What is my native language?
Thread poster: RafaLee
RafaLee
Australia
Local time: 16:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 30, 2003

Ive been hearing the advice "translate to ur native tongue!".
Now Ive got a problem in determining what my native tongue is.
I was born and grew up in Indonesia. I learned Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian official language ) at school but I hardly speak it, as I only speak a vernacular language.

Then my family migrated to australia when i was 17 years old(6 years ago). Since I finished high school, practically I have lost contact with "Bahasa Indonesia" and used mainly English at university. So, I have found its easier to use and think in English when it comes to technical subjects.

I think in Indonesian when Im with the Indonesians but I think in English when Im with non-Indonesian

So what is my native language, Indonesian or English?


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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 02:16
SITE FOUNDER
What do you think it is? Aug 30, 2003

What do you think it is?

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Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:16
Member (2004)
German to English
Mother tongue is maybe a better term Aug 30, 2003

Which language did you mother (and father) speak to you?

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Terry Thatcher Waltz, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:16
Chinese to English
+ ...
I don't think it's mother tongue for translating, really Aug 30, 2003

The language your parents spoke to you may or may not be your A language for translation/interpretation purposes. (I prefer to use the interpreters' designation of A/B/C languages because it avoids some of the emotional wallop the "mother tongue" or "native language" terms seem to pack.)

For written translations, the main issues are the quality and acceptability of the translated text and your understanding of the source text. To be able to write flawlessly in a language, USUALLY it is very helpful to have been educated in that language -- but everyone is different. Many people can speak nearly perfectly but have great difficulty writing like an educated monolingual speaker of the language in question. (Let's use "educated monolingual" as the standard of comparison -- it's less complicated, I think!) It's very interesting to research the perceptions of various language groups about non-native performances in their languages (well, kind of interesting -- if you want to know more send me a message; I've done some work in this field of sociolinguistics in the past.)

For me, to translate into a language, one must have the same command of the register, vocabulary and style of the document one will write as an educated monolingual speaker of the target language WHO HAS SOME BACKGROUND IN THE PARTICULAR FIELD. (I'm "editing" a particularly heinous translation into English, supposedly by a native English speaker, right now, so perhaps I'm a little sensitive about this.)

If you cannot write to the standard of an educated monolingual speaker, you will either need a good editor or perhaps need to think about doing something else. IMHO one of the major differences between a "passable" translator and a great one is the command of the target language. Ten people can read the source text and understand it, but perhaps only one of those ten will produce a translated text that gives you that "mmm....that's it!" feeling.

To know if one writes to an educated monolingual specialist standard, I think it is necessary, should there be any doubt in one's mind, to get the opinions of a few unbiased monolingual specialists in that language. It need not be a full-on review of the content, but anyone who fits that description can pick up a document and tell you whether, for example, it would be accepted for publication in a scholarly journal in that language, or whether the person who wrote it was obviously "not quite native", to use the vernacular.


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Kardi Kho  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 13:16
English to Indonesian
Your dreams may be the best indicator of your native language. Aug 31, 2003

My anthropologist friend used to say 'if you dream in that language then it is most certainly your native language.' But of course don't tell your clients about this.

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xxxPaulaMac
French to English
+ ...
Terrific explanation Aug 31, 2003

Great explanation Terry. Expect some flak.
PaulaMac


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 03:16
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
I don't think so Aug 31, 2003

Kardi Kho wrote:
'if you dream in that language then it is most certainly your native language.'


I think you dream in "another" language when you're in the process of learning it, or when using it to communicate is a challenge, so you keep working at night.
When dreaming in your native language you shouldn't even notice in what language it was (if you know several languages), because it should be natural.

I remember when I dreamt for the first time in French (I even used to speak loudly) and when I dreamt for the first time in English. When it happened I didn't have a native command of them. After it was the case for French, but it will never be the case for English.

Terry your answer is very clear.


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leotodaro
Local time: 08:16
Danish to Italian
+ ...
"in which language do you swear? Sep 2, 2003

Yesterday I got suddenly upset and I couldn't help swearing in my mother tongue, it just felt so natural. I'd say, your "A language" (by the way, thanks for a great post, Terry!) is the one you use to express your true instinctual feelings, the one you speak to yourself, the B language is the one you use to convey meaning and thoughts to other people.

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Ulvija Tanovic
Local time: 08:16
English to Bosnian
+ ...
very well said Sep 4, 2003

leotodaro wrote:

I'd say, your "A language" (by the way, thanks for a great post, Terry!) is the one you use to express your true instinctual feelings, the one you speak to yourself, the B language is the one you use to convey meaning and thoughts to other people.



For years I've been trying to formulate something like this. Thanks leotodaro! I dare say it boarders on the poetic

Also, I'd just like to point out that although they do say "you should translate into your native language", I'm not sure that I agree. I think it is much more important to understand the source language properly (especially if it is a vernacular with little reference material available). Say, for example, purely hypothetically, that you are translating from a vernacular into English. You can always find a proof reader or editor for English (as frustrating and tiresome as the job may be, Terry) to fix your (hopefully minor) grammar mistakes, etc. But, if you are not proficient enough in the source vernacular you risk complete and utter mis-translation.

After all, we do not just translate words, we translate THOUGHTS. So, if you cannot understand the THOUGHT in the source language, how can you translate it?


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:16
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I use Terry's criteria Sep 4, 2003

so hit me too. But it's easier to live with and make money by.

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Said Kaljanac a.k.a. SARAJ  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 08:16
Bosnian to French
+ ...
Each case is unique,sometimes similar and rarely exactly the same Sep 4, 2003

When someone asks me what is my mother tongue, I honestly am unable to answer that question. Some suggest that if you swear or count or dream in this or that language it is automaticly your mother tongue... Is that so? For some of you it might be the case. However, it is not mine and I believe that each case is unique according to our life experience and education.
When I was a child I used to live on a Croatian island called Brac and there I spoke a Croatian dialect from Dalmatia. It was the language that I used in the first years of my life, then I moved to Bosnia where I assimilated Bosnian (plus Croatian and Serbian) and finally came to Belgium where I assimilated French. Today I don't know if my mother tongue is Bosnian or French simply because -though I studied those languages- I never learned them, I assimilated them as if it was one and only big language (mother tongue) full of synonyms and way of expressions. After assimilating them I studied and learned English, Russian and Dutch. And though I can speak fluently English, Russian and Dutch, those languages are not my mother tongues, because I didn't assimilate them like I did French and Bosnian.

Now some of you might wonder what is the difference between learning a language and assimilating it? The answer is simple. A child assimilates a language (or more languages), while an adult has already his/her mother tongue and tries to LEARN another language and theoretically will never be as fluent as in his/her mother tongue.

As far as counting, swearing and dreaming is concerned, I don't believe that it has to do anything with someone's mother tongue, but with the country where he/she lives, people he/she meets, language he/she uses/learn and there are so many other factors.

Just to give an example: I almost never know in what language I dream, but I know that I equally swear or count in Bosnian and in French. However when I am surrounded by English speaking people I swear and count in English.

Nota bene: Actually I don't swear much in any language hehehe.

Cheers,

Said

[Edited at 2003-09-04 18:22]


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Ulvija Tanovic
Local time: 08:16
English to Bosnian
+ ...
dreaming Sep 5, 2003

I've actually had dreams with subtitles... call it a professional hazard

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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:46
English to Tamil
+ ...
My experience Sep 6, 2003

Some years back I came across an old couple from Europe. After observing them for some time and seeing that the gentleman was looking bewildered, I asked him in German, whether he wanted any help. He thankfully answered in the affirmative and asked me for directions to the hotel, where he was staying and which was quite a few kilometers away. As the hotel was near the place I was going I took the couple along with me in the bus. After thanking me profusely, he asked me how I found out that he was a German. He was actually counting out some money when I first saw him and he was counting in German. I told him this and he agreed with me that he always counts in his mother tongue, even though he knew quite a few other languages.
In another instance, I was reading an English novel and there was one para in Italics. After a few pages there was another para in italics. After reading a few more pages I realized that there was nothing special in those paras to warrant the italics. I went back to the respective pages. The first para was in French and the second was in German! And I had just read them and being immersed in the story thread was not at first aware of the change in the language. In retrospect I see that the reason is as follows: Whatever might be the language I may be reading the final output for me is in Tamil, my mother tongue as far as my comprehension is concerned.
Let me quote the Yiddish author Shalom Alleichem. He says that Yiddish is the easiest language in the world as he understands 100% of the contents of a Yiddish text!
And then there was this joke in Tamil. Two boys are talking. One boy remarks that he is happy not to have been born in Germany. When the other boy is asking him why, the boy replies that he does not know German at all. And when I was quite young I thought that the entire world knows Tamil.
Happy weekend to all.


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Melina Kajander
Finland
English to Finnish
More on 'native tongue' Oct 11, 2003

I'm sorry to join this discussion so late, but I'm a newcomer to these forums...
But this is such an interesting (and also eternal) topic...!


Narasimhan Raghavan wrote:

I was reading an English novel and there was one para in Italics. After a few pages there was another para in italics. After reading a few more pages I realized that there was nothing special in those paras to warrant the italics. I went back to the respective pages. The first para was in French and the second was in German! And I had just read them and being immersed in the story thread was not at first aware of the change in the language. In retrospect I see that the reason is as follows: Whatever might be the language I may be reading the final output for me is in Tamil, my mother tongue as far as my comprehension is concerned.


I don't really agree - for me, the same thing often happens (I won't later remember in which language I have read something), but the reason is different: the "final output" for me is in some "universal language", not in my native tongue (I never translate inconsciously in my mind when reading something, I have to do it consciously! (And I would think this is the case for most translators...?)

About swearing and such similar expressions
(as I don't swear very much... ), I'm not sure if this is the indication of which language is 'closest' for you - I think this depends on the person as well...


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