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Poll: Can you translate into your native language(s) at the same speed as into your non-native one(s)?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 13:02
SITE STAFF
Feb 24

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Can you translate into your native language(s) at the same speed as into your non-native one(s)?".

This poll was originally submitted by Elías Sauza. View the poll results »



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Angus Stewart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:02
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
No. I only translate into my native language Feb 24

At University the lecturers taught us that it is unethical to translate into one's non-native languages as one's command of those languages is by definition weaker and at the proofreading stage one would not have the same intuition to spot when one had made an error. Hence one would end up delivering an inferior quality service to one's clients. On account of this I concentrated exclusively on honing my skills to translate into my native language and use my writing skills in my non-native languages solely for the purpose of client communications.

Prior to attending University for my post-graduate translation degree, my first experience of translation came from translating a health and safety policy into one of my non-native languages for a charity that I was a trustee of at that time. From this experience, I can attest that I was much slower at translating into my non-native language than I am at translating into my native language since I had to labour over every translation choice. Admittedly, I might be able to work faster into my non-native languages now that I have gained more experience of translation per se, but based on this experience I decided that even if the ethical issue did not exist it would be uneconomical to translate into my non-native languages when I can translate at least twice as fast into my native language and hence earn twice as much over the same time.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nay, nay and thrice nay Feb 24

Angus Stewart wrote:

At University the lecturers taught us that it is unethical to translate into one's non-native languages ...



And so should common sense. Better to stick to what you know in your own native language rather than intruding on other people's turf.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 21:02
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No. I translate into my native language only. Feb 24

Anyway, my speed depends first of all on my mood (some days my fingers blunder across the keyboard), the source language (it is speedier to translate from French, Spanish or Italian into Portuguese than from English) and then the subject matter…

I must add that I lived in a French-speaking country for 30 years (I moved back to Portugal two years ago), I speak French fluently and I know I could do a more than passable translation into French, but for ethical reasons I choose not to...

[Edited at 2018-02-24 10:42 GMT]


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EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:02
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
Depends on the subject matter and the language pair Feb 24

There are subject matters that I know better in French and/or English than in Czech (and even some I have only translated FR/EN - EN/FR or BG/FR and don't know in CZ at all). And the pair is important - French to Czech is difficult, as the language structure is very different, English to French or vice-versa goes much faster. Not to speak of Romanian to French, which I seldom do, though - too much competition there.
And it also depends on the quality of the source - just translating some interviews into French, from respectivement Czech and Bulgarian - the BG/FR is faster, as the BG guy speaks well, while the CZ interviewee is an idiot.


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:02
Member (2012)
French to English
I only translate into my native language Feb 24

No matter how good I might think I am at French, I would not translate into that language, only into my own.

You can usually tell if someone is not writing in their non-native language. I see posts on these forums all the time by people who translate into English as well as their own native language, and there are nearly always errors and phrases that a native English speaker would simply never use.


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 05:02
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
No Feb 24

I translate into my native language only or I translate only into my native language.

not

I only translate into my native language.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:02
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It's a matter of honing skills Feb 24

Angus Stewart wrote:

At University the lecturers taught us that it is unethical to translate into one's non-native languages as one's command of those languages is by definition weaker and at the proofreading stage one would not have the same intuition to spot when one had made an error. Hence one would end up delivering an inferior quality service to one's clients. On account of this I concentrated exclusively on honing my skills to translate into my native language and use my writing skills in my non-native languages solely for the purpose of client communications.


Thinking it over, I didn't start translating professionally as a professional translator.

The year was 1973, I was a mechanical engineering sophomore, and my first internship assignment was to "translate" the installation, operation, maintenance, and parts manuals for that company's products. No, they were not home appliances, but large and complex rock and ore processing machines. That translation - as they called it - involved translating text (duh!), converting all measurements from inches, feet, gallons, psi, etc. into metric and replacing them in tables and (technical) drawings. reassembling all drawings from US 3rd quadrant to BR 1st quadrant projections, redrawing where necessary, and neatly assembling complete manuals (nowadays it would be 'DTP') with the assistance of two secretaries.

I spent almost ten years doing it, in a succession of three different companies, all subsidiaries of American groups in Brazil. Only then I began to widen my horizons, particularly after moving from that area (called Marketing Services) to Human Resources, where I had to deal with quite diversified subject areas in both languages.

Many years later I found copies of the first manuals I translated. Honestly, I blushed upon realizing that I was really good at it since day one. Wouldn't change anything there. However strictly technical translation is relatively easy, as long as one writes well, and is fully familiar with the subject matter at hand in both languages (that's why I don't translate technical medicine, for instance).

All right, all this is to say that in all that time, long before globalization, the Internet, etc. I had NO contact whatsoever with other professional translators. I misled myself into believing that any translator must be equally competent to translate in both directions within their chosen language pair.

This caused me to make two decisions:
a) From the very start, I always honed my skills to translate in both directions, though the demand for me to translate FROM my L1 (viz. PT > EN) was extremely rare then, if any; and
b) I'd definitely keep IT and FR out of my working pairs, as I wouldn't be good enough translating INTO either, I'd have to study each for a few more years. Ever since, I have restricted their use to my personal communication.

The consequences over the ensuing years were:
a) When I took the BR gov't exam for sworn translators (which requires translating and interpreting in both directions) in 1999, I did a veni, vidi, vici act, and passed, without any specific preparation; and
b) I often see people translating professionally in my chosen EN-PT pair with a considerably lesser knowledge of either - or both - languages than I had of IT/FR at the time I gave up on them.

My view on this is that the 'native speaker' attribute relies too much on the individual's personal back ground to be required as strictly as it is in the translation marketplace. I know people who speak two or more languages as 'natively' as any thoroughbred native, yet who are NOT translators. I know translators who WRITE in their L2 far better than most of its native speakers, and yet they won't translate into that language.

So my general conclusion is that a bilingual individual is someone capable of expressing their own ideas in two different languages, while a translator is a professional trained and capable of properly and accurately expressing someone else's ideas in another language, different from the one used to state them originally.

I consider myself a translator in the EN-PT pair, but a mere bilingual in IT and FR (plus ES, which I learned to speak later, though remaining illiterate in it).

If the must-be-native-speaker requirement for translators held water so tightly as some people tend to think, we wouldn't allow humans to pilot our aircraft. Upon boarding a jet liner, one might see a duck and a pigeon at the cockpit, though I think that kiskadees excel in flight accuracy.

Last but not least, getting back to the OP, I was surprised to notice that - thanks to the experience accrued - in a few specific subject areas/job types, I happen to translate FASTER into my L2, as EN is a more synthetic language than PT - my L1. Considering the praise I received on these, no, I didn't do a sloppy job, in spite of the haste.

[Edited at 2018-02-24 11:32 GMT]


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Actually Feb 24

Julian Holmes wrote:

I translate into my native language only or I translate only into my native language.

not

I only translate into my native language.


I translate into my only native language!


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Victoria Britten  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:02
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
Definitely slower into non-native Feb 24

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:

You can usually tell if someone is not writing in their non-native language. I see posts on these forums all the time by people who translate into English as well as their own native language, and there are nearly always errors and phrases that a native English speaker would simply never use.


I once did a serious translation into what is usually my source language : an unsigned one, as a semi-favour (i.e. paid well below my usual rate), for people to whom I had clearly explained that the result would be likely to contain imperfections. They were (apparently) happy (enough) with the result, but it took FOR EVER, partly because I simply don't write French often enough to have the speed and reflexes and partly because I am good enough at it to know when something isn't exactly right but not necessarily able to fix it (at least to my own satisfaction...). All in all, not an exercise I will be hurrying to repeat.


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:02
Member (2012)
French to English
. Feb 24

Julian Holmes wrote:

I translate into my native language only or I translate only into my native language.

not

I only translate into my native language.


This is a prime example of where a familiarity with the subtleties of one's native language comes in handy.

My placement of "only" is commonly used and understood. I don't think it could be misconstrued in this context to mean anything other than what was intended.

I tend to agree with Fowler on this issue: referring to a sentence such as 'He only died a week ago', he considered that "since the risk of misunderstanding [is] chimerical, it is not worth while to depart from the natural'. He thought it reasonable that "a reader should be supposed capable of supplying the decisive intonation" to bring out the meaning, and argued strongly that only "one of the modern precisians who have more zeal than discretion" would wish to write 'He died only a week ago.'[Edited at 2018-02-24 12:31 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-02-24 12:31 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-02-24 12:32 GMT]


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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Yes! Feb 24

Chris S wrote:

Julian Holmes wrote:

I translate into my native language only or I translate only into my native language.

not

I only translate into my native language.


I translate into my only native language!


And into the language that actually is your native language. Not one that is listed on Proz under the guise of wishful thinking or as wilful deception.


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 05:02
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Actually Feb 24

Chris S wrote:

Julian Holmes wrote:

I translate into my native language only or I translate only into my native language.

not

I only translate into my native language.


I translate into my only native language!


I wanted to say "Only I translate into my native language."


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:02
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Native language only Feb 24

Exclusively into my native language.

I can smell a text written/translated by a non-native speaker a mile away.

The only people I know who got away with writing into a language other than their native tongue were Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov.


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Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:02
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
No, Feb 24

but if you have lived and gone to school in several different countries it might not be so obvious, which one is your native language, especially if your home language were different from the current surroundings.

And one more thing: Lots of native speakers are poor writers, including English speakers. (Not to mention the different varieties of a language).


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