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Poll: Have you ever learnt a language (L2) that proved to be useless in your job as a translator?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 14:20
SITE STAFF
Aug 23, 2016

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever learnt a language (L2) that proved to be useless in your job as a translator?".

This poll was originally submitted by Alessandra Meregaglia. View the poll results »



[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2016-08-25 12:38 GMT]


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, but ... Aug 23, 2016

"Learned" is relative. I had 4 years of French in college, and I passed the tests to work in the inter-American international organizations, all of which require translators to have command of Spanish, English, Portuguese, and French, but I don't actively work in the language. I have done it in a pinch and not fallen on my face, but I'm not comfortable doing it - especially whene there are already so many good translators from French into English.

[Edited at 2016-08-23 09:16 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes Aug 23, 2016

My degree is in Russian and French, but I never work in the former and only rarely nowadays in the latter, so they are both pretty rusty. My working source language is Castilian Spanish, which I only studied formally as a very basic "filler" beginners' class in my final year. I later acquired the language (to virtually bilingual level, so I'm told) dynamically by moving to Spain ... and staying

I also studied German at school for 5 years and my comprehension is good, but I never work with that either.



[Edited at 2016-08-23 09:38 GMT]


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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
I lived in Italy and am fluent in Italian, but... Aug 23, 2016

I often debate adding Italian as one of my source languages. But with the 3 languages that I do translate, I can immediately recognise errors in the source text, which I feel is an essential skill. My Italian is not at that level, which is why I don't translate it professionally.

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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:20
English to Japanese
+ ...
Yes, quite a few Aug 23, 2016

I've tried Arabic, Czech, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian (Bokmal), Romanian, Turkish, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Portuguese which all didn't become my working pairs.

As to Arabic, I was discouraged after a few months due to the lack of no alphabets expressly written in the words except of aleph. As to Russian, I can still read them, but understand very little and got discouraged from continuing learning due to the the difficulties of the declensions of nouns. Portuguese, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian into my native language disappeared from my working pairs because I rarely got any jobs (maybe one inquiry in three years or so) and became rusty.

[Edited at 2016-08-24 06:05 GMT]


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 22:20
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes Aug 23, 2016

I learned Italian for a few years, but it’s my fourth language and lately work in this combination has become so scarce that I no longer feel comfortable translating it. It’s a pity! Over the years, I also tried to learn German, Swedish and Greek but by lack of time (working two jobs and raising a family) I had to remain at less than beginners’ level…

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Diana Coada  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:20
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Yes Aug 23, 2016

I used to speak Russian, I had 9 years of French back in school and my degree included Spanish, but none of these are my working languages, unfortunately.

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Alessandra Meregaglia  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:20
Member (2012)
English to Italian
+ ...
Thank you! Aug 23, 2016

How interesting! Thank you for sharing your experience. I am glad to hear from you, dear colleagues

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:20
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes, three of them Aug 23, 2016

I began translating professionally in 1973, long before Internet came to be. This led me to firmly believe - for no specific reason - that nobody should translate FROM a language they weren't equally prepared to translate INTO. Of course, my all-local demand throughout these decades before globalization was 98% from my chosen working language, English, into my truly native Portuguese.

Nevertheless, thanks to that unsubstantiated principle, I made a constant effort to develop my writing in English, so I could translate in reverse gear as naturally as a tram goes back on its tracks. This paid off in 1999, when I took the Brazilian government exam for sworn translators and passed.

Yet I gave up on translating from Italian and French, which I had studied as a teenager for 3 and 4 years, respectively, and still speak rather fluently. I felt sure that I'd have to top these studies to 7 years each to begin translating. To my dismay, I often see nowadays people translating from English with a much lesser knowledge of it than I have of these two.

This, however, did not prevent me from translating - when I had to - one 200-page technical manual from Italian, and two thin manuals from French.

In the 1980s, as a full-time employee, I organized and ran four international meetings in Brazil, where most of the attendees came from an array of Spanish-speaking LatAm countries. After them, I organized and ran one such event, mostly for Brazilians - in Argentina. This led me to learn (spoken only) Spanish by osmosis, however it's my very personal mix of about a dozen or more variants of it. I speak it with an impressive fluency, however being completely illiterate in it.

The brighter side is that while I only translate between EN-PT, I can (and do) time-spot video subtitles involving any language pair among EN-PT-IT-FR-ES.


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Katrin Bosse  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:20
Member (2009)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Yes Aug 23, 2016

French. I was quite proficient, read it easily, spoke it fluently, even wrote my diary in French, but then in my early twenties, Dutch came along and living in Amsterdam and after that, having moved back to Germany, studying it, so that French ended up on a very remote back bench.

I am able to reactivate it to a certain degree when in the country, although, bar spending long months among French speaking people, I will never again be as fluent as I was in my late teens. Kind of sad, actually.

And I had quite a bit of Latin in secondary school which has helped me enormously with any language I learned.

Edited to add:

I forgot: at uni, I had one year of Greek but couldn't keep it up alongside my two working languages (English & Dutch) and having to work to sustain myself. I still know the alphabet and can decipher/pronounce the script, without having a clue what's been said, though, - apart from being able to order a coffee but that, as probably many a linguist prides him-/herself, I can do in three other foreign languages, too.

[Bearbeitet am 2016-08-23 18:35 GMT]


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:20
Member
Italian to English
Yes Aug 23, 2016

My degree was in Italian and German: I began learning German at high school and only picked up Italian at university, but I ended up moving to Italy and it became my primary language. I love German dearly as a language, but it needs a lot of work to keep up, and I have reluctantly let it go in favour of Italian; I prefer concentrating on one language and doing it well. I have done a few very straightforward German texts in my time, but nothing complex or technical.

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Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
German Aug 23, 2016

I studied German through high school and university, where it was my language of "concentration." I was already bilingual in Spanish, with decent French, and I was trying to add a third language to the mix. Unfortunately, I never traveled to or lived in any German-speaking country, and once I moved to a rural area, I didn't run into German speakers that I could chat with. So, after a few years of keeping up the language by reading, I more or less let it fade away. The only time I used it was when I discovered a couple of paragraphs in the language in a document I was translating from Spanish. I translated it, but alerted the PM that it would need a good proofreading. After that he tried to get me to translate from DE, but I declined. I really have no sense of the cultural reality of those countries, so despite being able to decipher sentences in German, any translation I submitted would be exceedingly tone deaf.

P.S. It's my favorite of all the languages, though. All my instructors were demanding, passionate teachers, and inspired my enthusiasm for the literature, culture, philosophy, and even the linguistics.

[Edited at 2016-08-23 13:01 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-08-23 13:03 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-08-23 13:04 GMT]


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Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:20
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
Yes Aug 23, 2016

I speak German and French quite well, but my grammar is not perfect and I do not work in those professionally.

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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:20
Member
English to French
Yes Aug 23, 2016

For practical reasons, evening classes in Spanish and Moroccan Arabic, and Macedonian self-taught. And I can make myself sound clever being able to decipher 3 alphabets.
My Arabic knowledge is useless away from a food market, but my Macedonian is OK enough to get by. I speak, listen to and read Spanish almost every day, but not fluently enough to think of translating from it.
Going back in time when refrigerators were shorter than me and family cars weighed around one ton, I also learned German in secondary school, but I never had the opportunity to really speak it. It's long gone, although it would be easy to recover just spending a year in Germany. I also learned Latin for a few years, but I won't live in Vatican to refresh it.

Philippe


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Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:20
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes Aug 23, 2016

I only work in the PT-EN and EN-PT pairs. I also learned Spanish and French to a decent level, and German and Arabic to basic levels, non of which to a level that would allow me to use them professionally or even fluently. But they have certainly been useful to me professionally in the pairs I work with, as any language would. The more you learn, the better profesisonal you are, be it in languages or any other field.

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