp of the language – the blind leading the temporarily perplexed. Not that we natives are infallible, of course, but when a string of Anglophones from all corners of the English-speaking world cry out in unison that a certain word is not used in a certain way, then it takes a breath-taking level of arrogance for a non-native to continue to claim the contrary. How would they react to an English speaker with a similar command of their native language dictating to them how to speak it? I suspect they would be as livid as I am.


Once again, I cannot speak about others, but considering my different functions - within Cambridge University for instance - I am on a daily basis confronted to native speakers who are unable to write down a sentence without grammatical innacuracies, simply due to the fact that they have not learned the language properly (e.g.: He don't do nothing)and look at you completely dismayed when you point out that maybe their use of language is neither correct grammatically nor syntactically.
I agree with you that there are people who are over-estimating their abilities, but as professional and expert, we have to stick to our ethical standards. We must acknowledge that we are not perfect but that we have a lot of experience and knowledge. Yes, people can contest our advice as we can contest theirs, but, in all fairness, if we can't back up our arguments, there is little else we can do, as the final decision always rest with the asker who, unfortunately, too often does not choose the most appropriate answer which is, I believe, much more worrying as it becomes inherent part of our references.

I’m not going to post links, since this would be akin to naming names, but there have been some scream-inducingly awful instances in recent months. I also know for a fact that many of my colleagues steer clear of the English monolingual site because it has descended into a kind of free-for-all. What puzzles me, however, is that the quality of the French and German monolingual sites is still as high as ever. If anyone else has an explanation for this, or any other thoughts on this matter, I’d be very interested to hear them.


I also think that the English monolinguistic zone should not be shunt by the native speakers, but should be divided into UK, US (different sub-section possible), AUS, NZ and International as Rita suggested. The native speakers should be there not only to have their voices heard, but also to keep up with the music. For instance, I do not answer all the questions asked on Kudoz, but I have a look at all of them (in my languages) in order to learn and develop my knowledge. I have been so long away from France that sometimes I forgot some very simple things. If this happens to me as a native speakers, can this happen to other exiled natives? Also, language is not something static, it evolves and often faster than we think.

Penultimately, the German and the French nations have taken great care to define their grammar rules and to teach them to their speakers, thing that none of the English speaking nations have been too bothered to do. This on the one hand is an advantage as it grants the language more freedom, but it is also a handicap as it leaves it at risk to be plagued by dialects and local influences.

Finally, insofar as translating for a client is concern, I translate into English mostly, and I can assure you that my customer are very satisfied with my work, as I always ensure two things. Firstly that the ideas contained in the source language are transferred accurately in the target language; and secondly that all my work is proofread by a native speaker who will be able to pinpoint ommissions, typos and non-idiomatism. However, I proceed in the same manner when working into French for the same reasons.

Like you, I want to preserve the standards within the community, but the only thing I can do is ensuring the quality of my work and extending my knowledge.

Friendly yours.

Hacène.

P.S.: sorry for the typos, but did not have this document proofread.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxsarahl
Local time: 11:21
English to French
+ ...
I couldn't agree more Jun 2, 2004

Hacene wrote:


In response to this argument, I cannot speak of others, only about myself. You see Ian, I am a French speaker who has spent over 25 years learning English and who has been living in England for the last 7 years. Despite all those years, I still consider myself a learner. When a native speaker gives me a comment, I pay attention to it, make a note of it and ask friends of mine who are native speakers. It often happens that the native are not always right even if they have a gut feeling. In linguistic, these phenomena are called hypercorrection and rule blindness.


I'll second that. I am myself a French native who has been exposed to English since age 5, then was lucky enough to have outstanding (native) English teachers from the 6th grade (I was 10) on. And I also know that I will always be learning my 3 languages, that's a lifelong process. I have also come to realize that a lot of native speakers -in my 3 languages, mind you- use incorrect grammar, spelling, so forth.

I also think that the English monolinguistic zone should not be shunt by the native speakers, but should be divided into UK, US (different sub-section possible), AUS, NZ and International as Rita suggested. The native speakers should be there not only to have their voices heard, but also to keep up with the music. For instance, I do not answer all the questions asked on Kudoz, but I have a look at all of them (in my languages) in order to learn and develop my knowledge. I have been so long away from France that sometimes I forgot some very simple things. If this happens to me as a native speakers, can this happen to other exiled natives? Also, language is not something static, it evolves and often faster than we think.


I agree, language is dynamic by essence, and we have to keep up with the music.

Penultimately, the German and the French nations have taken great care to define their grammar rules and to teach them to their speakers, thing that none of the English speaking nations have been too bothered to do. This on the one hand is an advantage as it grants the language more freedom, but it is also a handicap as it leaves it at risk to be plagued by dialects and local influences.


According to the Defense Language Institute (where I used to tutor) English is the language that is the most difficult to learn, precisely because of the lack of rules. Interestingly enough, no other language is up there in their categorization system.

Finally, insofar as translating for a client is concern, I translate into English mostly, and I can assure you that my customer are very satisfied with my work, as I always ensure two things. Firstly that the ideas contained in the source language are transferred accurately in the target language; and secondly that all my work is proofread by a native speaker who will be able to pinpoint ommissions, typos and non-idiomatism. However, I proceed in the same manner when working into French for the same reasons.


I also usually interpret into English more than I do into French (about 95 vs 5%) and no one ever complained. In fact, people have come to our booth to thank us and congratulate us.

Like you, I want to preserve the standards within the community, but the only thing I can do is ensuring the quality of my work and extending my knowledge.


Thank you for these pearls of wisdom.


[Edited at 2004-06-02 03:52]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2 3 4 5 6 7] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

English: Who needs the natives?

Advanced search






Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »
CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs