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Poll: The best translator is the one who translates into his/her mother tongue.
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 10:41
SITE STAFF
Sep 1, 2009

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "The best translator is the one who translates into his/her mother tongue.".

This poll was originally submitted by Luminita Potorac

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 19:41
English to French
+ ...
Completely agree Sep 1, 2009

but that is not the only condition!

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danya
Local time: 21:41
English to Russian
+ ...
not necessarily Sep 1, 2009

Surely there's no hard and fast rule. In some narrow fields it's the experience, the knowledge of the subject and the jargon that matter most.

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Evelyn Leenen-van Dijk  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:41
English to Dutch
+ ...
AND... Sep 1, 2009

I would say The best translator is the one who translates into his/her mother tongue AND lives in the country where his/her mother tongue is spoken.

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Sandra Emberger
Germany
Local time: 19:41
English to German
+ ...
totally disagree Sep 1, 2009

The best translator is the one who can do thorough research and is an expert in his/her field.

It is a plus to be a native, but it doesn't necessarily make a good translator.


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Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 19:41
Member (2008)
English to Italian
partially Sep 1, 2009

I have met translators who live abroad and can translate perfectly both ways.
It requires very good linguistic skills, but it happens.


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Miranda Drew  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 19:41
Italian to English
Agree, but... Sep 1, 2009

Yes, it is best to translate into your mother tongue, but I have had Italian colleagues that were amazing at translating into (financial) English.

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 18:41
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Nowadays... Sep 1, 2009

... it is not necessary to live in the country where his/her mother tongue is spoken, but what is fundamental, in my opinion, is to be in constant contact with that country (through newspapers, literature, radio, TV, etc.). I have been living in Belgium for 25 years now, but all my family live in my native country, and I do visit them a lot (8/9 times in a year: that's why a love beeing a freelancer, my office travels with me!). Anyway, I would not dream of translating into French!

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Giuliana Buscaglione  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 19:41
Member (2001)
German to Italian
+ ...
All have a mother tongue ;-) Not all are best translators Sep 1, 2009

being able to translate has nothing to do with mother tongue. Of course, it is easier and less time consuming to translate into one's own mother tongue, but this doesn't mean that any native with some 2nd 3rd passive language skills knows how to translate a text.

I find the wording of this question quite misleading

Giuliana

PS For the record, I never translate out of my mother tongue

[Edited at 2009-09-01 11:15 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:41
Spanish to English
+ ...
Obviously Sep 1, 2009

... and anyone who disagrees is obviously working into other languages than their own MT and merely defending their own corner.
Non native-speaker translations are particularly rife in my pair (Spanish-English) and, while understanding the need/demand, I do perceive non-native translators as a threat, in my view undesirable competition.
The only way I consider working into anything other than my own L1 (which I occasionally do) is in collaboration with a qualified native speaker of the target language who oversees and checks the whole process and product. This is the only way it can work for me...
As for translation degrees and "official" or "sworn" translators, I have seen little evidence that certifications/qualifications like these are any guarantee of quality, whatever the MT of the translator.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 18:41
Dutch to English
+ ...
Not necessarily Sep 1, 2009

It's just one side of the coin.

FWIW, I adhere to the native language principle, and for good reason -- namely, I know my own limitations -- but I'm not as close-minded as to think that native-level translators with the required subject knowledge cannot be the best choice for a specific job.

There are shades of grey in life, it's not all black and white.

The problem is, of course, that many non-natives consider themselves to be native-level when they are clearly not, but that's a topic for another thread.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Edited at 2009-09-01 12:46 GMT]


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 19:41
English to French
+ ...
Agree Sep 1, 2009

neilmac wrote:

As for translation degrees and "official" or "sworn" translators, I have seen little evidence that certifications/qualifications like these are any guarantee of quality, whatever the MT of the translator.


It takes more than a translation degree or other certification (and translating into your MT) to make a GOOD translator, just as it takes more than knowing how to read and write to be a GOOD writer.


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Reed James
Chile
Local time: 15:41
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
Some of the best Kudoz answers come from non-natives Sep 1, 2009

I have noticed that when browsing Kudoz answers, some of the best answers come from non-native speakers of my target language, English? Let us not forget that when we learn a foreign language, we pick up on things that are invisible to native speakers.

As for living in your target language country being the best setup, I'm not so sure. If you are a native speaker of your target language and you grew up and went to school in English, you have a built-in intuition about English that will never go away. If you are not immersed in your source language, how do you know that you understand your source text correctly? It undoubtedly helps to be immersed in your source language so you can develop a "pseudo-intuition".

Many great English language authors lived in non-English speaking countries like France. Has anyone found fault with say, Hemingway's English as a result?

I have seen and heard some non-native speakers of English whose English I envy. There are some amazing people out there!


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Jerzy Czopik  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:41
Member (2003)
Polish to German
+ ...
We all have a tongue :) Sep 1, 2009

And not every of us is a translator.
What is the best translator? How do you define that?
Being a native speaker of a particular language does not make you a good translator - does not even make you an acceptable translator.
And living in the target country? Well, not that bad - but how can you ensure you understand your source language at least as well? More often than not I see translations which are not perfect, because the translator, who is native in the target language, did missuntderstand or missinterpret the source.
So I disagree.


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Jerzy Czopik  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:41
Member (2003)
Polish to German
+ ...
I beg to disagree Sep 1, 2009

neilmac wrote:

... and anyone who disagrees is obviously working into other languages than their own MT and merely defending their own corner.

And I do not defend my own corner.
It is as simple as that: being native in a language does not give you the experience in the field of what you translate.
So the best translator would be, who:

  • is native or nearly native in the language he translates into
  • is native or nearly native in the source language (often more important, that the target, as we as translators do have to produce an error-free text from an error distorted source)
  • knows the field of his translation very well


First then the one can be a good translator.


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