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Should “native language” claims be verified?
Thread poster: XXXphxxx
XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:35
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jun 21, 2012

We’ve all seen it: people who claim to be native in more than one language but whose command of English (for example) is tenuous at best. A language doesn’t become your “native language” just because you’ve studied it or lived in a particular country, even if for a number of years. The dictionary definition of “native language” is “the language that a person has acquired from earliest childhood”. Bogus claims about native language status actually constitute deception. These people are deceiving outsourcers who might choose to place a job with them based on this claim as well as their colleagues who may select their KudoZ answers based on the fact that they are a native speaker of the target and know what they’re talking about (then again, this issue wouldn’t arise if questions were only placed on KudoZ by people translating into their native language). Should greater controls be put in place to cut down on the number of false claims?

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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:35
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Mais oui! Jun 21, 2012

I'd be glad to be verified, as in fact I am not, (see my 2 languages in grey)

I did not indicate English as my native language, so... am I forgiven in case of mistakes? I hope so...

Regards

Ops mistake just corrected... sorry

[Edited at 2012-06-21 13:01 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:35
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I strongly agree.... Jun 21, 2012

... and would add that I find the dictionary definition of “native language” unsatisfactory for our present purposes.

A more useful definition would be “the language that a person has acquired from earliest childhood *** and that they have continued to use on a daily basis***”

Clearly if a person was born in country X, learned a child's Xian language, and then went to live in country Y, never again speaking Xian to anyone outside their immediate family and for no serious purpose, then their claim to have Xian as their "native language" is to say the least questionable, for translation purposes.

[Edited at 2012-06-21 13:06 GMT]


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Rob Grayson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:35
French to English
Spot on Jun 21, 2012

Lisa, you're absolutely right that it's deception. When a member says on their profile page that they are a native speaker of English (or whatever language) while, in fact, English is a language they have learned rather than acquired naturally from childhood, that is deception. In fact, to call a spade a spade, in my book it's called lying.

I think many such members would defend themselves by saying that they use the term "native" to mean "native proficiency" rather than "natively acquired". This is disingenuous to say the least. Firstly, it's a flagrant misuse of the word "native". Secondly, I don't care how good your command of a learned language may be; it cannot be as good as a native speaker's innate command. My French is very good, to the extent that when in France, I have often been taken for a French person. But there is no way I have anything close to the innate reflexes and "feel" for French that I have for English.

I believe this misuse of the term "native", and its passive encouragement by the site administrators, has been one of the key factors in opening the floodgates to the stream of low quality garbage with which the site has increasingly been awash in recent years.


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:35
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
ok Jun 21, 2012

But the fact that only if you claim 1 native language it appears in yellow, means in my opinion that people claiming more than 1 are not verified.. Not?

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Vikki Pendleton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:35
Member
German to English
+ ...
I also agree Jun 21, 2012

In fact I was a little amazed the other day to be registering with an agency that allowed two native languages and only one source language, as it's "very unusual to be of equal competence in two language pairs". I'm still wondering if I mis-read that*...

I understand that for some rare language pairs people may need to translate out of their native language but there should be some sort of test/verification of the quality of any language claimed to be native.

*(but no, I didn't: Comme il est tout à fait exceptionnel d’avoir deux couples de langues avec le même niveau de maîtrise, indiquez en un seul. Si vous avez deux langues maternelles vous pouvez soumettre deux fois votre CV.)


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:35
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agree with you Tom Jun 21, 2012

Tom in London wrote:

A more useful definition would be “the language that a person has acquired from earliest childhood *** and that they have continued to use on a daily basis***”



It was an attempt not to be too ambitious with my wish-list


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:35
French to English
An old git writes... Jun 21, 2012

(by which I mean me, not any contributor in this thread)

... this has been discussed before.....
http://www.proz.com/forum/kudoz/55617-born_again_and_self_proclaimed_natives.html

Quite some time ago, in fact. Not sure anything changed then. Am damn sure nothing is going to change now.

It is, naturally, being this perky and optimistic that gets me out of bed in the morning.

I have no wish to dissuade anybody (as if I could) who wants to have a little rant or vent or carp from doing so. And I'm not hinting that using forum search might be useful before starting new threads on old topics (or rather, perhaps, to see if a topic is an old topic!). Just that it probably wouldn't do to get too worked up about potential improvements, no matter how warranted.
Yours, resignedly....


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:35
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
??? Jun 21, 2012

Vikki Pendleton wrote:
Comme il est tout à fait exceptionnel d’avoir deux couples de langues avec le même niveau de maîtrise.)



Two pairs with the same target language an exception? I strongly strongly disagree, or perhaps you are joking and I didn't get it...

While it is an exception to be native in 2 languages, 2 pairs are absolutely not an exception.


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Rob Grayson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:35
French to English
Resignation abounds Jun 21, 2012

Charlie Bavington wrote:

I have no wish to dissuade anybody (as if I could) who wants to have a little rant or vent or carp from doing so. And I'm not hinting that using forum search might be useful before starting new threads on old topics (or rather, perhaps, to see if a topic is an old topic!). Just that it probably wouldn't do to get too worked up about potential improvements, no matter how warranted.
Yours, resignedly....


FWIW, my post should definitely be read with a resigned tone. I have no hope that anything will improve around here. I let go of any such hope a long time ago.


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Vikki Pendleton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:35
Member
German to English
+ ...
@ Prof. Angie G. Jun 21, 2012

Prof. Angie G. wrote

Two pairs with the same target language an exception? I strongly strongly disagree, or perhaps you are joking and I didn't get it...


No, I completely agree with you. I was gobsmacked to find that on the site I was registering with! That's a genuine excerpt from the registration page of a well respected Blue Board outsourcer (naming no names, obviously).


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:35
Hebrew to English
Breaking their own rules..... Jun 21, 2012

I agree that claiming a non-native language as native is tantamount to fraud. By claiming this, you are misrepresenting yourself AND your abilities. And guess what, ProZ has a rule for this:

Misrepresentation and fraud are forbidden. It is possible to use ProZ.com without disclosing your name. However, impersonating others, using assumed identities, or otherwise attempting to deceive others to any degree will not be tolerated.


http://www.proz.com/siterules/general/6#6

"Attempting to deceive others to any degree will not be tolerated". Given the sheer abundance of deception regarding native languages on this site, it's hard to believe that this rule is ever enforced.

If I went and tweaked my profile to add Hebrew as a native language (a blatant lie, I started learning it at 14), then this is deception. I'm lying. I'd be misrepresenting myself and my abilities (I'd no doubt start getting enquiries which require native Hebrew).

I'm just not sure why they are getting away with it? Is it sheer numbers? The fact that so many flout the same rule that they just don't bother anymore?


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:35
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I agree there should be verification... Jun 21, 2012

...of claimed native language proficiency, but the actual process of providing and challenging such verification would seem problematic. After all, are the staff to demand sealed copies of birth certificates; primary, secondary, and university transcripts; proof of residence? I don't think anyone is interested in paying doubled or tripled membership fees to underwite this kind of bureaucracy.

A more realistic (but also not unproblematic) idea would be to initially accept all claims at face value, but then accept challenges to claims of native language proficiency from other site members on the basis of Kudoz and forum contributions. Moderators could perhaps also be empowered to make (or at least corroborate) such challenges.

The rules could be made such that the evidence indicating that an individual is not native would have to be overwhelming. While not catching all who make such a fraudulent claim, this kind of rule should identify at least the most egregious violators, and thus improve the professional profile of the site as a whole.

Once again, the root of this problem (and of nearly all the other substantial concerns regarding proz.com) is the site's radical open-door policy, which allows any and all comers who set up a profile and/or pony up the membership fees to present themselves as professional translators. If everyone were really professional, then no such thing as the "Certified P" program would be necessary. Think about it.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:35
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I deplore this resignation Jun 21, 2012

In life generally I deplore resignation, and particularly so in this case. Let me reassure colleagues that we are not alone; the best clients and outsourcers will be well aware (if only by reading how people use their "native" language in these forums) who's on the level and who isn't when a translator claims that language X is their native tongue. There's a fluency people have in their native language that can't be faked by others.

[Edited at 2012-06-21 13:36 GMT]


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:35
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@ Charlie Jun 21, 2012

I see little point in reviving ancient threads, for two reasons:

1) the majority of those members/participants are no longer around
2) anyone wishing to read/comment would be put off having to wade through pages and pages of what has gone before.


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