Poll: How much of the work you receive is created by non-native speakers, in your opinion?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 23:22
SITE STAFF
Jun 25

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How much of the work you receive is created by non-native speakers, in your opinion?".

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 07:22
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Less than 10% Jun 25

I my opinion, this is a problem that affects mostly the English language! I also translate from French, Italian and Spanish and in over 40 years I can’t remember a single occasion when I thought that those texts were not written by a native speaker. I must say also that I have occasionally refused some English texts for lack of quality: I can’t translate what I can’t understand!

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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:22
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I don't know Jun 25

I've been translating for over 40 years, and there have been times when it appeared that the author was not a native speaker, but it would be impossible to put a percentage on it--or even know for sure.

I do sometimes edit texts written originally in English. I can detect a non-native speaker a mile away and it happens 90% of the time, especially with documents in international organizations. I can often tell that the writers think they are native speakers when in fact they are alingual, not bilingual.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Jun 25

Of the target or source language?
I live and work in Spain. Most - if not all - of the texts I have to translate from Spanish into English are written by non-native speakers of the latter.
Most of the revision work I do is on academic texts written in Engish by non-natives as well, although sometimes one or more of the author/researchers may be a "native " speaker of some variant of English, for example from Hong Kong, Australia or New Zealand, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom...
Variety is the spice of life


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EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:22
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
I can remember such an occasion, Jun 25

Teresa Borges wrote:

I my opinion, this is a problem that affects mostly the English language! I also translate from French, Italian and Spanish and in over 40 years I can’t remember a single occasion when I thought that those texts were not written by a native speaker.

in French, even several occasions, and it was awful. But it's mostly English, OK. I have three largish clients where this happens on a regular basis: affiliates of multinational companies using English as their communication language, while their parent companies are non-English - French, Italian, and Icelandic respectively. The French are the worst ones, the Icelanders are mostly OK. And then various Central-Europeans writing in English - aaarrrgggghhh!
Oh and - very often, I translate things that are written by native speakers for sure, but are worse than what would be written by non-natives. In all my source languages.

[Edited at 2017-06-25 11:05 GMT]


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 16:22
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
100% resounding NO! Jun 25

99.99% of the work I receive is translation from J to E. In the 32 years I have been translating, I have never received Japanese text written by a non-native speaker of Japanese. Nevertheless, being a native speaker of a source language does not necessarily mean that you are proficient in writing intelligible and logical text. Far from it, especially, in the case of the technical documents I translate.

Only very rarely ((un)likelihood of 00.01% or less) will I be asked to review the English of non-native speakers of English.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:22
Member (2007)
English
+ ...


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Maybe as much as 80% Jun 25

I'm really not sure what my current split is between translation (of texts by native French speakers) and revision of English texts. I certainly do a lot of editing work, and I specialise in polishing non-native English! It makes sense for someone who's lived in four EU countries (with four different official languages) and a long experience in EFL training.

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Alexandra Speirs  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:22
Italian to English
+ ...
Written by native speakers of source language Jun 25

As all my work is from Italian or French into English, it has all been written by native speakers of the source language.
Very rarely do I have texts written directly in English by a non-native speaker for me to check and clean up.


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Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:22
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
More than 40% Jun 26

In my pairs (EN-PT-EN) it's very common. For example, when someone has an original document in Chinese or Polish, and wishes to translate it to several languages, they can easily find an Chinese to English or Polish to English translator. But they'll have a pretty hard time finding a CH-PT or POL-PT translator, and when they do, it will be a lot more expensive than from English to any other language. So, what they obviously do is to pay someone to translate into English, and then distribute the English version to translate to the other languages.
You can be sure most documents from "harder" languages in your language were translated from the English translation, not from the original language.

P.S.: And, by the way, lots of English versions are translated from these languages by non-native English speakers too! That's because a Chinese or Polish translator who believes they are fluent in English will accpet CH-EN or POL-EN jobs for a lower price than an American or British. that way, you have an idea of the kind of translations that are all over the world, above all thanks to the Chinese (the Polish was just to give another example).


[Edited at 2017-06-26 01:04 GMT]


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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Beside some 90% RU-UA MT Jun 26

Although mostly correct and relatively coherent, there’re rather many English papers written by if not non-natives, then careless (very eccentric?) authors, who bubble in a sloppy and ‘unnaturally styleless’ manner.

They seem unable to decide for the most important ideas, can’t use literary devices properly (to balance words, sentences, and paragraphs), abuse the order and the structure, ignore the lexical competence (no quasi/synonyms/variety), misuse clichés, and so on.

Why, on the run, I also make mistakes, yet if a non-native like me can spot about 50% of the GSA (grammar and spellcheck-assisted) sources, then such papers are below par. On the other hand, it’s no big deal for a provisional translation)


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Jan Truper
Germany
Local time: 08:22
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
up to 10 % Jun 26

Mario Freitas wrote:

You can be sure most documents from "harder" languages in your language were translated from the English translation, not from the original language.

P.S.: And, by the way, lots of English versions are translated from these languages by non-native English speakers too!


This is true for game translations as well. Games originating in Asia (mostly Japan, China or South Korea) are usually translated into English first, and the various other languages then work from an English source text. Game developers and agencies worth their salt are coming to grips with the fact that the first translation needs to be done by native English speakers, but occasionally this is not the case.
And sometimes, game developers pressed for time try to concoct English texts themselves.

I have come across some horrible linguistic atrocities this way, often containing the classic stereotypical "R/L"-mix-up or completely nonsensical syntax. This is one of the reasons why transcreation can be a big part of game translations.


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