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Add "degree of nativeness" to the native language search
Thread poster: Samuel Murray

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Jun 25, 2012

Here's another crazy suggestion for the "native language" problem.

First, let us agree that most translators who want to lie about it will always find ways to lie about it and to deceive any verification process. So ultimately it has to be based on the honour system.

Second, this idea is based on the fact that while not everyone has the same definition of "native", most people do have similar definitions of it.

My idea is to supplement the strict "either fully native or not native at all" idea with something called degrees of nativeness (of whatever you want to call it). In other words, the label in searches, KudoZ and jobs posts would not only ask "native" but also ask "degree of nativeness", on a scale of 0 to 10.

In searches, if "native" is not selected, "degree of nativeness" is greyed out. If "native" is selected, the default option in "degree of nativeness" would be e.g. "5" (since very few people would have a degree of "10"), but the searcher may set it higher or lower.

Here is how it works:

When a translator fills in his profile, and selects a native language, he is asked to select YES/NO to ten questions that generally relate to the various beliefs that translators have about native language. These questions would not apply to all of languages, but only to declared native language(s).

The questions that I suggest, are:

* This is the language that I identify with as "my language".
* This is the language that other people think is "my language".
* This is the language that I speak and write best.

* This is the language that I spoke as a child.
* This is the language in which I did most of my school.
* This is the language in which I wrote my college exams.

* This is the language that I use the most.
* This is the language that my parents used the most.
* I have lived for more than 3/4 of my life in a country where this language is used the most.

* If I were to visit a country where this language is used the most, any school teacher who speak this language most would regard me as a native speaker.

So if the translator selects 7 of these, then he gets a degree of nativeness of "7" out of 10. It would not matter which 7 he chooses. Rather few people who currently claim native language would actually get a full 10.

I would get "9" for my main language on that scale, and if I were to declare my second language as a native language (which I don't), I would get "3". What would you get?

Do you think this system would be simple enough to implement, yet reasonably fair to both people who believe nativeness is based on competence and those who don't, and equally useful to clients who actually visit translators' profile pages and those who don't?

Samuel

(now I have to get back to work)


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 22:15
Chinese to English
Nicely non-coercive Jun 25, 2012

I would support it on a provisional basis to see if it made a dent in the problem.

 

Natalia Pedrosa  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:15
Member (2012)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good point, but I'd change a few suggestions Jun 25, 2012

Such as "I have studied this language for more than 20 years" and "I communicate better in this language", for instance. Then I'd get a deserved 4.icon_wink.gif

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
Too specific Jun 25, 2012

I take issue with the point about living in my birth country for "more than 3/4 of my life". It might be OK for you young whippersnappers, but the more seasoned among us may have decide to "git while the gittin's good" half a lifetime ago without losing any of our original language skills.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:15
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Broadly agree Jun 25, 2012

I score on ALL TEN countsicon_biggrin.gif, having been 100% English in England until the age of 38, and would score a resounding ONE for native French (which I'm not), so it works for me.

Of course, it needs some tweaking. For example, I think the reference to parents should be avoided (how about all those people who only had one, or whose "parents" changed through remarriage?). I would prefer * This is the language that I used the most at home during my childhood.

I don't think the suggestion from tseliot about years of studies would work too well - it discriminates against those natives who left school and learnt translation "on the job". I can't say I have spent much time at all "studying English" - just a couple of hours a week through school and then some at EFL teacher training. The English, for better or worse, don't really study the language all that much. On the other hand, I've been studying French for more than 20 years all told, and got practically nowhere!icon_wink.gif

I really think that might work, Samuel. Perhaps now we'll get somewhere!

Sheila

Edited to say: Hang on a mo! If I left the UK at the age of 38 and I'm now 56, I wasn't there 75%, was I? If that takes a point away, then that's absurd - 38 years is a hell of a long time, IMO.

[Edited at 2012-06-25 16:49 GMT]


 

XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:15
Portuguese to English
+ ...
9/10 Jun 25, 2012

Like Sheila I also fail on the residency issue but otherwise, yes, also broadly agree. Anything is better than the current mess.

 

Werner Maurer  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
Take me, for example Jun 25, 2012

My best languages are English, Spanish, and German, in that order. Yet my native language is German, having spoken nothing else for the first three years of my life.

Up until maybe half a year ago, my command of Spanish was as good as any native (IMHO), and I even used to translate into Spanish because I lived in Mexico - even though it was all built on high school Spanish which I learned at the age of 19. Now my German is coming back a mile a minute (I live in a mostly German-speaking environment) and I'm even doing German to English translations again.

So now my "native" language is...

...anybody's guess.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Everyone so far Jun 25, 2012

Wow, I deliberately did not look at this thread for the whole day because I thought it would be flames, flames and more flames, but I'm surprised by the reaction.

tseliot wrote:
Such as (1) "I have studied this language for more than 20 years" and (2) "I communicate better in this language", for instance.


1. The problem with using a number with studying is that different countries count "study" years differently. Also, different people use the word "study" itself differently (e.g. including or excluding school years). Also, I would interpret "study" to mean formal education and not simply keeping your skills sharp on your own, but others might use the word differently, no?

2. To communicate better in the language is the same as #3, isn't it? "This is the language that I speak and write best."

neilmac wrote:
I take issue with the point about living in my birth country for "more than 3/4 of my life". It might be OK for you young whippersnappers, but the more seasoned among us may have decide to "git while the gittin's good" half a lifetime ago without losing any of our original language skills.


Yes, that is a difficult one to write out fairly. I do want to include something about length of time in the native country versus length of time in the current country. Don't you agree that that does have an influence on most people's fluency in their native language, especially if they've integrated into their new country of residence? Of course, one would find exceptional translators who have both integrated into their new environments and maintained perfect capability in their native languages, but on average I'm inclined to think otherwise. Besides, it's only 1 point out of 10.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
For example, I think the reference to parents should be avoided (how about all those people who only had one, or whose "parents" changed through remarriage?). I would prefer * This is the language that I used the most at home during my childhood.


Yes, but that is not quite the same. The idea is that (unless you grew up in some communist country where families are forbidden) it is uncommon for a person to have a native language that is different from that of their parents (regardless of the number of parents). Perhaps it can be changed to "spoken by my parents at home when I was young", but even that would shift the focus from the parents to the home.

I originally wanted to include grandparents too, actually. The idea is that if you're an immigrant child, then your "nativeness" would have been impacted if your parents or grandparents did not speak the new country's language fluently.

I don't think the suggestion from tseliot about years of studies would work too well - it discriminates against those natives who left school and learnt translation "on the job".


Actually I do not think that studying "a language" is important here at all. Having studied a language does not make you more of a native, and I suspect a fair number of translators did not even study translation.

I would think however that most translators would have some kind of college education (or apprenticeship), and what matters is whether they were so good at that language that they were prepared to write their exams using that language. I'm not sure if the question about college exams discriminate too much against translators with absolutely no formal tertiary education.

Edited to say: Hang on a mo! If I left the UK at the age of 38 and I'm now 56, I wasn't there 75%, was I? If that takes a point away, then that's absurd - 38 years is a hell of a long time, IMO.


Yes, I originally thought "50%" but that would render the question fairly useless. The original idea for the question was the distance between now and the last period permanent residence in the native language country, but that would require *everyone* to update their profiles annually.

The original question was "I currently live in a country where this language is used the most, or have lived there for at least 10 years continuously, and have lived there less than 5 years ago". But following your and Neil's replies I realise that this was based on the assumption that most emigrants integrate into their new environments (including learning and frequently using the language of their current country of residence).

Lisa Simpson, MCIL wrote:
Like Sheila I also fail on the residency issue but otherwise, yes, also broadly agree.


Well, the idea is not that a native speaker will score "10" but that a native speaker will score high. Only very fortunate native speakers will score "10".

Perhaps it could be made so that the highest grading that one can choose in the search form is "7" or "8" and not "10", to prevent too many clients from selecting "10" in the belief that anything less is not good, and thereby excluding perfectly good "native" speakers from the search result.

Werner Maurer wrote:
Up until maybe half a year ago, my command of Spanish was as good as any native (IMHO), and I even used to translate into Spanish because I lived in Mexico - even though it was all built on high school Spanish which I learned at the age of 19. Now my German is coming back a mile a minute (I live in a mostly German-speaking environment) and I'm even doing German to English translations again. So now my "native" language is...


Your case is one of those exceptions that most systems would fail to work with properly, and that my proposed system would hopefully still produce a useful result for. How high do you score on the system proposed here? Are you satisfied that that score is fair to you?



[Edited at 2012-06-25 18:40 GMT]


 

Olly Pekelharing  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:15
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
This is the language that I use the most. Jun 25, 2012

Interesting project. I too luck out on 'I have lived for more than 3/4 of my life in a country where this language is used the most', though I agree it's a fair question - up to a point.

As for the language used the most, I would want to see a nuance here. Not living in an English speaking country, I don't use English at all for 'casual communication' (going to the shops, chatting with parents at school, talking with friends) but of course I translate into English all the working day and when I want to relax I generally read books etc. or watch TV in English. So percentage wise I suppose you could say I use English the most. Right?


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:15
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
No degrees of nativeness Jun 25, 2012

Attempts to define "native language" using proficiency as a criterion are guilty of logical circularity, since terms such as "native-equivalent", "native-like", "near-native" or "degree of nativeness" can only be defined with reference to "native language", which is the concept one is attempting to define.

A native language is one that is learned naturally before adolescent.


 

Olly Pekelharing  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:15
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
Before adolescence? Jun 25, 2012

Are you sure? I would think up to and including at the least.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Olly and @Michele Jun 25, 2012

Olly Pekelharing wrote:
As for the language used the most, I would want to see a nuance here. Not living in an English speaking country, I don't use English at all for 'casual communication' (going to the shops, chatting with parents at school, talking with friends) but of course I translate into English all the working day and when I want to relax I generally read books etc. or watch TV in English. So percentage wise I suppose you could say I use English the most. Right?


No, my idea is that a translator who uses his native language regularly for casual communication would have to score higher than one who uses it only for business communication and the consumption of entertainment. I realise that this would place emigrants at a disadvantage. I would love the system to be simple and to not have a separate system for emigrants, though I understand that that is a high ideal. Do you think that not being able to answer "yes" to this question would put you at a unfair disadvantage, seeing that this is but one question out of ten?

Michele Fauble wrote:
Attempts to define "native language" using proficiency as a criterion are guilty of logical circularity, since terms such as "native-equivalent", "native-like", "near-native" or "degree of nativeness" can only be defined with reference to "native language", which is the concept one is attempting to define. ... A native language is one that is learned naturally before adolescent.


Are you sure you've read my post, Michele? The ten questions do not attempt to define nativeness in terms of proficiency only. In fact, a fair number of those questions specifically address your definition of native language as childhood language, as well as what which would naturally flow from it if the person had not stopped using his childhood language.

Olly Pekelharing wrote (to Michele):
Before adolescence? Are you sure? I would think up to and including at the least.


I'd rather we try to stay on-topic and not digress again to the "what is the definition of native" issue again. You may not agree with Michele's definition and she may not agree with yours, and I may not agree with either of your definitions in the strictest academic sense, but discussing all of that here will not solve anything.



[Edited at 2012-06-25 19:40 GMT]


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:15
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Redefining nativeness Jun 25, 2012

Samuel Murray wrote:

Michele Fauble wrote:
Attempts to define "native language" using proficiency as a criterion are guilty of logical circularity, since terms such as "native-equivalent", "native-like", "near-native" or "degree of nativeness" can only be defined with reference to "native language", which is the concept one is attempting to define. ... A native language is one that is learned naturally before adolescent.


Are you sure you've read my post, Michele? The ten questions do not attempt to define nativeness in terms of proficiency only.


True, it is a hodgepodge of proficiency (and hence invalid) and other criteria (most of which have nothing to do with nativeness).


 
Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Empty post.

XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:15
Portuguese to English
+ ...
OT AGAIN? Jun 25, 2012

Okay, there's nothing for it. Drastic measures needed. Time for Norman Tebbitt's cricket testicon_wink.gifhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cricket_test

 
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