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Verification of bilingual native status through Forum posts
Thread poster: Marie-Hélène Hayles

Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:46
Italian to English
+ ...
Jul 5, 2007

The issue of what makes someone a native speaker is perenially popular/controversial here on Proz. In a discussion a couple of months back, I suggested a simple answer - you're native if other native speakers think you are. And in fact, the ProZ verification system for people claiming more than one native language is through verification at a ProZ conference, Pow wow etc.

What I'd like to suggest is that bilingual users and members could request verification of their status through their contributions to the Fora. This would bring a number of advantages:
1) this is predominantly a website for translators. It makes sense that native status be judged on written language, rather than spoken language as is currently the case.
2) it avoids the need to have to attend a Proz-related event in person, which may be difficult or too expensive for some colleagues, especially those working in the rarer languages or in developing countries.


The mechanism would have to be hammered out, but as a rough idea I'd say that 5 verified native speakers would have to agree to any given request, and any dissenters would have to provide examples, taken from the fora, of why the applicant should not be considered as a native. The agreers would then be requested to review their response on the basis of these examples. In the event of general disagreement, one or more moderators in the given language would have the final say.

I also think there should be a mechanism for users to request that other colleagues should be prevented from claiming bilingual status on the site. Again, this would have to be backed up by examples taken from the fora. This would have the advantage of making the site look more professional to prospective clients. In this case, the entire process should be conducted in private, as it would be unreasonable to expose the colleague concerned in public. The decision would therefore have to be made by the relevant moderators.

Finally, I'd like to point out that I have no vested interest in this proposal: my only native language is English and I doubt that my written Italian will ever be good enough for me to pass as a native (alas...)


[Edited at 2007-07-05 12:19]

[Edited at 2007-07-05 12:21]


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 16:46
Dutch to English
+ ...
Hmmm ... Jul 5, 2007

..., I quite like it.

Going to mull over the pros and cons for a while. Sure this will turn into a very interesting discussion.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:46
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Clarification Jul 5, 2007

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

2) it avoids the need to have to attend a Proz-related event in person, which may be difficult or too expensive for some colleagues, especially those working in the rarer languages or in developing countries.


No official language verification is done during Proz events. The only thing these events can verify is the actual existence of such a person as a profile may claim.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:46
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
to Parrot Jul 5, 2007

Parrot wrote:

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

2) it avoids the need to have to attend a Proz-related event in person, which may be difficult or too expensive for some colleagues, especially those working in the rarer languages or in developing countries.


No official language verification is done during Proz events. The only thing these events can verify is the actual existence of such a person as a profile may claim.


You're a mod, so your knowledge of these things is undoubtedly greater than mine, but I'm sure I remember at the Proz conference in Oxford that there was an opportunity for bilinguals to be verified in their "other first" language by other natives.

Anyway, if I'm mistaken, that's even more of a motive to implement a system such as this


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Deschant
Local time: 16:46
Which would be the scope of this? Jul 5, 2007

I suppose that Marie-Hélène has seen endless times here at the ProZ fora people who claim to be perfectly able to translate into flawless English, even if the simple grammatical mistakes which they make here make it difficult to believe them (and I'm not a native speaker of English)... To this regard, the proposal makes perfect sense.

However, I believe that, if such mechanism is implemented, it should be made clear which would be its scope. Mind you, I could have my forum posts in English proofread by an English-speaking friend of mine (who won't necessarily be a translator), obtain then English native speaker status and then send my application to agencies stating to be a "Spanish/Galician/English trilingual native speaker, certified by ProZ.com".

In short - I don't think it is the function or the aim of ProZ to provide "nativeness" certifications, and I'm not sure whether these "certifications" could be valid outside ProZ...

Greetings,
Eva


[Editado a las 2007-07-05 12:31]

[Editado a las 2007-07-05 14:14]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:46
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Valid objection Jul 5, 2007

emoreda wrote:

... I could have my forum posts in English proofread by an English-speaking friend of mine (who won't necessarily be a translator), obtain then English native speaker status and then send my application to agencies stating to be a "Spanish/Galician/English trilingual native speaker, certified by ProZ.com".

Greetings,
Eva


[Editado a las 2007-07-05 12:31]


This could be circumvented for existing users by accepting for verification only posts made (and, if applicable, edited) before the mechanism's implementation date, but it's certainly a problem for future users. I'd suggest that candidates would have to have made a given number of posts over a given period, such that they would have to be *very* good friends with a native speaker to cheat their way round it! But yes, this is definitely a potential stumbling block.

As for the scope, I agree that it shouldn't have any value outside of Proz. I'm suggesting it as a purely internal mechanism.

[Edited at 2007-07-05 12:47]


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Enrique Cavalitto
Local time: 12:46
SITE STAFF
Thanks, plus a concern Jul 5, 2007

Hi Marie-Hélène,

Thanks for your suggestion. As Parrot stated above, only identity is verified in ProZ.com events.

On a practical level, don't you feel that a system based in forum posts would be too easy to defeat?

Kind regards,
Enrique


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:46
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
To Enrique Jul 5, 2007

Enrique wrote:

... On a practical level, don't you feel that a system based in forum posts would be too easy to defeat?

Kind regards,
Enrique


I think your objection is probably the same as Eva's - and I agree that it's a problem for future users, as I stated in my post just above yours.

[Edited at 2007-07-05 13:13]


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gianfranco  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 12:46
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
About Oxford Jul 5, 2007

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:
... I'm sure I remember at the Proz conference in Oxford that there was an opportunity for bilinguals to be verified in their "other first" language by other natives.
...


Hi Marie-Hélène,

you are both right, you and Parrot, despite the apparent contradiction.

You remember correctly, in Oxford, in the occasion of the 2nd ProZ.com Conference, there was an attempt to use the Conferences to start the Native Language Verification, but as far as I know, it has not been continued in other events or, if something has been done in some other events, it has not progressed.

So, you remember correctly but Parrot is correct too in saying that currently there is no Native Language Verification in place in ProZ.com.


bye
Gianfranco


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:46
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Jul 5, 2007

gianfranco wrote:

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:
... I'm sure I remember at the Proz conference in Oxford that there was an opportunity for bilinguals to be verified in their "other first" language by other natives.
...


Hi Marie-Hélène,

you are both right, you and Parrot, despite the apparent contradiction.

You remember correctly, in Oxford, in the occasion of the 2nd ProZ.com Conference, there was an attempt to use the Conferences to start the Native Language Verification, but as far as I know, it has not been continued in other events or, if something has been done in some other events, it has not progressed.

So, you remember correctly but Parrot is correct too in saying that currently there is no Native Language Verification in place in ProZ.com.


bye
Gianfranco



I thought my memory was playing tricks on me...


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Marcelo Silveyra
United States
Local time: 08:46
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
Easy to defeat? Well, it depends... Jul 5, 2007

Enrique and Eva are both right when saying that forum-based evaluation sounds sketchy at first. If there is any place where rules can be circumvented one way or another, it's the Internet.

However...

Marie-Hélène makes a good point that could definitely be taken further: most people are not going to write 100 moderately long forum posts to get both languages verified. Or at least I hope they wouldn't, since I want to keep believing that the average human being is too lazy, and arguably smart, to do that kind of thing.
I mean, think about it, that would entail either writing them and having someone proofread all of them, or asking/paying someone else to write them. Sure, some would-be evil geniuses with a lot of patience and time (or money) on their hands might try to play the system, but here are some things to consider:

A) If they've ever written a previous post, it'll definitely look suspicious when they go from something like "Easy very easy - I think the process of Kudoz is something that is made strong by the globalization" (I just made that one up, by the way...no English-speaker in their right mind would ever put a "the" before "globalization," even if the rest could be excused...which it can't!) to "Well, I tried to run the program the other night, but it just wouldn't work. I've had it with this damn thing!" (ok, that was a bit artificial, but I hope I get my idea across).

B) Asking for a relatively high number of posts, or for a certain quantity of written material in any form (long KudoZ explanations, articles, forum posts, etc.) will eliminate a large portion of people trying to fool the system. Not everyone, sure, but it's a start. Sure, someone will complain that the system is too demanding, but one can always argue that people who contribute to the site actively are first in line for this kind of thing. Now, factoring in paying members would of course be an issue...

C) KudoZ might just be a killer tool for this proposal. Not regarding whether or not people offer correct translations, because that's a different thing. I mean the comments, explanations, etc. However, this would require a more discerning eye, since a lot of the stuff written there is written pretty hastily.

D) This could be combined with some sort of additional confirmation in which ProZ members applying for verified status have to have a short conversation with someone in their area (or not) who is a native speaker of the language in question. A short conversation over coffee or something similar would be ideal. The reason why I don't suggest a telephone conversation is that then it would be easy for people who are REALLY determined to just get a friend of theirs on the phone instead.

Anyway, I know my suggestions might have made this whole thing seem like a convoluted and pointless ordeal by now, but I think that Marie-Hélène's idea is actually pretty good and deserves some thought (and maybe some tweaking). And, not to sound negative or anything, but it's becoming pretty necessary as more and more people who clearly aren't native speakers of English (I say English because it seems to be such a popular target language in my pairs) claim to be so.

As a side note: Interestingly enough, someone in the forums said something that immediately made sense to me. It's easier to distinguish between native speakers and non-native speakers by the kind of mistakes they make, rather than by analyzing how correct or formal their writing is. Pretty good observation, if you ask me.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:46
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Great ideas, Marcelo. Jul 5, 2007

Thanks for your support. I confess I do have a couple of clearly non-native English posters in mind... as well as one who doesn't claim to be native but is certainly of native standard (not that I would go so far as to suggest that we should propose candidates for native status when they haven't asked for it!).

I'd also agree that it's the type of mistake that's a giveaway. For example, my use of the Italian conditional and conjunctive is better than 75% of the Italians I know (by their evaluation) - but I make banal agreement errors that even a 10 year-old native would never make.

[Edited at 2007-07-05 14:32]

[Edited at 2007-07-05 14:33]


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Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 17:46
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Why? Jul 5, 2007

Forgive me for asking a stupid question ( if you don't ask, you won't learn anything either, I suppose....) - but what is the point of this convoluted exercise?
Is it a big problem that some people try to pass themselves off as natives on false premises?
If they get away with it, good for them, I'd say - but maybe I am naive?
And if they don't, and people( ie real natives) are laughing at them - to their face or behind their backs - so what? Their loss...

[Edited at 2007-07-05 14:54]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:46
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's a reasonable question... Jul 5, 2007

Hilde Granlund wrote:

Forgive me for asking a stupid question ( if you don't ask, you won't learn anything either, I suppose....) - but what is the point of this convoluted exercise?
Is it a big problem that some people try to pass themselves off as natives on false premises?
If they get away with it, good for them, I'd say - but maybe I am naive?
And if they don't, and people( ie real natives) are laughing at them - to their face or behind their backs - so what? Their loss...

[Edited at 2007-07-05 14:54]


But you're focussing only on the outing of non-natives. I believe that the possibility of demonstrating your bilingual status on the basis of peer review would be a positive feature for a number of users. The other aspect is secondary - as the mechanism's in place, you might as well extend it to cover this purpose as well. But the primary objective is to provide an additional service, not to "punish" false pretenders.


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Linda 969
Local time: 17:46
Italian to English
+ ...
Long overdue Jul 5, 2007

Marie Hélène's method may not be perfect but IMO it's far better than having nothing in place at all.
Come to think of it, what she is suggesting is pretty similar to online testing, which is unsupervised by definition yet is used in college courses all the time.
FWIW
Linda


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