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Mother tongue and translation
Thread poster: aruna yallapragada
aruna yallapragada  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:36
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
Oct 23, 2006

I translate from German to English. Neither of the languages are my mother tongue. From this forum I gather that one is of the opinion that one should translate only into the mother tongue. this might be of use to translations in which the idiom of the language is required, but not for technical texts, which I do. This clause prevents me for bidding for many jobs. I think it is only fair that sometimes even non-natives are given a chance-after a suitable testing, if apprehensive. This would help people like me to get established.

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Denyce Seow  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 05:06
Member (2004)
Chinese to English
Why don't you translate into your mother tongue? Oct 23, 2006

First question that came to my mind when I read your posting: Why don't you translate into your mother tongue?


[Edited at 2006-10-24 00:02]


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Joost Elshoff  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:06
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Testing translators abilities & the native speaker issue Oct 23, 2006

Well, if that's your opinion, you should also be aware of the fact that most translators here beg to differ with you to some extent.

Most translators (here and anywhere) have dedicated long hours, days, months or even years to acquiring knowledge of their working languages and most outsourcers live by the rule to have their jobs done by Target Language (TL) native speakers, for quality reasons mainly.

You would do best to have a look at the numerous discussions on native speakers in translation, as well as some interesting points made about ability testing. Most freelancers would rather get certified by a branch association than take an infinite number of test translations to get the necessary jobs. After all, testing does not pay. And there are some outsourcers (albeit only a few) that would take advantage of you as novice translator to have you translate a sample text in fragments to obtain a full text translated for free.

Think twice before you offer to do test translations or before you translate into other languages than your native one.

Even in technical texts native knowledge of the TL is more than just useful.

[Edited at 2006-10-23 08:42]


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Timothy Barton
Local time: 23:06
French to English
+ ...
Are you taking it too literally? Oct 23, 2006

I see you are from India. A lot of people in India speak perfectly correct English, even though they say it is not their mother tongue. The issue is whether your English is of a native level. Only you can answer that. But my point is that someone in India who speaks Hindi at home but has been to school in English and can speak it like a native is not the same case as a French person who has learnt English as a second language at secondary school and at university.

To draw a parallel, many of my friends would declare Catalan as their mother tongue, but speak Spanish perfectly well and translate into Spanish.

You have declared yourself as native in English on your profile. If you do not consider your English to be of native standard, you should change this.


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:06
German to English
+ ...
Add more details to your profile Oct 23, 2006

Hi, Yaruna,

You have a highly specialized qualification, but your profile doesn't provide enough details. Perhaps if you added more information on your education and specific titles of larger works you have translated, how you learned German, etc., you would be taken more seriously.

There is also quite a big discrepancy in your level of knowledge, rate per word and rate per hour: Your expertise in your subjects is very high, your word rate is shockingly low (which might cause some suspicion about the quality of your work) and your hourly rate is waaayyy too high. Try to find a middle ground for your rates.

You might also consider joining ProZ as a member, so that you have a more advantageous position in the translator lists, and you can see the "average rates", i.e. yours in comparison to other translators' rates. You would also be more likely to get a bid in to jobs that interest you. As a user, you have to wait until the closed bidding period for members has elapsed and non-members can bid. Then it's probably too late. You'll see that if you land only a couple of new jobs, the membership fee will have been worth the investment.

Just my 2 cents - I hope it helps!

Best of luck and good wishes,
Woodstock

[Edited at 2006-10-23 09:35]


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Jennifer Baker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:06
Member (2004)
Italian to English
Thank you for bringing this to light Oct 23, 2006

Joost Elshoff wrote:



Even in technical texts native knowledge of the TL is more than just useful


Absolutely. One of the great myths in this business is that technical translations require less "native" ability than other types of translations.

Jennifer


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:06
Flemish to English
+ ...
The First Commandment of Translation. Oct 23, 2006

For a more elaborate discussion on the first commandement : http://www.proz.com/post/439778#439778

[Edited at 2006-10-23 10:17]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:06
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
If the translation is good enough, outsourcers don't worry - at least in some languages. Oct 23, 2006

I agree entirely with Woodstock. My personal experience, is that quality - however you measure it - is the main criterion.

I proof read as an English native speaker for several Danish colleagues who translate into English.

They are experts in their fields, and are more sure of the terminology than I am, so their translations are better from that point of view than mine would be. Or in some cases I don't have the time. Regular clients are very satisfied with the arrangement.

I change the word order here and there, and tidy up a the punctuation a little (Danish uses commas differently from English, and it is far easier to find other people's mistakes than one's own!) I have learnt a lot in the process. If you can write English at that level, then keep bidding for jobs, and best of luck.

We all know the sort of 'translator' (often someone who is not a trained linguist) where it is a waste of time to try to 'proof read' or revise their work: it takes longer than having a qualified translator start from scratch, and it still sounds odd or is very difficult to read.

These are the ones we complain and warn each other about on this site - I for one tend to send the compliments direct to the translators who are good at their jobs, and it distorts the picture a little.

The Danes I work with have lived and studied in the UK, and read large amounts of technical literature in their subjects - it does take years. But at least one of them was very good before she was thirty. (I was there when she celebrated her 30th birthday.) The others have been in the business longer than I have.

I lived in India myself as a child, and I know some Indians are really good at English. Even more so now that they have access to electronic communications - we did not even have a radio !

And there are definitely native speakers of the target language who are not good translators. It is not always a qualification in itself.

I personally do not translate into Danish, although I speak it at highly educated native level. I know plenty of Danes who translate better into Danish.

Keep within your limits, perhaps with help from a proof reader or mentor, but keep trying, and best of luck!



[Edited at 2006-10-23 10:52]


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Ford Prefect  Identity Verified
Burkina Faso
Local time: 21:06
German to English
+ ...
... Oct 23, 2006

From this forum I gather that one is of the opinion that one should translate only into the mother tongue.


Is one? This one is. If one is not clear as to whether one is oneself or third person plural, or indeed unaware that one is somewhat out of date, perhaps one should refrain from calling English one's mother tongue.


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aruna yallapragada  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:36
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
General reply Oct 23, 2006

This is a reply to many questions raised here. I do indeed translate into my mother tongue (Telugu). I don't mention it here because it is not much in demand outside my state. Regarding the rates on the profile, there is a mistake in it. The currency for the rates per hour should read INR. I don'y know how the mistake crept in. I should indeed be good at the language one is translating into. What I am pointing out is the automatic assumption of superiority by virtue of their mother tongue. My point is that this is not true in the case of scientific/technical translations where knowledge of the latest slang/ modernisms etc do not matter, or whether one's language is out of date.

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Jennifer Baker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:06
Member (2004)
Italian to English
Couldn't be farther from the truth Oct 23, 2006

yaruna wrote:

My point is that this is not true in the case of scientific/technical translations where knowledge of the latest slang/ modernisms etc do not matter, or whether one's language is out of date.


I've often wondered why some people believe this is true. True technical translating requires not only knowledge of vocabulary, but extremely clear and concise writing skills in the target language (I daresay even more so than in other types of translations).
How many times have we all opened the instructions manual of a new gadget only to be dismayed that it makes no sense (here in Italy, this is quite commonplace)?
This is one thing when you are trying to get your new computer to work, but it's definitely something else if you are reading the safety guidelines for a die-casting machine, an electrical system, a hazardous waste transport procedure...
Jennifer


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:06
French to English
+ ...
Definitions and things to think about Oct 23, 2006

The ITI here in the UK (www.iti.org.uk) states in its Code of Conduct that translators should translate into their 'mother tongue or language of habitual use'. They do not define 'language of habitual use' but I understand it to be a language which has effectively replaced the native language by virtue of being the language one uses all the time.

I know a few people who translate into a language that would not ordinarily be considered their 'mother tongue' - they have the following things in common:

1) they use English all the time and live in a country where it is spoken all around them;

2) they do not often speak their 'first/native' language;

3) and they can immediately show in their written communication that their command of the target language is impeccable.

I don't usually outsource work that is to be translated into English, but if I did, I would only send it to someone who could satisfy me on the third point. If an individual has this level of written English, the question of whether this person has English as his/her mother tongue is unimportant.

[Edited at 2006-10-23 12:15]

[Edited at 2006-10-23 12:18]

[Edited at 2006-10-23 12:19]


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Ford Prefect  Identity Verified
Burkina Faso
Local time: 21:06
German to English
+ ...
... Oct 23, 2006

yaruna wrote:
What I am pointing out is the automatic assumption of superiority by virtue of their mother tongue.


In general terms this assumption holds true (there are obviously exceptions), provided the mother-tongue individual is also a competent translator. The assumption is NOT that an individual whose mother tongue is the target language but is incapable at translation will produce better translations than a translator whose mother tongue is not the target language, although in many cases this will be true, but moot, since neither translation is likely to be economically useful.

My point is that this is not true in the case of scientific/technical translations where knowledge of the latest slang/ modernisms etc do not matter, or whether one's language is out of date.


My point is that you are very, very wrong.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:06
English to French
+ ...
I think the real question here is Oct 23, 2006

I don't think this is about translating into the mother tongue or not. I think the problem is the exact spot where outsourcers - and the community in general - draw the line.

Many outsourcers don't even bother with people who translate into a language that's not their native one - even if in that particular case that particular person would have been better for the job than the one they finally chose who was translating into their native language.

The fact is, there ARE excellent translators who work into a language other than their native language. I've personally seen examples where the outsourcer made the mistake of thinking that the native person would do a better job than the non-native one - and the outcome only goes to prove that. So, to sum it up, the percentage of excellent translators on the native side is naturally larger than the percentage of excellent translators on the non-native side. Does this mean that non-natives shouldn't be considered for, let's say, technical jobs? Of course not. Deserving translators would not get the occasions they should and outsourcers would be lowering their chances of finding excellent translators.

Because of this disequilibrium between natives and non-natives, outsourcers simply don't bother with non-natives and that is a pity. I think that is the real question here. I do understand that taking a chance on a non-native when 4 out of 5 non-natives (number off the top of my head) don't comply with job requirements is risky - there are plenty of natives to choose from anyways. But from the perspective of the non-native translator, the line is not drawn at the right spot and I can relate to that.

And yes, there is such a thing as double and even triple nativity. I spent half my childhood in Hungary and the other half in Canada (where I still currently live). My absolute native language would thus be Hungarian (which I still speak every day with family and occasionally with friends). But then again, I went to French school in Canada and had many anglophone friends, so I ended up speaking all three languages more or less at the same level. When I am asked which is my native language (from a proficiency point of view), I don't know what to say because I don't have the answer to that. But how reassuring is that to a prospective client? Good thing we can have our native languages declared in our ProZ profiles And by the way, if you're wondering why Hungarian is not listed, well, it would be hard to list three and I admit it would look weird. The Hungarian target language is a weak market on the internet, so why bother? Also, I carefully pick what type of text I translate into Hungarian. Guess what - I have much more difficulty with Hungarian than with English and French. Hungarian is such a particular, rich and difficult language that I will think twice before I translate into my absolute native tongue. Add that up!

I know, it's just one example among many, but I have to say - the line is drawn at an odd spot. However, I do understand why and am not sure if I would do things differently were I an outsourcer... Tough question!

By the way, my English to French clients are practically all regulars and most of them proof all of my work. No complaints so far - and the phone keeps ringing...

All the best!

Quick edit to the loooong post: The majority of outsourcers and translators alike seem to be of the opinion that one should always translate into their native tongue. This, however, is in contrast with ProZ profiles - and I don't take incomplete profiles in consideration here. If you browse the profiles, you will see that many if not most translators work in language pairs that are not spoken in their country of residence. So, it seems that although most of us agree that we should work towards our native languages, it doesn't seem to be what we are actually doing. It looks like we don't practice what we preach

[Edited at 2006-10-23 15:09]


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Henk Peelen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:06
Member (2002)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Laying all your cards on the table seems to make sense Oct 23, 2006

I can't judge the German-English market for technical & scientific translations, but in most language pairs there seems to be a big demand for specialistic translators, urging the outsourcers to look for a "specialist" for translating and a "linguist" for proofreading. So I think the next scheme makes most sense.
* laying your cards on the table: judiciously and honestly summing up your skills and your most likely position in the information transfer process between the German writer and the English reader (German specialistic writer - German proofreader - ***German-English specialistic translator*** - English proofreader)
* allow the outsourcer to ask you to do a small test translation for free (some 300 words)
* ask the outsourcer for feedback, especially documents proofreaded with "track changes" (MS Word) activated

This way of cooperating might be the best way to share knowledge and together deliver a good final product.


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