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How reliable is the "native" speaker criterion?
Thread poster: xxxLia Fail
xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nov 4, 2006

I have just seen the profile of someone I met at university just a few years ago and who was definitely NOT a native English speaker then. And guess what? This person has the N symbol for "native speaker".

How is this possible?


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erika rubinstein  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:37
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
You can put whatever you want. There is no control about your native language. Nov 4, 2006

.???

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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
because it is self-reported! Nov 4, 2006

Hi, Lia:

I'm wondering if we are thinking of the same person? Someone who has been answering my KudoZ questions is listed as a native English speaker. The responses were in such cracked English that I went to the person's profile. It is so scanty that it would be hard to prove that the person ISN'T a native speaker. But the reticence in describing his or her skills is telling ...

This is a bit like Rebecca's woes with the person who ripped off her profile (discussed yesterday). Not much we can do unless we all photocopy our birth certificates, get them notarized, and send them to Henry!

Patricia
PS Thanks for the help with my KudoZ question yesterday!


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No, it's another language pair Nov 4, 2006

The fact is this person has a N for native English speaker although elsewhere they say "native Spanish". So the profile is not coherent.

So, they are not being entirely fraudulent, but I still think it's not quite honest to have that N next to your name when you cannot in all honesty say you are a native speaker.

I wonder if the misleading claims about native speaker capacity in English bother me so much becuase there is so much evidence in Spain of people passing themselves off as capable of writing English when they patently cannot? That includes native speakers of Spanish claiming to be able to write English and natives of English claiming to be able to translate. Of the two cases, there is really no excuse for the former, whereas often it's sheer ignorance of what is involved in translation which leads to the latter case.

I cannot believe the lengths people go to, though! Recently I had the opportunity to see a medical article translated abysmally. My colleague who was asked to edit this job first asked was it a native speaker, and the answer was yes. However, once she started editing it, she realised that it would take less time to retranslate it. Having told the agency of the abysmal quality of the text, the agency told her that they were surprised, as the person had said that they were a native English speaker and an expert in medicine! What's that if not fraud?

Hopefully, things may change for the better with the new translation standard (EN 15038) - although probably only very slowly.

Anytime Patricia, although I don't think I was much help (I'd had my 2 glasses of wine by then:-)) I hope you found an answer:-)


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Is that so? Nov 4, 2006

erika rubinstein wrote:

.???


A few years ago, in order to get that N by my name, I was verified by a ProZ moderator who had met me. Although of course, one thing is saying you are native and another is having it verified.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:37
English to German
+ ...
It's a grey area Nov 4, 2006

I see that we are back to our most favorite topic.

IMHO, by doing so people just hurt themselves and put themselves out of business as colleagues / peers / clients will have figured this out in no time. So, why bother?


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chica nueva
Local time: 02:37
Chinese to English
Englishes Nov 4, 2006

Hi Lia:

Singaporean English is different to Indian English. Australian English is different to American English is different to British English. NZ Maori English is different to NZ Pakeha English. 'Spanglish', 'Chinglish', or 'Spanish-English' and 'Chinese-English' - should we (natives) accept these variants, or not? I am not a purist. As long as the English serves its communicative purpose and maintains the integrity of the source text, I think it is valid. Anyhow I suppose it is up to the client. Which variety of English is preferred is 'localisation'? If the brochures for foreign products speak English with a foreign accent I personally have no problem with that.

Depending on the situation, I don't think we can be too strict about English. Indian English and Chinese English are the lingua franca between Indians and Chinese (speakers of different dialects). English is an international language now. Perhaps it is up to the client which English they feel comfortable with.

IMO based on Kudoz clients often feel more comfortable with the English that comes from the hands of their own people. The Chinese for example have often used 'go-betweens' and 'middlemen' in their dealings with foreigners, and translators are a form of 'middleman' or 'language broker' aren't they. For this reason as a 'laowai' (foreigner) I always back up my Kudoz answers in the Chinese community with evidence (this makes me credible), and I have no problem with the asker's right to choose. This business of being a laowai, guailo, gaijin is something the English 'natives' come to terms with, in certain foreign markets at least. Being accepted and getting your answer picked is not automatic, it is a privilege, not a right.

That would work in reverse for your example I guess. If the English is too bad for the native English market, then they won't be credible there. But it might be effective in other markets, say Central and South America. Or good enough for 'localisation' (multilingual translations on product brochures for example).

Utility and market acceptance are the key? It is a trade not a profession? for some people...I guess if you want to be a professional, then you qualify and join a professional association. If not, then it is an open market?


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Hepburn  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:37
English to French
+ ...
Native label Nov 4, 2006

During the Oxford conference, some translators had their native quality verified by some natives of the language. I think there were two of them listening to what the candidate had to say or how they answered questions etc. I did not stay to listen, although it was possible.
So, it is rather casual and does not take into account the place of birth (which actually would not be any more reliable: you may have been born in Britain and spent the rest of your life in France or Spain, etc.)

Although I lived in Britain for a long time, and studied the language in order to teach it, I could not call myself a native so I have my English translations proofread by my conveniently native buddy who does find a better way of saying things quite often.

[Edited at 2006-11-04 23:29]

[Edited at 2006-11-04 23:29]


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writeaway  Identity Verified

Local time: 16:37
Partial member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
Nothing to it-you can list any native language you want-and many are doing just that! Nov 5, 2006

Lia Fail wrote:

I have just seen the profile of someone I met at university just a few years ago and who was definitely NOT a native English speaker then. And guess what? This person has the N symbol for "native speaker".

How is this possible?


On the sites I participate on, the latest trend seems to be to tack on English as the newest native language. (English seems to have most favoured status, but it is not the only language to suffer this sort of treatment). A couple of people have started a new trend, namely dropping their actual native language and replacing it with the one they have newly adopted. They revamp their profile page and bingo: additional or totally new native language!. It's that simple apparently. Doesn't add much to the credit of the site as a whole. In some countries there are laws against false advertising.

[Edited at 2006-11-05 01:26]


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Russell Gillis  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:37
Spanish to English
Rehashing old posts Nov 5, 2006

Although I agree with the basis of the complaint here, I am finding it a bit annoying to see repeat posts on the same topic by the same poster.

Just a month ago this thread was started: http://www.proz.com/topic/56784

Constant complaining on the same issue tends to fall on deaf ears and loses its effectiveness. I think it is time we move on, as this is obviously something that the ProZ team cannot effectively control.

From what I have seen, the ProZ translator community is good at weeding these people out through KudoZ, and it doesn't take long before they become silently discredited.

Russell

[Edited at 2006-11-05 01:43]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:37
English to German
+ ...
Exactly. Nov 5, 2006

Russell Gillis wrote:

From what I have seen, the ProZ translator community is good at weeding these people out through KudoZ, and it doesn't take long before they become silently discredited.



Thank you, Russel, and happy birthday!


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 10:37
English to French
+ ...
I don't think ProZ is going to start testing out people's native languages Nov 5, 2006

I don't think that testing people's native languages would be profitable to ProZ and it would cost enough that they would probably have to double the price of membership I don't think it's their business anyways to take care of that - they are just a venue, remember?

Has it ever occurred to anybody that it's actually quite easy to test a translator's native language as an outsourcer? Just pick up the phone and talk to them for two minutes - that's all there is to it. Also, I think that the ability to display one's native language is only meant to help outsourcers filter directory results. When they narrow down the list, they eventually start contacting the translators they picked, and soon enough, they will notice whether you are native or not.

And I do think it's the outsourcer's responsibility to check whether a person is native or not. If I was an outsourcer, I would not leave this up to anybody, be it the translator, ProZ or any other entity. I would want to judge of it myself

2 pennies...


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Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:37
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
The term “native speaker” is misleading Nov 5, 2006

I don’t want to question the importance of being a native speaker in translation, however I would hardly trust a translation to 90% of people around me, who ARE native speakers, even if they know a foreign language. Most people, who speak fluently their native language, can hardly construct a single correct sentence, when it comes to translating, even if they declare that they are translators. I have seen this many times before. I think someone, who has a university degree in some foreign language is more reliable in this respect, than just a native speaker, without a university degree. Since “native speaker” seems to be the first criterion for outsourcers to choose a translator, I think it needs more attention. I would suggest to:

1. allow only one native language to be declared on the profile, and add a new field to declare “near native” level as well;
2. add a new criterion “professional” for each language, including native language, which can be selected only if a person has a university degree in that particular language, and keep the function of verifying it.
3, add a new field, where translators can declare if they are “technical” or “linguistic” translators, restricting it to only one choice, and some three-four fields to specify their fields (if technical) or languages (if linguistic) by priority.


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Rebecca Hendry  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:37
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
How reliable? Not at all. Nov 5, 2006

As far as I'm aware, anyone can declare any language as their native one. It's not perfect, of course, but as Viktoria points out, outsourcers and agencies will soon weed out the natives from the non-natives:

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

Has it ever occurred to anybody that it's actually quite easy to test a translator's native language as an outsourcer? Just pick up the phone and talk to them for two minutes - that's all there is to it. Also, I think that the ability to display one's native language is only meant to help outsourcers filter directory results. When they narrow down the list, they eventually start contacting the translators they picked, and soon enough, they will notice whether you are native or not.



Having said that, a lot of my clients are not native English speakers, so I could quite easily "pretend"

There will always be people who declare English, for example, as their native language when they've never even been to an English-speaking country or spoken only in English for a prolonged period of time. But I think the crux of the problem lies in the fact that such people actually *believe* that their English is perfect. It comes as a shock to the system when they learn that it isn't.

I'm not sure if there is a practical solution considering the number of existing users and new ones signing up to Proz every day. Perhaps there could be some kind of peer assessment. However, for the moment, the best we can do from here is keep an eye out for such people in Kudoz and gently nudge them (or push them if you like) into thinking that perhaps their language skills aren't quite as amazing as they thought.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
repeat posts Nov 5, 2006

Russell Gillis wrote:

Although I agree with the basis of the complaint here, I am finding it a bit annoying to see repeat posts on the same topic by the same poster.

Just a month ago this thread was started: http://www.proz.com/topic/56784

Constant complaining on the same issue tends to fall on deaf ears and loses its effectiveness. I think it is time we move on, as this is obviously something that the ProZ team cannot effectively control.

From what I have seen, the ProZ translator community is good at weeding these people out through KudoZ, and it doesn't take long before they become silently discredited.

Russell

[Edited at 2006-11-05 01:43]


I diagree with you Russell. Complaining often achieves change. Until a few months ago, I accepted, without thinking about it too much, that profiles were more or less honest, probably less.

However, what's hard to stomach is that people are making fraudulent claims, practising plagiarism, and in other ways, acting in ways that are really and truly damaging to this community.


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