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Born-again (and self-proclaimed) "natives"?
Thread poster: xxxFrancis Lee
xxxFrancis Lee
Local time: 03:31
German to English
+ ...
Sep 19, 2006

I have often made clear my opposition to people translating into a language other than their mother tongue, i.e. in combinations where there is an adequate supply of native professionals. But I’ve recently come across an even more shocking phenomenon: colleagues mysteriously adding English to their native languages!

Just recently someone answered a question who I distinctly recalled from the past because a) they were a native of neither German nor English (my language pair) b) their answers were always poor and generally a bit bizarre (frankly, I think a "substance problem" was involved, but that's beside the point).
NOW I see they are suddenly a native-speaker of English! And judging by their picture, their newly found skills cannot exactly be due to recent childhood immersion in a new language. A glance at their sample translations immediately shows the poor, non-native quality of their English. Beyond dispute or doubt.
And the phenomenon is by no means limited to English. A reliable source has told me that a 100% Dutch “colleague” has recreated herself as a French native.

- How is it possible for people to "acquire" a new native language? Have they been newly baptised in linguistically regenerative waters? OK, the answer is: they can't. What I mean is: how is it possible for them to be listed as a native on Proz.com? Which brings me on to …

- Are they really "verified"? If so, how? Because on a related point, I also reckon that over 95% of so-called dual natives on the Ger/Eng site are Germans who either spent a couple of semesters at a US high school or attended an international school in Germany. I don't know how well they SPEAK the lingo, but the English they WRITE in connection with Kudoz questions is far from native standard. This is a tricky and potentially tearful point, because these people perhaps genuinely believe they are native speakers. But perhaps a revised (i.e. effective) Kudoz verification process could break the news to them.

This is something I’d really like to see cleaned up on the site. I’ll keep it at that for the moment.


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 03:31
English to German
+ ...
may be you should attend a pow pow Sep 19, 2006

Hi! That should fairly answer your doubts. Best Brandis

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Endre Both  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:31
Member (2002)
English to German
The site does not verify native language Sep 19, 2006

Are they really "verified"?


As far as I know, ProZ.com does not verify the claims of its users as to their native language. Did you get this impression from somewhere particular on the site?

For this reason, this piece of information is to be treated with the same caution as any other type of information on professional qualifications: education, credentials, degrees, experience. There are always people who bend the truth to make their profile look better.

I would also welcome it if the site could devote resources to penalising the most blatant misstatements of this kind, but given the number of users and the effort involved, I am not sure this is possible.

Endre


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Jonathan Lukens  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:31
Russian to English
+ ...
Sooner or later... Sep 19, 2006

the client will figure it out. It irks me too -- there are even people that report that they are certified by the ATA for language pairs that the ATA does not certify. Of course, this site does not verify those credentials. But they show up in the profile all the same. However, I'm positive that any agency that uses an editor will recognize that something's fishy after one document, and if the agency doesn't employ an editor, the end client will figure it out. Either way bad news for the translator. Dishonesty really doesn't get you anywhere in this field.

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Amy Taylor  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:31
Member (2002)
Italian to English
Wait, ProZ.com doesn't verify language? Sep 19, 2006

Something must have changed. I distinctly remember that "once upon a time" there in fact was some sort of conversation required in order to verify that you were in fact a native speaker. I suppose that must have become unworkable.

In any case, when I checked under my profile it says that once you declare your native langauge it can't be changed. So how did this person add a language - that's a change, is it not?

Amy


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:31
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Translating into non-native languages Sep 19, 2006

Hi Frank,

I'm not familiar with the particular case you mention, but specifically in terms of Germans + other languages, the testing/certification process here requires you translate back and forth from/into native and non-native languages. This then means that you get certified in both directions. This system has been around for a long time, stemming from the days when there were fewer translators around (native speakers of target languages were quite rare) and no internet. Therefore it was quite a local business, and well-paid, to boot. I imagine that's why Germans - or others educated in Germany - feel it's ok, even desirable, to translate into their second (third, fourth, whatever) language. After all, that's what they were trained and certified to do. The system needs to be changed, the translators are not at fault, but working according to the antiquated system.

I know this is only one aspect of your issue. The other regarding lying about your native tongue: I think you're better off ignoring it until there's a way of verifying it. Clients who care about quality will just not give this person any repeat business. Those clients who don't care about quality will not pay our rates, in any case, so don't worry about it. Life's too short to get your knickers in a bunch on this subject.

Have a great evening!

On edit: It's not that I don't care about people lying about their native language - I do and think it's immoral, but as there's no way to solve the problem, I try not to let it bother me.

[Edited at 2006-09-20 09:37]


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Eva Middleton  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:31
German to English
annoying but not sure what can be done Sep 19, 2006

I've noticed this too - I am 'genuinely' bilingual and would be very happy to have this formally verified - as it happens, I seem to have ended up looking like a German exchange student....

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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:31
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
Yep! Sep 19, 2006

Amy Taylor wrote:

Something must have changed. I distinctly remember that "once upon a time" there in fact was some sort of conversation required in order to verify that you were in fact a native speaker.
Amy


I too remember that at the pow-wow at Porto Santo Stefano (the very first p-w) in September 2001 there was an interview process.
So... Proz is verifying exactly WHAT at this point? That you - in the flesh - match the photo on your driver's license?
It's dishonest and unethical to claim to speak a language you've barely studied, but to claim that it's your NATIVE language is beyond the pale.
Proz staff, I think you need to do something about this. Otherwise, this condones unethical work practices.
Catherine


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:31
Dutch to English
+ ...
You can be verified as a native speaker Sep 19, 2006

I was verified as a native speaker of English and Spanish at the conference in Oxford.

Other native speakers "checked" me out by having a conversation (I think 3). I had never met these people before.


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Ian M-H
United States
Local time: 21:31
German to English
+ ...
Not just bad news for the translator... Sep 19, 2006

... but also for the site and other translators who use it.

Jonathan Lukens wrote:
y agency that uses an editor will recognize that something's fishy after one document, and if the agency doesn't employ an editor, the end client will figure it out. Either way bad news for the translator.[/quote]

That's probably true, but "bad news for the translator" is only a partial analysis of the damage that's been done in such a case.

If an agency is involved, things probably aren't too bad: if they're any good then they'll spot the problem and the client won't suffer anything more serious than a delay.

But what if it's a direct client? They might not immediately identify a problem, but if and when they do they'll (a) probably have suffered a financial and/or PR loss and (b) have a pretty poor opinion of ProZ and the translators to be found here. And that's not in the interests of anyone here who does a decent job and tells the truth about her/his language skills - or of the people running this site and (literally and legitimately) trading on its reputation.


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Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:31
Member (2003)
German to English
Just to pile on a little Sep 19, 2006

I also distinctly remember a mechanism being in place for verifying a native language--I seen to recall that somewhere on the profile, following your language combinations, there was an 'n' symbol for native language, and that that 'n' was then colored differently or otherwise highlighted once you had been verified at a powwow.

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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:31
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Proz does verify credentials Sep 19, 2006

[quote]Jonathan Lukens wrote:

Of course, this site does not verify those credentials. But they show up in the profile all the same.
-------------
This site does verify credentials. When I passed the ATA test and tried to include it in my profile, I was not able to do it and was asked to forward copies of the official ATA documents to the Proz staff. Verified credentials show up on the profiles. On the other hand, there used to be —and I believe there still is, a process to verify identity of Proz members attending PowWows; at least that is what I did for other Prozians. I requested the authority to verify identities and I got it.


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Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 03:31
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
Profile features Sep 19, 2006

Francis Lee wrote:

- How is it possible for people to "acquire" a new native language? Have they been newly baptised in linguistically regenerative waters? OK, the answer is: they can't. What I mean is: how is it possible for them to be listed as a native on Proz.com? Which brings me on to …

- Are they really "verified"? If so, how?


Hi Francis Lee,

Let me clarify a few things on how the profile page at ProZ.com works:
first, the native language field can be filled in only once - the system will not allow you to change it later. In case of mistake , it is necessary to go through a Support Request and explain the reason, so it is not so easy to change the native language in ones profile. The premise behind it is that the native language doesn't change during a lifetime of an adult. So, it's practically impossible to change the native language(s) at will.

Second, the *verification" (the VID mark) means that the name of the profile owner has been confirmed, the name - not the native language(s) or any other info.

There is a system of confirming credentials (one need to send copies of relevant diplomas to ProZ.com office so they can be confirmed) and there have been attempts to establish a system of verifying native language too: as Marijke mentioned, that was done during the Oxford Conference, but as far as I know the system was not continued later. It is very difficult to build such a system for all members who live all over the world, frequently in remote areas. And I think it wouldn't be fair to make the verification dependant on whether one attended a conference or not. There should be an alternative way and so far we haven't found one (both fair and feasible).

I think we should all accept that the information in profiles are reliable only to the extend that they can be confirmed by other sources. Same as the info on any personal website.

HTH,
Magda


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Ian M-H
United States
Local time: 21:31
German to English
+ ...
How often does it actually happen? Sep 19, 2006

Magda Dziadosz wrote:
is necessary to go through a Support Request and explain the reason, so it is not so easy to change the native language in ones profile. The premise behind it is that the native language doesn't change during a lifetime of an adult. So, it's practically impossible to change the native language(s) at will.[/quote]

Magda's clearly right about the rationale, but I share Mr Lee's suspicion that several people have added 'native' languages to their profiles in recent months.

Is anyone from the ProZ staff team able and willing to say (roughly) how many people have successfully submitted a support request of this kind in, say, the past year?


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Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:31
German to English
+ ...
False claims Sep 19, 2006

This irks me too, particularly as I have had the pleasure (when I still offered proofreading) of proofreading the texts of some of these self-proclaimed natives, or at least non-native Germans who felt that their English was good enough to translate into English. In six years, I met one German whose English was so good that I hardly had to change anything - just the odd tweak here and there. Many other texts involved substantial rewriting and retranslation, which is one of the reasons why I stopped offering proofreading. I was fed-up of working for a proofreader's fee when I was practically acting as a translator - for example thinking up slogans and claims because some of them just didn't cut the ice. People may be offended here, but I am stating facts and this is unfortunately what I have experienced. My colleagues have told me similar horror stories.

The thing is, Germans have complimented me time and again on my written German, one of my customers once asked if I also offer German journalism, and several times I have been asked by Germans to help them write their CVs (go figure!), but I refuse to translate into German. I don't care how good my German is. I am simply not a native speaker, but some of the English texts I have read by Germans have been far inferior to my quality of German and this really irks me. Some people couldn't even be bothered to do a simple spellcheck or even change the quotation marks to English ones or commas to decimal points in numbers. These are the little things that also give away a non-native and they are important too.

What also irks me is that I know for a fact that there is someone on this site who has stated their native language as English, when I know for a fact that it is not because I have worked with said person. It irks me, but I don't see that there is really anything I can do about it.

Please don't attack me for relating my experiences. I do not wish to attack anyone personally. As I said in my post - this phenomenon just concerns SOME non-native speakers.


All the best,


Sarah


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