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Poll: Do your speaking and writing skills in your source language(s) differ?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 05:41
SITE STAFF
Oct 5, 2010

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do your speaking and writing skills in your source language(s) differ?".

This poll was originally submitted by Constance de Crayencour. View the poll results »



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Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:41
Member (2008)
English to Italian
other Oct 5, 2010

It depends on the subject

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Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:41
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
Mistaken Oct 5, 2010

I think I voted to quickly and chose the wrong answer. I chose "writing better than speaking" because I was thinking mainly of English. But it's rather the opposite in Russian, and my German is well balanced. So I should have chosen "Other".

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Alexander Kondorsky  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:41
English to Russian
+ ...
It would be more interesting to ask this question in regard to target language Oct 5, 2010

My writing and speaking skills in my source (native) language are absolutely equal (and I don't see why they should or could be different), which is natural, but in my target language my writing skill is TREMENDOUSLY higher.

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Michaël Temmerman  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 06:41
English to Dutch
+ ...
Other Oct 5, 2010

It depends on the language.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:41
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Oct 5, 2010

They are 2 different things. In the first place, spoken language is usually better acquired than learnt, or a mixture of both, whereas the opposite is probably true for written registers (IMO).

In my main source language, Castilian Spanish, I have an almost bilingual level, and a wider vocabulary than many natives due to the many areas I have worked in. I can sometimes pass for a native, although my accent or occasional typical"guiri" slip-ups may give the game away.
I am less confident about my written Spanish, although it gets better every day, nonetheless I always get a professional native colleague to revise any translations into Spanish I do, which isn't often, maybe once or twice a year. She also checks my e-mails and reminders to clients (and tones down my often blunt approach).

In general, the standards of spoken English in the UK are on the decline in many sectors of the population, and education nowadays appears to be a pale shadow of its former self. I am often astounded by the lack of general knowledge and language skills of native speakers. As someone commented the other day on a forum, many foreign students of English actually have a better knowledge of grammar rules and the written word in general than many natives, although in most cases their grasp of colloquial English has to be acquired rather than learnt.


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 14:41
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends on the language Oct 5, 2010

Like many of my colleagues, I vary, hence other.

Written better than spoken in German, spoken more fluent (not accurate!) than written in French and Italian. Spoken Japanese definitely better than written, but pretty abysmal anyway!


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Alison Sabedoria  Identity Verified
France
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Mixed Oct 5, 2010

Like Neil, I find that native speakers are often impressed by the richness of my French vocabulary and the general way in which I express myself, aided by my "singer's ear", but I still mess up! In rapid every-day conversation, I'm so concerned with expressing the content that I don't always pay enough attention to the means of delivery. I often fare better when speaking in public, as the "professional head" takes over.

My writing is not always helped by my love of Dylan Thomas: I have a tendency to want to push the French language where it really doesn't want to go - the cause of protracted nit-picking discussions on etymology and usage with my (very educated, patient and understanding) boyfriend!

Just like learning an instrument, the more I improve, the more I still have to learn!

[Edited at 2010-10-05 10:00 GMT]


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Sara Bollati  Identity Verified
New Zealand
Local time: 00:41
Italian to English
+ ...
depends but mainly no they don't differ Oct 5, 2010

because I always think in the target language. right now I am thinking in English as I use it to write but if I were to translate in Spanish I would think in Spanish. Somehow it makes sense to me. I too answered to quickly. I should have used "other" to allow the different language. I instinctively chose no. : )

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Sara Bollati  Identity Verified
New Zealand
Local time: 00:41
Italian to English
+ ...
Agree Oct 5, 2010

[quote] I am often astounded by the lack of general knowledge and language skills of native speakers.
Sadly this is very true. If you have studies a language it is usually more in depth than people for whom that language is their native. Times and again I see examples of this. Which begs the question: are we as translators the best places to really know a language, whether we are native of it or we have learnt it? certainly another discussion, still interesting nonetheless.


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Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:41
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
Hi Alexander Oct 5, 2010

Alexander Kondorsky wrote:

My writing and speaking skills in my source (native) language are absolutely equal (and I don't see why they should or could be different), which is natural, but in my target language my writing skill is TREMENDOUSLY higher.
For most of the translators, the source language is NOT the native language, that's why it could or even should be different. Maybe you got confused? In any case, even if you translate into a foreign language, I think you should understand this question as pertaining to your foreign language.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:41
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Depends Oct 5, 2010

In my main source language, Danish, they are about equal - that is my language of habitual usage.

As for the two other languages I occasionally translate from - wait for it - I neither speak nor write them. This is also very typical of many Scandinavians who have one of these three languages as their native language. It is fairly easy to learn to read the other two, and learn to avoid the false friends.

With some practice it is not impossible to learn to understand the other two when spoken, though I have trouble with it. I often ask Norwegians and Swedes to speak English on the phone or send me an e-mail. They sometimes have trouble understanding my spoken Danish.

But I can write Danish as well as many natives, so mail exchanges go fine in alternating Danish and Norwegian or Swedish!


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Cristina Heraud-van Tol  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 07:41
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
No Oct 5, 2010

No, I believe I have a very good command in both. And this is a very interesting question, because as far as I'm concerned, these two are strongly related. In all the cases I know, people here who try to utter some words in English and don't know anything about grammar, expressions, have a very limited vocabulary, etc., are also very bad translators.

I suppose that exceptions to the rule could be dumb (mute) people who are unable to talk but could deliver a good product.


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Michaël Temmerman  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 06:41
English to Dutch
+ ...
speaking and writing has nothing to do with being good or not Oct 5, 2010

Cristina Heraud-van Tol wrote:

In all the cases I know, people here who try to utter some words in English and don't know anything about grammar, expressions, have a very limited vocabulary, etc., are also very bad translators.




I really have to disagree. We must distinguish between passive understanding of a language and the ability to use a language actively. One can perfectly understand every single word and the exact meaning of what is being said or written in a given language without actually being able to actively use that language without making (hardly) any mistakes.
Just like being fluent in a language alone doesn't make you a good translator, not being fluent alone doesn't make you a bad translator.


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:41
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
In one case no; in the other, yes Oct 6, 2010

In Portuguese, my strongest second language (which I spoke at home for many years), I am equally fluent in writing and speaking; in Spanish I speak much better than I write.

My comprehension is about the same in both. I "get" the nuances in Portuguese better, but I miss some of the slang that young people use on FB and Twitter. At the same time, about 75% of my working experience has been from Spanish, for which the international organizations have a much greater demand, and all those years of exposure have given me a high level of understanding.


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