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From bad to worse... An advice? Native vs Non-native issue
Thread poster: Inga Petkelyte

Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:12
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
Aug 11, 2015

It must be a black week for me or a sign to throw in the towel. Minutes ago, I was ready to do exactly that. But shall I ask your advice first?
So, the issue is the following.
Yesterday, it was about the rate-reduction trend in the market.
Today is the non-native issue: I receive a call from Ireland and they want me to translate a contract from English to Portuguese. But.. I was raised not in Portugal. Result: rejection.
So how shall I market myself?
As a matter of fact, my Portuguese is more literate and of a higher level than of majority of native Portuguese. That is not my judgment, I would never dare to self-pronounce this way. This judgment about my Portuguese knowledge has been given by various professionals and businessmen or officials starting with the head partner of the law firm for which I used to work. I don't want to go here into praising myself with other testimony but the fact is the fact: in a project for a whole set of banking contracts, my test translation was reckoned as being "better and more professional" than of the native translators and in result, I was appointed as a proofer for other - native - candidates.
And yet here I am... Very much puzzled whether it's worth of further efforts.
How shall I convince potential clients that my legal, banking, financial Portuguese is really good?
How shall I explain that there is a range of areas - technical, construction, transportation, automotive, rigs&oil - where I have no clue how to say a word in my officially native language but I feel like a fish in the water in Portuguese?
How to convey these my skills to potential clients?
I was considering providing several translation samples in my profile but would that be any helpful if the clients looks not at the skills but mere nationality?
Any ideas, advice, thoughts?


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DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Career aliens do not Aug 11, 2015

The Thai Ministry of Labor didn't think native English translators (or proofreaders) were important either and this list of "forbidden occupations for foreigners" ended up being on their website (taken down today after public mocking):


Not alien to the professional set of career. Professional and not an alien to do.

Account end decree.
Set in professional video and tea alien life that do not.
2522.

1. The proletariat.

2. Farmers gas party animals of the forest or fishery, except that the use of specialized expertise or the control of farms.
3. The masonry construction or other carpentry work.
4. Carved wood.
5. The driving vehicle. The driver or vehicle that does not use machinery or mechanical. Exception of the pilot countries.
6. The sale of every page.
7. The auction.
8. Monitoring or control services unless account the interim audit.
9. The cut or polished diamonds or pebble.
10. The haircut or the curl of beauty.
11. Work hand-weaving.
12. Of woven mats or work appliances with rattan reed or straw, hemp bamboo pulp.
13. Paper hand job.
14. Lacquer work.
15. Thai musical work.
16. Job filling machine.
17. Work a gold or silver otter.
18. Lghin a job.
19. Job Thai dolls.
20. Berth blanket mitt work.
21. The card.
22. The products made from silk hand.
23. Job Buddha.
24. Work knife.
25. Indoor work with paper or cloth.
26. Work shoes.
27. Work hat.
28. The broker or the agent unless the agent or broker in the business of international trade.
29. Work in the engineering profession. Civil Engineering. Associated with the design calculations and organize research project construction control testing. Or advice. Excluding the special expertise required.
30. Job-related professional architectural design drawings about price director of construction or advice.
31. Crafts apparel.
32. The sculpture or pottery making.
33. The roll by hand.
34. The guide. Or the organized tour.
35. Hawk the product.
36. Work individually hand-printed Thai characters.
37. The young, and some hand-twisting spiral.
38. The clerk or secretarial staff.
39. Work for legal services or legal action.




Not assuming that your language is in any way as bad as this but this is how bad some non-native translations can end up. Absolutely shameful!


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Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:12
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No bad translation samples here Aug 11, 2015

Very mature thinking, Thomas. Indeed, prejudice is all over in our lives, only it hurts more in the professional life than in the personal one.

DJHartmann - no need of bad translation samples here, Thomas rightly noted it has been debated endlessly already. The question was how the translators shall market their non-native skills when they are really good in the target language - have any advice on this?


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:42
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
May be you can take an exam? Aug 11, 2015

Have you considered taking any professional exam that would objectively judge your command over your target language?

If you clear such an exam with scores comparable with what competent natives normally get, that should be a verifiable and believable indication of your competency in your target language.

Aside from this, this is a mulishly held dogma among certain sections of our profession, and very little can be done to dispel it. But I also sense that the more discerning are gradually getting over this fetish. The globalization of the English language has also greatly contributed to raising awareness about this issue. Now there are more non-native speakers and users of English in the world than native speakers and they have actively begun to contribute to the way the English language is used and is developing. The natives of course don't like it, but there is scant little they can do about it. Languages are highly democratic institutions and are governed more than anything else by usage, and more no-native English-speakers means that it is they who will be shaping the English language in the future.

Regarding other languages, the awareness about this issue that English generates is bound to penetrate into them too, even if at a more slower rate.

I have also observed that this dogma about native language is most current and virulent in monolingual cultures, particularly in Europe, where the disastrous ideal of one language-one nation has played a chilling role in sharpening the language consciousness of its people and in eliminating linguistic diversity from Europe, particularly Western Europe which was continuously in war for the past two centuries.

There too, this madness is waning with the formation of the European Union with open borders and mingling of languages and cultures. If the EU does not disintegrate as a result of the current mismanagements, Europe will slowly evolve into a multicultural, multilingual society like India or Indonesia with greater appreciation of linguistic diversity, and more and more people will develop multilingual capabilities.

But that is in the realm of the future and is unlikely to bring you cheer in your current predicament, but it should make you feel good that what you are going through is not any shortcoming in you but reflects rather the shortcomings in those who judge you in this manner.



[Edited at 2015-08-11 13:48 GMT]


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KateKaminski
Local time: 15:12
German to English
Professional qualifications are a great idea Aug 11, 2015

along with some references from your former legal colleagues, if possible.

Also, offer to do a free short sample translation for potential clients if they are suspicious. Just prove what you can do!


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JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:12
English to French
+ ...
Take the ATA certification test? Aug 11, 2015

The American Translators Association offers English-into-Portuguese certification (see http://atanet.org/certification/landing_about_certification.php).

I have not checked current eligibility and other requirements to take the test.

That should count for something.


Inga Petkelyte wrote:

[snip]
How to convey these my skills to potential clients?
[snip]
Any ideas, advice, thoughts?




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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:12
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
One language, one nation? Seeking native speakers is not a "shortcoming" Aug 11, 2015

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

I have also observed that this dogma about native language is most current and virulent in monolingual cultures, particularly in Europe, where the disastrous ideal of one language-one nation has played a chilling role...


A lot of central and western Europeans (i.e. NOT monolingual!) speak 3 or 4 languages, and THAT is exactly why the idea of the "professional native speaker" is so prevalent: because there is always some douchebag who claims he can speak English, for example, and perhaps he can, perhaps his spoken business English is simply brilliant -- but that doesn't mean he can write English well, or come across as native. You may speak another language beautifully, but achieving native speaker levels is another thing altogether.

Also, to take another different type of example, there are many on the sub-Indian continent who speak English natively -- but they speak their own type of English, and that English sounds incredibly weird to an American, Briton, South African, Australian, etc. So here we have an example of a truly native speaker who simply does not speak the "right" kind of English for the mainstream market. I wouldn't blame a client for thinking twice in this case.


But that is ... unlikely to bring you cheer in your current predicament, but it should make you feel good that what you are going through is not any shortcoming in you but reflects rather the shortcomings in those who judge you in this manner.


I don't believe that you must be a native speaker to translate into a language, but I do think you need to have near-native speaker command of the language. A lot of people overestimate their level of command of a language when they self-assess, which makes it difficult for an outsider like a client to judge whether you can or cannot actually speak that language like a native. If you already are an actual native, the client doesn't have as much to worry about in that respect, so I don't think the client (or whoever) has some sort of "shortcoming" for asking for a native speaker.

Anyway, Inga, even though you have clearly stated that you are not self-assessing your own levels, I agree that an impartial exam could go a long way in helping you market yourself in Portuguese as a non-native speaker with near-native or higher command of the language.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:12
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Justification should be expected, surely? Aug 11, 2015

I live in Spain. Does that qualify me to translate into Spanish? Absolutely not! In fact it doesn't even qualify me to translate FROM it (yet, at any rate). I moved to France at the age of 41, having studied the language intensively all through my education, and lived there for over 15 years, but I would never translate into French professionally (except in exchange for a bottle of wine, to help someone out). So I think the agency is perfectly within their rights to request some justification.

Your set of circumstances is no doubt very different from mine, Inga, but how is a potential client to know that? Your profile and your CV are actually very unclear on the subject. There's no "I went to a Portuguese school in my home country; "all my father's family spoke to me in Portuguese"; "we emigrated to Portugal when I was young"; "I moved to Portugal for my university studies and I've lived there all my adult life" .... If I'm not mistaken, the first mention of Portuguese and/or Portugal dates from when you were already around 35. I hasten to add that I'm only going from what I can glean from the texts - I don't know anything about you. But then neither did this agency, presumably.

If your level is native-equivalent then you should be considered for the job, but it seems a little much to expect clients to accept your word for it without some justification. And in the end, a freelancer's client has as much freedom of choice as the freelancer.


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The Misha
Local time: 10:12
Russian to English
+ ...
It isn't worth the effort. It's their loss. Aug 11, 2015

Well, personally, I tend to use a much less civil turn of phrase for this, but it all comes down to the same thing anyway: if they want to continue wallowing in their dogma, there's nothing you can do about it. Move on. Find a different client. It's not a big deal.

Your story sounds very much like mine, except for the language and the country, so I can relate even though I can't remember ever having had to face a blatant rejection like this on account of my being a non-native alone. I did have quite a few of my tests in the specific areas I am qualified to handle "improved upon" by apparently non-native "trusted reviewers" who could not tell a municipal bond from James Bond. That was just as well. If it helps, think of your own situation as these folks doing you a favor - by preventing you from getting into a relationship that had a good chance of spiraling into a total disaster. As the man said in that classic movie, when there is a doubt, there is no doubt.

These days I do not market myself at all (not that I did a particularly good job of it before, to be sure). Moreover, I do not even accept any cold calls, especially from places I do not have any immediate legal recourse in (which, for all the practical purposes, limits me to the US and, to a certain extent, the UK; I like it just fine this way). Most of what I do comes from a limited number of trusted repeat clients who do not waste my time or insult my intelligence by the kind of nonsense you have described. And when the "great old ones" go silent for a short while, I simply go do something else - like write, or travel, or simply enjoy still being around. So should you.

A brief word of practical advice since you asked for it. When communicating with clients in Portuguese, or any other language for that matter, make absolutely sure every word you write screams "competent". Then go back and check what you've written again. For that reason, I don't think communicating with your clients in English (to the extent it could be avoided, naturally) is in your best interest. A brief sample of the person's writing - just a few sentences, really - usually tells more about the writer than all diplomas and self-made claims in the world. All too often, here and elsewhere, you see numerous self-proclaimed "native speakers of English" writing stuff in public, and you think oh, boy, why couldn't you keep your mouth shut, buddy? You looked so much better that way.

Now, if the above makes you think I am such a great, sympathetic and caring person, think again. I am actually devious:) I am simply showing off the professional skill. That's the best way of marketing yourself. That, and knowing when to tell them to go jump in the ocean.

Good luck to you - and relax! Life is too damn short.

[Edited at 2015-08-11 14:49 GMT]


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