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English Native Speaker
Thread poster: Kim Metzger

Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 14:56
German to English
Jan 3, 2007

This topic has been hashed over again and again, and I don't want to open up another discussion about abuse. It seems obvious that you don't become a native speaker of English if you move to Canada, say, as a 20-year-old and then live there for several years. Most people have one native language – their mother tongue.

I'd simply like to know if some of our members (Dutch, German, French, etc.) who declare English as their native language would not do so if other options were available. The way it stands now, a member has a choice of one native language or two native languages. Are some members now choosing English as a native language because they don't have the option of selecting near-native proficiency, for example?


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 21:56
Dutch to English
+ ...
Hitting the nail on the head Jan 3, 2007

I think you've hit the nail on the head, Kim.

If an option for near-native proficiency was made available, it would sure go a long way to resolving some of the issues.

Without wishing to speculate, there would probably still be people who would lie about their abilities (and declare themselves native or near-native without being either) but at least those who didn't feel presently pressed to do so because of a lack of options could "come clean".

It would also give clients a more accurate indication. In some areas the combination of highly specialised knowledge + near-native proficiency (in all skills, including writing - good point Tuliparola) could well be a winning combination.





[Edited at 2007-01-03 23:06]


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xxxCMJ_Trans
Local time: 22:56
French to English
+ ...
Interesting..... Jan 3, 2007

Frankly, when it comes to the motivations of those (wrongly/falsely) declaring themselves "native speakers", the jury is still out.
However, the possibility of claiming near-native proficiency is interesting on a number of scores, not least the fact that it would enable people to flag up the fact that, for example, they have spent more than half their life in a country other than their native land. This would give them greater credibility at several levels: in answering "cultural" questions, in answering in their B language, etc.
Whether having this possibility would stamp out the "cheats" is another issue. Since I have never understood their motivation in the first place, I have no idea. That said, it might be worth a try....


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Stephanie Wloch  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:56
Member (2003)
Dutch to German
Near native all over Jan 3, 2007

Hi Kim, happy new year.:-)
Kim Metzger wrote:
they don't have the option of selecting near-native proficiency, for example?

This would go into the right direction.
But if you - as a translator - declare to be a native speaker it is understood that you are perfect in listening (subtitling) reading/comprehension (even very scientific stuff) writing (on a very high level - like a journalist) and speaking (less important for translations).
I am near native Dutch, but only regarding to my comprehension of Dutch texts and regarding to my oral fluency.
I have never had any trainings on developing writing skills. It is just enough to communicate properly with my Dutch clients and colleagues.

But there is one thing I do not understand:
some people declare to be (additional) Native Speaker of German or other language than English, but do not show that in their profile. I think the profile site is an excellent place to demonstrate your writing skills.

Regards Steffi


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xxxMalik Beytek
Local time: 23:56
Native / Near-Native is not enough Jan 4, 2007

*Grading* ought to be functional -- in some way.

At the top level, it should be the Editor -- this is the guy who has published. This is the guy who can and has signed something for publication. That's verifiable. That should not be a big problem to verify. That's also authoritative.

Then would come the Communicators - OK, here, you can have Native vs Near-Native. Native Communicator and Near-Native Communicators -- OK, Native Speakers and Near-Native Speaker could also do, those terms are already being used, I gather.

That would leave you with the practical problem of verifying more than one native language claims as well as near-native language claims.


If you don't have a solid way of verifying it, then Near-Native designation would be nearly totally worthless -- would be much, much worse than second native language claims.


So, if you can't verify it, then don't use that designation. That's going to be like counterfeit money and it should not be allowed on this platform.

Also note that the structure I propose implies that native / non-native / near-native designations are totally immaterial for the Editor guys, the ones who are published. That's what I think too.

With the present *system* here, I'm personally not likely to assume any designation of grading for any language -- especially not one that includes the word native.

Editor designation must be there at the top and the Near-Native designation must be verified by very, very credible, air-tight procedures.

No? I'm trying to think up a well-balanced and flexible system here.


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writeaway  Identity Verified

Local time: 22:56
Partial member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
Completely dishonest to claim to be a native speaker of a language that not your real mother tongue Jan 4, 2007

Since jobs and job postings now seem to be the main reasons people join Proz, it can only benefit the site if the translators/interpreters at least start out by listing a few truthful facts before they launch into their profile hype. Hype is normal in marketing but basing the entire presentation on an out and out lie is too much, even for marketing.
A person's (real, genuine) native language is the one s/he spoke at home and grew up with. If you grew up speaking one language at home and another outside the home (ie at school and everywhere else as soon as you went out the door), then you probably do have 2 native languages.
However a language you started learning in your teens and then continued with at university and/or moved to a country where it is spoken is NOT your native language at all. You can claim completely fluency, near-native skills and anything else you can think of, but you can NOT honestly tell people/clients that it is your native language/mother tongue because it simply is NOT.
At present, on the NL site in particular (but not only there), besides the native Dutch speakers who also claim English as a native language, there are some who have dropped Dutch altogether and are marketing themselves as native English speakers only-which they are definitely not. I don't care how many years one is away from one's home country-the native language does not change. And English isn't the only language 'adopted' as neo-native language.
Imho, everyone should be given an opportunity to clear this up on their profile page and state their genuine native language. There should also be a space included where people can list and rate their language abilities in their working languages. With just as much visibility to (potential) clients as the declared native language.


[Edited at 2007-01-04 15:39]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:56
Flemish to English
+ ...
Council of Europe Language levels. Jan 4, 2007

Proficient User (C2)

Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.

C1
Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

Independent User
B2
Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
B1
Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
Basic User
A2
Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, and employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
A1
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
--
From a programming point of view it would be very easy to introduce this classification with a link to an explanation of the language level or an explanation of the language level on Proz.com. This would allow users to declare their native language and their proficiency in other languages.
--
Nativeness is irrelevant: A non-native, who has reached level C2 will be able to translate better than a native who has reached level B1.



[Edited at 2007-01-04 10:10]

[Edited at 2007-01-04 10:16]


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Ruxi
German to Romanian
+ ...
Agree with William Jan 4, 2007

The "native speaker" can not be proofed and does not mean much, as it can be so relative. There are no credentials for it.
Nobody was able to even define this notion and explain it.
It is also unfair to judge a person you do not know (met on a web site) and say wether she/he is native speaker, or near native speaker of a language, or multilingual.
I think the EU classes are more relevant and should be widely used to express the level of skills for languages.
And what exactly is the the whole discussion about anyway?
A translator can and has only (to)proof his/her skills to the outsourcers, by showing her/his real skills and translation capacities and credentials eventually.
And finally, like William mentioned, there are people who are hardly able to write and express theirselves correctly in their mother tongue and people who can use a foreign language at the highest level.
For translators also the specialisation fields are very important.


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xxxCMJ_Trans
Local time: 22:56
French to English
+ ...
for Heaven's sake - get real... Jan 4, 2007

Some of you may be able to claim a high level of mastery of a language that is not your native language but that will never make it your native language or equivalent and nothing you can say or write can change that.
I am well placed to know.
I have lived most of my adult life in France. I live in French, think in French, can write original (not translated) French better than I do English (my native language or mother tongue). My "cultural references" are French.
Grammatically I'm more likely to slip in English than in French.

But I am not French mother tongue and never will be. I am happy to declare myself English native language but would like to be able to inform people that my French is very high standard. But why therefore should I stake false claims to mastery of the French language? And that is only one example.

I could claim "C" status according to the EU system for at least two if not three other languages. But you have to remember that there are also cultural elements involved when you work with languages. For example, some words will mean little to you if you don't understand the system in the particular country (e.g. employment, recruitment, dismissal and pension rights, social security systems, etc. etc. - to name but the immediately obvious).

It is not my problem but if a potential client sees that you have many years of local experience and a mastery of his/her language, why need to claim mother tongue? There is a whole school of thought that thinks that in simultaneous interpreting you should work into your B (or second A) language because that way you are sure to have understood the original perfectly. Since most people have to work in both directions these days, that point would appear to be covered. But written texts are another story.

And I would add that some people who claim (absolute) proficiency in what is in truth a foreign language for them give themselves away every time they write by the silly errors (not typos) that they make.... To claim perfection you have to be perfect and that is where a little modesty would not go amiss


[Edited at 2007-01-04 14:47]


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Can Altinbay  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:56
Japanese to English
+ ...
So I'm dishonest? Really, we're asking the wrong question. Jan 4, 2007

writeaway wrote:

Since jobs and job postings now seem to be the main reasons people join Proz, it can only benefit the site if the translators/interpreters at least start out by listing a few truthful facts before they launch into their profile hype. Hype is normal in marketing but basing the entire presentation on an out and out lie is too much, even for marketing.
A person's (real, genuine) native language is the one s/he spoke at home and grew up with. If you grew up speaking one language at home and another outside the home (ie at school and everywhere else as soon as you went out the door), then you probably do have 2 native languages.
However a language you started learning in your teens and then continued with at university and/or moved to a country where it is spoken is NOT your native language at all. You can claim completely fluency, near-native skills and anything else you can think of, but you can NOT honestly tell people/clients that it is your native language/mother tongue because it simply is NOT.
At present, on the NL site in particular (but not only there), besides the native Dutch speakers who also claim English as a native language, there are some who have dropped Dutch altogether and are marketing themselves as native English speakers only-which they are definitely not. I don't care how many years one is away from one's home country-the native language does not change. And English isn't the only language 'adopted' as neo-native language.
Imho, everyone should be given an opportunity to clear this up on their profile page and state their genuine native language. There should also be a space included where people can list and rate their language abilities in their working languages. With just as much visibility to (potential) clients as the declared native language.


[Edited at 2007-01-04 15:39]


with all due respect, writeaway, because I do respect you tremendously.

I must be dishonest, because my parents are Tatars. My father was 4 when he arrived in Japan, and went to Japanese schools. He went to THE great Japanese medical school, and knows more kanji than most Japanese natives. My mother was born in Tokyo. She went to a high school where the classes were in English. My father spoke Japanese at home. My mother spoke english at home. My education was entirely in English.

So is my native/mother tongue Tatar? I don't speak that very well at all. To be perfectly honest, I would have to say that my native tongue is Tatar, and maybe I should represent myself as a translator who deals in Tatar. After all, that would be honest, and my clients can trust that I can do a good job.

The problem is the use of "native" and "mother tongue". My English is very good. It is important to my clients that this is so. It is immaterial to them that I speak a little Tatar.

As long as "native" and "mother" are used to mean "language one is proficient in", those whose English (or whatever language) is excellent should call it their native or mother tongue. It is dishonest for those whose English is poor for them to represent themselves as native English speakers. And they are legion. I have "edited" many texts that were translator by "native" speakers which anyone who really spoke English would not be able to understand, because they have english words in them, but are NOT WRITTEN IN ENGLISH.

"Near native" is not the answer. Potential clients are not going to hire me to work on a language that I am "near native" in.

Unless we can get everyone to agree that we call it something else, we are going to have to use "native" to mean that one is proficient in a language.

By the way, I should add that a person should also be familiar with the culture in order to do a good translation.


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Anna Strowe
Local time: 16:56
Italian to English
Common sense and awareness Jan 4, 2007

Can Altinbay wrote:

writeaway wrote:

A person's (real, genuine) native language is the one s/he spoke at home and grew up with. If you grew up speaking one language at home and another outside the home (ie at school and everywhere else as soon as you went out the door), then you probably do have 2 native languages.


[Edited at 2007-01-04 15:39]


So is my native/mother tongue Tatar? I don't speak that very well at all.


I think there is some confusion about what a native/mother language is. From your description of your life, and writeaway's definition, no, I wouldn't say that you were a native Tatar speaker. I would say that you were a native Japanese and English speaker.

I like the idea of the Council of Europe language levels, but I don't see what's to prevent people from claiming C2 skills. People obviously misrepresent their language skills with the current system. Why would that change? As for "editor" as the highest category, I've read some absolutely atrocious published English. Being published is not necessarily a reflection on the author/translator's language skills.

I think the only real conclusion is "caveat emptor". If someone is going to hire a "native English" translator who can't write English, then either their selection process leaves something to be desired or they just don't care. At that point, it doesn't really matter whether the translator has native or non-native inability.

Best,
Anna


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:56
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
How source and target languages were learned Jan 5, 2007

writeaway wrote:

A person's (real, genuine) native language is the one s/he spoke at home and grew up with. If you grew up speaking one language at home and another outside the home (ie at school and everywhere else as soon as you went out the door), then you probably do have 2 native languages.
However a language you started learning in your teens and then continued with at university and/or moved to a country where it is spoken is NOT your native language at all. You can claim completely fluency, near-native skills and anything else you can think of, but you can NOT honestly tell people/clients that it is your native language/mother tongue because it simply is NOT.



Yes, to claim a language as a native language is to make a claim about the age at which it was acquired and the circumstances under which it was acquired - at a young age and as a member of a community of native speakers.

Attempts to define "native language" using proficiency as a criterion are guilty of logical circularity, since terms such as "native-equivalent", "native-like", and "near-native" can only be defined with reference to "native language", which is the concept one is attempting to define.



I would suggest that member profiles provide information about how the source and target languages were learned, e.g. native language (as defined above), moved to country X at age X and lived there for X years, studied language X at university and lived in target language country x years, etc.

This would provide more objective information than a self-evaluation of one's language proficiency.







[Edited at 2007-01-05 09:21]


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Can Altinbay  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:56
Japanese to English
+ ...
What is important is to provide information that is important to the client Jan 5, 2007

Michele Fauble wrote:

writeaway wrote:

A person's (real, genuine) native language is the one s/he spoke at home and grew up with. If you grew up speaking one language at home and another outside the home (ie at school and everywhere else as soon as you went out the door), then you probably do have 2 native languages.
However a language you started learning in your teens and then continued with at university and/or moved to a country where it is spoken is NOT your native language at all. You can claim completely fluency, near-native skills and anything else you can think of, but you can NOT honestly tell people/clients that it is your native language/mother tongue because it simply is NOT.



Yes, to claim a language as a native language is to make a claim about the age at which it was acquired and the circumstances under which it was acquired - at a young age and as a member of a community of native speakers.

Attempts to define "native language" using proficiency as a criterion are guilty of logical circularity, since terms such as "native-equivalent", "native-like", and "near-native" can only be defined with reference to "native language", which is the concept one is attempting to define.



I would suggest that member profiles provide information about how the source and target languages were learned, e.g. native language (as defined above), moved to country X at age X and lived there for X years, studied language X at university and lived in target language country x years, etc.
This would provide more objective information than a self-evaluation of one's language proficiency.



I don't like misused language any more than you do, but providing the potential client the information about proficiency is what is important. As long as "native language" is the term that is used for that information, what choice is there?

For the record, my profile and CV provide just the information you suggest.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:56
Flemish to English
+ ...
Add language-level when indicating native language. Jan 5, 2007

For those who intend to participate in EU-preselections:
The Council of Europe is not a body of the European-Union. It is a separate international institution, founded in 1949 with 46 Member-States. H.Q.: Strasbourg, France.

That said: Of course, some will claim C2. But will that not backfire? Wasn't there a translator calling himself professional, who complained that British agencies did not treat him fairly, but who wrote B*..dligsh instead of English.

Another idea was to add those levels to the famous '"native" declaration. A person with B1-level or "restricted language code" of his native language can not be a good translator.

Where did I read the advice: "Read a newspaper a day from A-Z, a weekly and a monthly magazine. Choose different topics in your different working-languages. compare expressions and how thoughts in different languages are expressed. Look up notions and ideas you are unfamiliar with and add them to your memory or database. Be more attentive to expressions and idioms when you engage in conversation with a speaker of another language, when you are abroad or watching television.
In some countries movies and plays are subtitled.
Assimilate whatever expression you can.
Copy texts from high-quality newspapers in different langauges.
Copy the Standard Dictation competition which for some languages takes place every year.
The rest is style and register.
For English isn't there a style-guide of the Economist?
---
Native: mmm, Flemish regional dialect with a lot of French influences due to the vicinity of Brussels and French.
As much demand on the freelance market as for Tartar or interpreting into Dutch : 0.

I don't mind being very honest:
Perhaps the Proz.com team could add a subdivision of regional languages with proficiency level
How many natives of Queen's English (R.P.: Received pronunciation) could still claim to be natives of that kind of Standard English, bearing in mind that there is U.S.-English with subdivisions, British-English from the North and the South of England, Scotland, Ireland, Singapore, Hong-Kong (where English used to be one of the two official languages) and Australia.

*Best,
William(son)

[Edited at 2007-01-05 11:17]


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:56
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
"Native language" does not mean "language one is proficient in" Jan 5, 2007

Can Altinbay wrote:

I don't like misused language any more than you do, but providing the potential client the information about proficiency is what is important. As long as "native language" is the term that is used for that information, what choice is there?




Native-like proficiency? Native-equivalent? Near-native?


The choice can't be "native language" because

1) "native language" does not mean "native-like proficiency", "native-equivalent proficiency", or "near-native proficiency" - it means "native language".

2) some non-native speakers do have the proficiency in a non-native language to translate into that language.

3) for the purposes of translation, most native speakers do not have the requisite proficiency.





[Edited at 2007-01-05 09:58]


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