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Do you translate solely into your native language?
Thread poster: AnneMarieG

AnneMarieG  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:08
Member (2009)
German to French
+ ...
Apr 15, 2009

Hi,
I am here since 5 weeks only and I am astonished to see how often translators participating in Kudoz' questions are not translating into their own native language; result: in 80% of the cases there are big spelling and comprehension mistakes.
What do you think, is this alright?
Can those translators be 'flagged'?
I doesn't give a good impression, I think.

- English not being my native language, I do apologize for any mistake!! -


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Débora D'Eramo
United States
Local time: 13:08
English to Spanish
It depends on many factors... Apr 15, 2009

like the subject matter, the specialization involved, the translator's expertise and whether or not the translation is going to be revised by a native speaker.
I've also read about bilingual translators (*truly* bilingual) who translate in both directions.
=)


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Emma Hradecka  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 19:08
English to Czech
+ ...
Small countries and their languages Apr 15, 2009

Hello, I definitely agree that ideally you should only translate into your native language. I'm native Czech and what happens here is that the demand is much higher than the natives of other languages (be it English, German, French, Spanish etc. - speaking natives) are able to cover. That's why we Czechs are often asked to translate into our language B (or even C) - borrowing from interpretation terminology. The only way to do as little "harm" as possible is to have someone native (but with translation/linguistic education) proofread your translation.

But let me ask another question. Can you secure proofreading by a native speaker when you're a freelancer (it means that you would need to ask your friend-colleague to do it, and pay them for it, of course - is the client willing to pay this "second job"?).

Do you think that even though the market demands it you should never, under any circumstances, agree to a translation into other than your mother tongue?

Looking forward to your opinions.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:08
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Not all right Apr 15, 2009

amgtraduction wrote:

Hi,
I am here since 5 weeks only and I am astonished to see how often translators participating in Kudoz' questions are not translating into their own native language; result: in 80% of the cases there are big spelling and comprehension mistakes.
What do you think, is this alright?
Can those translators be 'flagged'?
I doesn't give a good impression, I think.

- English not being my native language, I do apologize for any mistake!! -


I don't think it's all right at all. I've lived in Italy for more than 20 years and am perfectly fluent in Italian as a working language but I would NEVER translate from my mother tongue (English) into Italian - precisely because I know so much about both languages.

And yet, like you, I am constantly coming across translators who claim to be able to do this, or who even claim to have *two* mother tongues.

But I don't think there's anything you or I can do about this - other than simply demonstrating that our translation work is of much better quality.



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Rodna Ruskovska  Identity Verified
Macedonia (FYROM)
Local time: 19:08
Member
Macedonian to English
+ ...
Native /not native ... what is the difference really???? Apr 15, 2009

This is a very, very old issue and I don't think there are any final answers.

I think if you take either side, the result will be that NOTHING CAN ACTUALLY BE TRANSLATED, and that of course, is not true....

What I mean is - I could equally argue on both how well one can translate INTO a language they are not native in and how well one can translate FROM a language they are not native in....

Can a non-native of the source language really capture the true meaning and transform it successfully in their native language, isn't there a danger of tending to transfer everything into the concept that is familiar to you (your country, its system etc) and by doing so you are maybe distorting the whole meaning and context of the source....

What I really believe in is proofreading!!! No translation should be sent without being proofread ideally by a native speaker of both languages, but then that's also another issue...

People tend to forget the role of the subjective in translation.... individual talent, skill, intuition (yes, intuition), sensitivity, experience, style... Not all native speakers know their language.....

I am not sure I understand the 'flagging' business??

Love and harmony
Roda


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Aniello Scognamiglio  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:08
English to German
+ ...
Yes, to answer your main question! Apr 15, 2009

Yes, I only translate to German which is my real mother tongue.
For business reasons, obviously!


[Edited at 2009-04-16 06:53 GMT]


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AnneMarieG  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:08
Member (2009)
German to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I am not sure I understand the 'flagging' business?? - Rodna Apr 15, 2009

Well, when you open a question, beside the photograph of the asker it says: " flag or filter this person" - what is it for? Can you point out to the webmaster somebody who is writing rubbish?
Personally I already identified a couple of guys (askers), mind you after 5 weeks!, whose questions I do not reply to.

And Rodna, I agree translation is difficult because it is so subjective.

However it is easier to understand a text than to translate it, hence the need to work into your native tongue.

I guess the point of me opening this thread is to understand what can be done (on this site) to improve the quality of the translations; for instance, I would expect this point to be part of the 'Professional Guidelines', i.e. I solemnly declare that I will translate into my native tongue only, or so.


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 15:08
Also into German, to learn Apr 15, 2009

Occasionally I take assignments for Chinese to German translation, mainly to learn. The translated German file is proofread by a German colleague living in the same town; we would talk about my translation work on the phone, where she gives me suggestions as to how to improve my formulation and wording.

It is a lot of work. I would need at least 2 days to accomplish a small task with around 1000 words. It is worthwhile though; once my client was so impressed by my job that he paid me upon delivery.

Thanks to those hard jobs and my proofreader, my German has improved constantly. That's all I want.


[Edited at 2009-04-15 14:40 GMT]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:08
Flemish to English
+ ...
Ranting Apr 15, 2009

Here we go again. It is not your native language which is of prime importance, but the level you have reached in your languages.
Moreover, EGO SUM is the "Leitmotiv" of most translators. Of course, you never pass a translation which is not in your native language on to others to have it revised.
My native language: a Flemish dialect with a restricted code and a limited number of words (about 1000). Should I translate into my native language only, I would go hungry.



[Bearbeitet am 2009-04-15 14:46 GMT]


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:08
English to German
+ ...
The real issue is good vs. bad quality Apr 15, 2009

Hi "amg",
If you take a moment to search the ProZ.com forums, you will find numerous discussions on this issue - I'm not aware of any 'final' answer or conclusion.

Personally, I have seen great work by non-natives, as well as plain rubbish produced by native speakers of the target language. In fact, I prefer having very technical or complex texts being translated by native speakers of the source language, to ensure that every nuance is properly understood and transmitted. This requires final editing by a native speaker of the target language, of course.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:08
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good knowledge of the source language is a must Apr 15, 2009

Rodna Ruskovska wrote:
Can a non-native of the source language really capture the true meaning and transform it successfully in their native language...

Yes, but a good level of the source language is a must!

Rodna Ruskovska wrote:
...isn't there a danger of tending to transfer everything into the concept that is familiar to you (your country, its system etc) and by doing so you are maybe distorting the whole meaning and context of the source....

No, I don't see that risk if the translator has a good command of the source language, even as a non-native speaker.

Having said this, I am one of those who believe that a good translation can only come from someone who A) can clearly understand all the nuances and details of the source language, even with no good writing skills in that language, B) has good writing skills in the target language, and C) has a sufficient knowledge of the matter at hand and its vocabulary in the target language.

I don't think it is critical that you are native of the target language, but it is a fact that most people have good writing skills in the language they wre taught in their family and at school.

[Edited at 2009-04-15 14:56 GMT]


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 19:08
Italian to English
Kudoz or translating? Apr 15, 2009

Hi amg,

I'm not sure whether you are asking about Kudoz questions or translating professionally.

In the case of Kudoz, I'm afraid you'll find lots of people answering questions in languages which are not their own either because they are chasing points or, more rarely, because they have special knowledge of the subject under discussion and actually know what they're talking about!

Regarding commercial translations, I wouldn't dream of telling other people what languages they can or cannot translate into (the market will tell them soon enough if they're not up to snuff) but in my own case, I only translate into English. To put it bluntly, I have to earn a living and IT>EN rates are higher than EN>IT. This of course tempts many native Italian speakers, as well as those who consider themselves bilingual, to try their hand at translating into English but I can live with that.

It's the end result that customers are interested in.

FWIW

Giles
PS In the commercial world, translation is not that subjective: an informed third party can generally explain why a version is fit for its intended purpose or not.


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:08
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
The issue of KudoZ flagging and translations into native language only Apr 15, 2009

amgtraduction wrote:

Well, when you open a question, beside the photograph of the asker it says: " flag or filter this person" - what is it for?


The flagging and filtering is explained in the FAQ, see 5.7, 5.8 and 5.9 here:

http://www.proz.com/faq/terminology_term_help/kudoz/kudoz_notifications.html#how_can_i_get_notifications_when_a_certain_person_asks_a_kudoz_question_

However it is easier to understand a text than to translate it, hence the need to work into your native tongue.


I would not dare to make such a broad generalization, ever.
I hope you realize you are opening a big can of worms with this. This topic is a recurring one: it had been discussed over and over on the forums, and comes up again, time to time. If you search the forums, you will see.

I guess the point of me opening this thread is to understand what can be done (on this site) to improve the quality of the translations;


Many of us would like to see improvements in many areas, although I am not sure what you mean by "to improve the quality of the translations". Do you mean translations submitted as KudoZ answers? Or translations in general, translations produced and delivered to clients by ProZ.com members/users?

for instance, I would expect this point to be part of the 'Professional Guidelines', i.e. I solemnly declare that I will translate into my native tongue only, or so.


OK, back to the generalization issue above.
I would not expect this to be part of the Professional Guidelines. Although I think translating into one's native tongue is preferable in most cases, there are plenty of other cases where this is not a necessity, or simply not feasible.
Let me give you a few examples.
Example one: Specialized text, in a "rare" field.
A few weeks ago one of my regular clients (an agency, that I have been working for several years in the English-Hungarian pair, let's call them Agency A) asked me to help them with a project from Japanese to English. This is one of my working pairs, and I am not a native speaker of English. The reason they asked me was simple: The text was very specialized, it perfectly matched my background in engineering, in fact I had several years of hands-on experience with that particular technology. They found an agency in Japan (let's call them Agency B) that looked at the source text and accepted the translation assignment, and I was hired to review the translation to make sure it was technically accurate. The text was actually a short test (less than 300 words) that Agency A got in order to bid on a huge multilingual job for a direct client. So, they wanted to be absolutely sure the test went well.
Here is what happened: I received the translation, and guess what, it was rubbish. It looked like the translator had no clue about the technology that was involved, had trouble understanding the meaning of long compound sentences, and the resulting English translation was awful. I don't mean the lack of nice flow or anything like that, but the text had several sentences that were not comprehensible. They had more or less the right words in them, and they were connected with correct grammar, but they did not make a meaningful sentence, they were nonsense, in regards to the content. The person clearly had no idea what it was about. I don't know whether the translator was native Japanese or native English, but either way, the lack of subject expertise killed the job.
I had to rewrite the whole thing. After my work was done, there were two native editors looking through the translation. The first one was a technical editor, this person found no problems, and changed nothing in my translation. The second editor was a non-technical, monolingual linguistic editor, and this person found 2 punctuation issues and questioned one term due to his/her unfamiliarity with the subject, but after my explanation, the term was accepted. My detailed evaluation with all errors marked and explained was returned to Agency B, and they apologized profusely to Agency A.
Agency A was thanking me profusely for saving their face.


Example 2: Rare languages.
Translations from language X to Y, where either X or Y are "rare" languages. Let's see you need a translation from Hindi to Japanese - how many native Japanese translators can you find with Hindi as their source language? Not many. You will find many more translators in this pair who are not native in Japanese.
Even in the more populated Japanese-English pair, you will find much more non-native English speakers than natives (it is about 3 times more here on ProZ). Given the large volume of translations needed from Japanese to English, often times these jobs are performed by native Japanese (or native third language people), and edited by a native English person.


So, what I am saying here, is that being native in the target language is sometimes not the most important parameter in the process of producing good quality translations.
I think it would be a mistake to label anybody "unprofessional", just because he/she translates into a language that is not his/her native. This issue is more complex than that.

Katalin

[Edited at 2009-04-15 15:29 GMT]


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AnneMarieG  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:08
Member (2009)
German to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
KudoZ vs 'real world' Apr 15, 2009

Giles Watson wrote:

Hi amg,

I'm not sure whether you are asking about Kudoz questions or translating professionally.

In the case of Kudoz, I'm afraid you'll find lots of people answering questions in languages which are not their own either because they are chasing points or, more rarely, because they have special knowledge of the subject under discussion and actually know what they're talking about!

PS In the commercial world, translation is not that subjective: an informed third party can generally explain why a version is fit for its intended purpose or not.


Well, my immediate motivation for posting this thread was my recent experience in KudoZ where I was expecting people to participate, well aware that their erroneous answers can be seen and followed up by 'anybody'.
As this is a site for and by translators I was under the assumption that quality is a given; and it is not - for everybody. Exactly like in the real world where we have all seen bad (actually hilarious) translations and happy because completely unaware clients.

Re Katalin,

thanks for your long answer, I tend to agree with you re 'rare' languages, but again in this case (like in Bin's example) measures were taken to ensure a quality result.

I work in the 4 classical (is this the right term?) languages in Europe and I am constantly confronted with BS; OK, not constantly, regularly.

In a nutshell how do we ensure quality?

I still believe that native language is a key point of reference.

With regard to the KudoZ feature, why not add a restriction 'reserved for natives' (to be chosen or not by the asker) it would be very helpful above all when it comes to 'linguistic' only questions.


Anne-Marie

[Edited at 2009-04-15 15:50 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:08
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Limiting KudoZ answerers when asking a question Apr 15, 2009

Anne-Marie,

With regard to the KudoZ feature, why not add a restriction 'reserved for natives' (to be chosen or not by the asker) it would be very helpful above all when it comes to 'linguistic' only questions.


It is actually possible to mark such a request, when you ask a question.
On the Question submission form, on the second page, you can see the following choices in the area called "Direct question (who may view and answer)"

This is what you can mark there:

Public question - Anyone may view this question.
Direct your question specifically to answerers who meet the following criteria:
Native language:
Language pair described in profile as:
Field described in profile as:
.... Only ProZ.com members may answer


So, you can specify "natives". The only thing is that this is not a "full block".
The only effect of these options is that the system will NOT send an email notification to people not meeting the requirement. But people can still see the question when they browse the KudoZ page, and they can still answer, even if they are not natives. There will be a notification on the screen, saying something like "you do not meet the requirements, but you can still answer". The only criteria that is a real block is the last one, the membership option.

I absolutely agree with you that it would be an improvement to make it possible for askers to truly limit (fully block) people that do not meet the criteria they specify.
I have argued for this for years, both on the public forums and also as a Moderator, but it seems site staff does not agree with it, or at least nothing is happening in this regard. I do not know what argument could be made against such an option, as blocking non-members is already available, which is not logical as I am quite sure being able to answer a question has a lot higher correlation with having the required language ability and specialization than with being a paying member of the site.

Whenever we request changes in the KudoZ system, the main argument from site staff is that the primary purpose of KudoZ is to help the Asker, and that should be kept in mind. I think providing such blocking options to the Asker would be a big help. After all, everything else is controlled by the Asker (how much context is given, whether to reply to clarification questions, final choice of answer, or whether to grade at all), so I don't understand why the Asker should not be able to put limitations on the answerers at his/her own choice.
The system of not accepting answers from people that do not meet the specified criteria is already implemented for the GBK-questions, for good reasons. It is not even optional, all questions are restricted to people in the given field and language pair.
Why cannot this be done for the regular KudoZ system, especially that we only ask for this to be an OPTION, and not the default setting?

Katalin


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