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Not enough native English speakers?
Thread poster: Michele Fauble
Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:12
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Aug 6, 2008

In this thread about helping translators who are translating out of their native language

http://www.proz.com/forum/kudoz/111854-kudoz:_do_you_help_colleagues_who_are_clearly_translating_out_of_their_mother_tongue.html

several posters have stated that there are simply not enough native English speaking translators in some language pairs to make it feasible to adhere to the "translators translate into their native language" principle.

This got me wondering about in which languages this is the case. In which languages are there not enough native English speaking translators to meet the need for source language > English translations?




[Edited at 2008-08-06 23:04]


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:12
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
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Or too many Aug 6, 2008

Another question. In which source language > English pairs, if any, is the market saturated?



[Edited at 2008-08-07 22:37]


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:12
English to Arabic
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I believe it only makes sense Aug 6, 2008

Hi Michele,
I read your posting seconds after making a posting on that same discussion
http://www.proz.com/forum/kudoz/111854-kudoz:_do_you_help_colleagues_who_are_clearly_translating_out_of_their_mother_tongue-page3.html#914138
saying that this is the case for Arabic.

I think this is only logical. It seems that the vast majority of translation work done these days is either from English or into English. There are simply not enough English native speakers studying to become translators from every single language of the world. The more exotic the language, the less interest there is.* The other way round, however, it seems that everyone is trying to learn English.
It follows that if you want a text translated from one of the rarer languages into English, you'll find much more native speakers of that language willing to do the job than native English speakers.

That is not to say that the quality will be as good of course!!!



*PS: I have no evidence or statistics to support this claim, it's just my impression!


[Edited at 2008-08-07 00:34]


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chica nueva
Local time: 05:12
Chinese to English
Geopolitics/economics Aug 6, 2008

The translation market may be changing too.

As demand for foreign products grows, foreign economies become more powerful, and more foreign students study overseas, I believe there may simply be more demand for translations of foreign-language texts.

From, say, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese and Russian.


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N.M. Eklund  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:12
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Good timing - we were just talking about that Aug 7, 2008

I was just having this conversation with another translator colleague.
We were discussing our interest in beginning to learn another language.

The debate rolled around what language to choose (as Native English speakers) both for our own pleasure, but also any possible marketable aspect.
My opinion was that the Spanish-English market is so swamped, that it's not worth it.
I'm personnally interested in more 'exotic' languages, such as Swedish or Japanese.

My colleague thinks that Swedish would not be worth it because most Swedes grow up speaking English; same for Dutch or other Nordic languages. And Chinese is not worth it because it would take so many years to perfect it, and the rates are too low for a good return on the time investment. Also many upcoming graduates have learned Chinese in school.

Fate has it that I often take trips to Germany, so maybe I should try some basic German classes since I have the opportunity to improve myself regularly by staying in the country.

Honestly, I have no clue; but I find this thread interesting. I'd like to know where English mother tongue translators are lacking, because I'd personnally thought we were everywhere!

Maybe Icelandic?


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xxxd_vachliot
Local time: 19:12
Greek to English
+ ...
Greek Aug 7, 2008

This is the case for Greek, too.

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Mark Cole  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:12
Polish to English
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The more, the merrier Aug 7, 2008


Swedish would not be worth it because most Swedes grow up speaking English; same for Dutch or other Nordic languages.


I was told the same when I did the Dutch language module as part of my translation MA about 15 years ago. And guess what? I now have to turn down at least two or three Dutch job offers each week (many of them originating from Holland or Belgium, where there is no shortage of locals with excellent knowledge of English).

I have a feeling that precisely because people in those countries know English so well, they have a better appreciation of what good translation involves.

So if you're intrigued by a language, go for it! Particularly if you do Swedish, it's only a short step away from Norwegian and Danish


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Iza Szczypka  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:12
English to Polish
+ ...
"Not enough" is a mild expression Aug 7, 2008

I suppose that apart from the main European languages there is a severe shortage of English native speakers in every other European language, especially the languages of "new EU". Those who already work as translators have their calendars so full that they simply cannot accept any more work.
In Poland, for instance, the result is that about 80% of translations get done by people native to the source language, and the effort of finding any native speaker specialising in the main fields (business / law / technical / medicine) to proofread the tons of translated material has long been abandoned by everybody but the most zealous (and richest).
Which ridiculously leads to another problem - since everybody has known for decades that native English speakers are simply not available, proofreading by a native does not even find its way into the customer budgets...


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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Speaking a language isn't the same as writing it Aug 7, 2008

Mark Cole wrote:


Swedish would not be worth it because most Swedes grow up speaking English; same for Dutch or other Nordic languages.


I was told the same when I did the Dutch language module as part of my translation MA about 15 years ago. And guess what? I now have to turn down at least two or three Dutch job offers each week (many of them originating from Holland or Belgium, where there is no shortage of locals with excellent knowledge of English).

I have a feeling that precisely because people in those countries know English so well, they have a better appreciation of what good translation involves.

So if you're intrigued by a language, go for it! Particularly if you do Swedish, it's only a short step away from Norwegian and Danish


Yes, many other Germanic language speakers are used to speaking English but it doesn't mean they can translate into it or write it correctly. I don't see how you can assume they will have a 'better appreciation' of what a good translation involves'. Speaking a bit of any language doesn't automatically make you a translator by any means. You can speak 6 languages fluently and not be able to translate.


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Paola Dentifrigi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:12
Member (2003)
English to Italian
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A different lack Aug 7, 2008

N.M. Eklund wrote:


Honestly, I have no clue; but I find this thread interesting. I'd like to know where English mother tongue translators are lacking, because I'd personnally thought we were everywhere!



That of people investing on quality

Non natives are most of the time cheaper, and Mark's point referred to the Dutch and Belgian market is indeed a good one.

Cheers
Paola


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:12
English to German
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A little bit off topic Aug 7, 2008

Paola Dentifrigi wrote:

Non natives are most of the time cheaper



Something I will never understand. Whenever I deliver an English translation, I have to pay a native speaker for editing. I am working with two persons, both of them have masters degrees in English. Boy, this is expensive. Clients absolutely like the result.

Are you sure that you are not mixing up the terms "non-native" and "down and dirty"?


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:12
Member (2007)
French to English
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English - the lingua franca Aug 7, 2008

Well,

http://216.239.59.104/search?q=cache:u7r_b6sA1YUJ:www.guardian.co.uk/GWeekly/Global_English/0,8458,400340,00.html%20English%20is%20the%20lingua%20franca&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=uk


I think this answers the question. Also, in practical terms, there are only so many English native speakers who are going to train as linguists.....perhaps there is even an element of laziness on the part of English speakers and a practical, down-to-earth approach? Why should I learn a foreign language when English is the lingua franca??

On a personal level, I think that non-native English translators actually cause more problems that it's worth...and that also goes for non-native translators of any language.

It is not all down to money.

Liz Askew


Have I put the cat among the pigeons?

[Edited at 2008-08-07 14:48]


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:12
English to Dutch
+ ...
Quick check Aug 7, 2008

Mark Cole wrote:

I was told the same when I did the Dutch language module as part of my translation MA about 15 years ago. And guess what? I now have to turn down at least two or three Dutch job offers each week (many of them originating from Holland or Belgium, where there is no shortage of locals with excellent knowledge of English).

I have a feeling that precisely because people in those countries know English so well, they have a better appreciation of what good translation involves.



This last remark is a very important point, IMHO.

I just did a quick check in this language pair. According to the directory, there are nearly 3000 people registered on ProZ who offer translation from Dutch into English. Less than 700 of these claim to be native English speakers.

Of course you need to take a lot of other factors into account, such as whether this is the only language pair they work in and how much of their workload actually consists of translating into English, but still.

700 native English translators to serve the needs of all customers in both the Netherlands and Belgium simply cannot be sufficient. Now I know there are lots of translators who are not registered with ProZ, but I do believe this ratio is a nice indicator.

By the way, I disagree about non-natives being cheaper. I charge exactly the same for Dutch-English as I do for English-Dutch. I pay my proofreaders by the hour - so the better my translation is, the bigger my profit


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Paola Dentifrigi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:12
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Well, well Aug 7, 2008

Margreet Logmans wrote:

By the way, I disagree about non-natives being cheaper. I charge exactly the same for Dutch-English as I do for English-Dutch. I pay my proofreaders by the hour - so the better my translation is, the bigger my profit



You and Nicole are talking of Dutch and German, I'm talking of almost all the other languages.
However, I keep on considering the translations in the translator's source language a waste of time and energy.

Paola


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:12
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not just language graduates Aug 7, 2008

liz askew wrote:

Also, in practical terms, there are only so many English native speakers who are going to train as linguists.....perhaps there is even an element of laziness on the part of English speakers and a practical, down-to-earth approach? Why should I learn a foreign language when English is the lingua franca??



If the supply of native English speaking source language > English translators was limited to those who study a language at university, I think there would be a critical shortage of native English speaking translators in all languages except Spanish, French and German. However, it seems that many native English speaking translators have learned their language because they have gone to live in the country where it is spoken, often for personal (e.g. marriage) or professional reasons. This means that smaller and/or less common languages may well have an adequate supply of native English speaking translators.


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