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Not living in the country of the target language
Thread poster: Sonja Allen

Sonja Allen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:53
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Aug 24, 2005

Many agencies pride themselves of using only translators who translate into their mother tongue AND who live in the country of their target language(i.e native language).I wondered if they have a point or if this is a bit unfair towards those who do not live in their home country. I am a German native living in the UK for many years and I admit that it is sometimes difficult to keep my German up to date and not let it be spoilt by the foreign language. But, therefore, I watch German television, keep in touch with Germans on a regular basis and read publications in my specialism in German as well as English, and I guess that many in my situation do the same. In my opinion, this is enough to combat any deterioration or "strange style" in my native language. But what do you think? Is it fair of agencies to choose only translators living in their native country?

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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:53
Member (2004)
English to Italian
not fair... Aug 24, 2005

same situation as yours and I do the same things to keep myself up-to-date, plus I go back to Italy very frequently. It's silly discrimination, in my opinion.

Giovanni

[Edited at 2005-08-24 11:51]


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Manuela Junghans  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:53
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
fair or not? Aug 24, 2005

Hi Sonja. I´m in the same situation as you and I came to the point where I don´t think of this peculiarity as fair or unfair anymore. Some agencies just decide to only use native speakers living in their native country. Probably for the reason you mentioned. It´s true that if you live outside Germany for a while you sometimes produce strange sentences in your own language But I think it´s the same the other way round. If you´re German native and translating from foreign languages into your own it´s equally difficult to keep track with language development in the countries of your source languages? Or is it not? So your suggestion of reading as much as possible in source and target language seems just logical to me. You can hardly live in two countries at the same time...:-)All the best from Edinburgh, Manuela

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Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:53
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Better knowledge of source language Aug 24, 2005

I am in exactly the same position as you. I live in UK and translate into Latvian which is my mother tongue. English is my husband tongue, as I call it, and therefore it is on a decent level. I believe in many case it actually turns to my advantage - many agencies are happy to work with translator who actually lives in the country of the language he/she translates from. I have only met a couple of clients who have insisted on employing translators living in their native country. Plus I usually have the business of British agencies - they much rather work with somebody who lives in the same county - no bank charges and feels safer in case if anything goes wrong.
So all in all, I have actually benefited from living in a different country.
Mind you, that does not answer your question whether it is fair that only native speakers living in their native countries are accepted for projects. I know you are supposed to loose some of you native language (my friends say I have started to speak with an accent) after a few years spent abroad and that might be the case indeed. But I know for sure that when I sit down in front of computer and start writing, I forget that I am not living in my home country any more and am as native as any person living in Latvia.

My two cents,
Burrell


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Kurt Porter  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:53
Russian to English
+ ...
Not living in the country Aug 24, 2005

Complex issue. As a native-English speaker living in Germany (working Russian into English), I would dislike it if I lost a translation job because I don't live in the United States. The official language at work is English, I speak Russian all day long with Russian employees/friends, and then of course there are work related Russian-English tasks. This is in addition to keeping up with current events in both languages, watching the news in both languages, listening to music, etc.

Coincidentally, I have met a couple of Germans that spent a lot of time in the States, moved back to Germany and are trying to get established as freelance translators and interpreters. The effects of living in the States for so long and NOT keeping their German up are quite noticeable, both in their oral and written work.

I think what you're fighting against is the fact that many agencies have seen more evidence of my second paragraph, rather than what you or I do to keep our languages current.

Sincerely,

Kurt


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Terence Ajbro
Sweden
Local time: 18:53
English to German
+ ...
With English it is different Aug 24, 2005

I am a native speaker of English and the Black Country dialect. I have lived half my life in the UK and half in Denmark, but have no problem in maintaining my English since most TV, films music, business correspondance etc is in English here. I have raised my children bilingually which has given them a tremendous advantage at school. What I do notice occasionally is that a new slang word/expression comes up, often in some TV comedy or film and I think that's an odd word. More often than not the word will not be in my Oxford English Dictionary.

The one great drawback for me is that my Danish sometimes muddles up my German, they are closely related languages with many common idioms and expressions.


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Karine J.
Local time: 18:53
French to German
+ ...
Keep smiling.... Aug 24, 2005

Hi,

I´m in the same situation as you and must admit that I never do this experience with agencies (but I have to say that I nearly only work with direct customers - just a choice from myself) and I must approve Burell, i.e. I make the opposite experience, i.e. people are very happy to get a native speaker and prefer that even if he/she does not live in the target language country.
Of course, we all are trying to improve our mother tongue as per TV, papernews,....I myself always try to travel twice or more a year to France (I´m living in Germany).
So I think this is very unfair from an agency to decline a translator just because he lives in the source language country or any other. I´m convinced that each from us is aware to continually improve its mother tongue and this is the most important.
But keep smiling, each agency is different.


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Elena Pavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:53
Member (2005)
French to Italian
+ ...
An advantage, not really a discrimination Aug 24, 2005

Hello!
I am in the same situation, Italian native and I live in France, where I arrived 10 years ago to "follow" my husband.
I think that being a "foreigner" in a foreign country is an advantage, rather than a problem. French agencies find in their own country somedoby who perfectly controls and understands both languages, and everything gets much easier for administration (payment with cheques with no extra fees, phone contacts, etc.).
And the fact of living in France allows me to learn and better understand all kind of expressions that you will never find in any dictionnary or even on the Internet. I still have all my family in Italy and I regularly go and visit them, I talk to them almost everyday, I watch Italian TV and it's easier for me to find almost any kind of information about Italy and the Italian language.
I think that, if I were a french-italian translator in Italy, I would be only one the thousands and thousands of translators; here in France we are not as many.


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 18:53
French to English
I see it as a benefit, not a handicap Aug 24, 2005

Agencies that refuse to work with natives who live outside of their target country used to annoy/confuse me. I guess I felt kind of left out that they didn't want to work with me even though I could provide what I considered quality work

Over the past few months in Kudoz and in forum posts I've noticed a few instances where native English speakers who work from French to English and who live in the U.S. clearly don't have the necessary command of the source language or enough contact with the source culture and/or current events to correctly interpret the meaning of what they are translating. On some level, this made me feel better about what I feared was some kind of deficiency on my part.

I see lack of contact with the source culture as a much greater handicap than being away from your target language for long periods of time. (But then again I'm biased)I try to maintain my grasp on current English business trends and jargon by teaching at a local business school (with all of the reading and preparation that entails), by keeping up with news and trends on the Internet and through subscriptions to periodicals, by listening to US radio and watching key TV programs via the Web, and by reading and watching movies in English for enjoyment.

English is so ubiquitous that I feel it is easier for a native English-speaking expat to keep up with things at home than it would be for a U.S. translator to keep up contact with France, for example...especially if the person doesn't live in a major urban area with access to an Alliance Francaise or other cultural resoruces.

Also, before starting any new translation, I always "warm up" by reading as much as I can on the topic/industry to get a feel for the current lingo/buzzwords.

So far, this has been good enough for me (and my customers).

My 2 cents!

Sara


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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:53
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
My experience Aug 24, 2005

I lived in Israel for 8 years and I have been back in my homeland for the last 3 years.
I must say that living abroad was definitely a disadvantage for my language skills.
Of course I kept in touch in different ways, but it's just not the same, especially since I translate marketing and hi-tech texts which have so much to do with how language, lifestyle and communication evolve day by day.
I somehow lost contact with the day to day life in my own country. No TV will replace that. The ideas I had about my own country somehow "froze" at the moment I left, and this had an impact on my ability to communicate in the target language.
JMHO.
Laura


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Stephanie Wloch  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:53
Member (2003)
Dutch to German
Difference oral and written Aug 24, 2005

If a translation agency "pride themself of using only translators who live in the country of their target language." As Sonja wrote. Nevertheless: give it a try.
Some of them are not so strict: If you can prove that your language skills are still good and that you stay very much in touch with your native country. I tell the agencies that I attend professional trainings in Germany and they can even read the some reports I wrote about it (website of the translators association). So I can even demonstrate my copywriting skills.
I rarely have the possibility to speak German here with native speakers and yes sometimes there are some Dutch false friends leaking into my German. Germans even recognize a Dutch accent!:eek:
But this would be much more a problem if I was an interpreter.
What about them? Requirements regarding "in country" native language?
By the way: Next time you can tell the agencies, who wants native speakers living in the "right" country:
"What we are finding is that we don't and can't have complete separation between different languages in our heads. Yes, you can become very talented with your acquired language but there will always be a kind of window in our brains where one language will always 'leak' into another."
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=29363
Very interesting article! Just one statement sounds strange to me:"One instance is a person whose native language is German and who has mastered the English language saying something like, "I to the dining room go." Ich ins Esszimmer gehe. Never heard!


[Edited at 2005-08-24 13:25]


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CLS Lexi-tech
Local time: 12:53
Member (2004)
English to Italian
+ ...
It could even be an advantage.... Aug 24, 2005

I am exaggerating, obviously, but after 20 years of life in Canada, in English and French, I think I still have a pretty good handle on Italian, still revise actively.
Where I see an advantage is in knowledge of the source language and culture. Also, because I live in a multilingual environment, I am very aware of "calques" and anglicisms, of borrowing and interference, rather than the opposite. I may have a slip of the tongue, but in writing borrowings and interference are rarer for me.
The other "advantage" is that I am reluctant to adopt linguistic fashions, which nowadays involve heavy use of English words.
As a recruiter, I personally use the services of both in-country and non-in-country translators. I do not make it a rule either way, if the credentials and experience are solid.

Ciao

paola


[Edited at 2005-08-24 18:05]


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slabejka
Local time: 18:53
Slovak to English
definitely a benefit Aug 25, 2005

As a native English speaker living in the country of my birth (which is not an English-speaking country, and no this is not an oxy-moron), I find that my native English is usually an advantage. I have the bonus of having a second language with which I was raised in the home and a first language which I learned in school. Although, I can really understand the unusual request of living in the country of your target language. As far as English is concerned, slangs develop at alarming speed and if you don't keep up, you really can get lost. My best source is my sister, who lives in the US, and we talk together a lot. But, this can be fairly expensive, so I make it a point to listen to radio and watch TV in English and to converse in English whenever possible. I have yet to encounter an agency with this type of requirement, but it is my opinion that they are way off base; your native language is ingrained and by living in the country of your second language you are only adding to your worth as a translator because you are picking up on the subtleties and phrases used by your second language and improving your skills. How many times I have found even the best bilingual dictionaries to be lacking in the most obvious sense of a word! Hang in there and keep trying.

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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:53
Member (2004)
English to Italian
keeping yourself up to date... Aug 25, 2005

how many translators living in the target country go abroad every year, twice or three times a year to keep themselves up to date with the source language? Not many, I think.

Giovanni

[Edited at 2005-08-25 10:36]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:53
Italian to English
+ ...
I think it depends on your field Aug 25, 2005

If you're working in literature or any field requiring a good grasp of contemporary language, it probably is a disadvantage to not live in a country where your target language is spoken - I don't think it's possible (from my own experience) to keep up to date with the latest slang, expressions and especially cultural references if you live in a different country, unless you spend more time watching satellite TV than you do translating.

Having said that, if like me you work in a specialised field, the vocabulary tends to be fairly fixed and it's relatively easy to keep up with any updates. So here it's not a disadvantage to live elsewhere.

With regard to losing your mother tongue, for me it's certainly true when I speak in English - as I now think in Italian, I sometimes find myself translating literally into English (examples which had a friend of mine in hysterics were "ravioli made in the house" and (while window shopping) "that doesn't go for me"). However, I rarely have any problem when writing (probably because it's slower, so my brain has more time to process what I'm about to write). And I've only ever received positive comments on my work from British agencies, fortunately!


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