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The option for setting language proficiencies below C1 (Europass approach) isn't helpful here
Thread poster: Gerard de Noord

Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:28
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Feb 22

Today, Sheila Wilson, who I regard highly, told a newbie that having a C1 level in one's source language is the absolute minimum for a professional translator, and that a C2 level would be preferable.

This made me reconsider entering my proficiency in my source languages on this website, where a new feature was introduced this week.

I have completed several Europass CVs to help my loyal clients to bid on large projects and I've never even considered entering anything above C1. It’s true, in a normal CV it doesn’t harm to mention you understand Latin, Spanish and Italian on an A2 level, but on a website for translators doing so doesn’t make any sense.

The scale is wrong if, on a scale of 5, the majority must pick 4 to be both credible and honest, while 5 would be both preferable and unattainable for most of us.

I propose to retract the functionality.

Cheers,
Gerard


[Edited at 2018-02-22 21:42 GMT]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2018-02-22 23:30 GMT]


 

Henry Dotterer
Local time: 17:28
SITE FOUNDER
Why is it any different? Feb 22

Gerard de Noord wrote:
I have completed several Europass CVs to help my loyal clients to bid on large projects and I've never even considered entering anything above C1. It’s true, in a normal CV it doesn’t harm to mention you understand Latin, Spanish and Italian on an A2 level, but on a website for translators doing so doesn’t make any sense.

Thanks, Gerard. It's an interesting point of view. I wonder how you would explain the difference between your clients' needs and the needs of clients using ProZ.com. Why do you feel that certain clients of yours can use such data (that is, information on your language proficiencies below C1), while clients here would have no use for such data?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Ideally, we'd use a very different scale Feb 23

Thanks for the compliment, Gerard icon_smile.gif.

Henry, I'm sure Gerard would agree with me that the Europass CV is actually pretty hopeless for anything to do with translation services, but it's the document that's required for EU tenders, so that's what our agency clients have to provide to their clients.

Although I'd expect most of us to have a C1 or C2 level in our working languages, B2 could be acceptable at a pinch if you have some sort of specialist knowledge and really are working in a niche market. I revise texts for some ESL technical writers who can clearly understand the meaning behind their highly technical English texts better than I do, and could no doubt translate similar texts from their native language into understandable - but quite flawed - English. They may only be B2 speakers of English but they could have a niche part to play in technical translation, paired with a native English editor. They're the exception to the rule, and a generalist B2 translator shouldn't expect to be regarded as a professional.

Like Gerard, I can't see any sense in declaring a working or source language with a level of only A1, A2 or B1. And if you're declaring a language just as an interest (the way I've done with Spanish, where I have an A2/B1 level), then the level really isn't relevant to anyone. I certainly wouldn't presume to translate from Spanish. I even have to ask Mr Google to do that on occasions, not that he's much better at it.

Ideally, and in my personal opinion, for a translator the 5 levels would be better given as:
- high B1
- low C1
- high C1
- low C2
- high C2

Of course, like everything else, only a relatively small percentage of ProZ.com profiles would end up showing the truth. That's clear from the ridiculous number of English native speakers the site purports to have icon_rolleyes.gif. I have no idea what can be done about that - probably not much.


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:28
German to English
Now I understand Feb 23

Because the CEFR was used, I assumed that meant someone had to confirm their level by showing a test result.

If it's just people making unverifiable assertions, then maybe it really would be better to use a more intuitive and transparent system of descriptive categories in plain language.

And I was shocked by how weak the German of some of the people who took the C2 exam with me was - and some of them passed the exam with better scores than me. If you take a course to prepare for it, C2 doesn't really mean much. People who actively prepare for the exam can certainly pass it with a level of comprehension way below what any translator needs.

On the other hand, I believe there are a lot of translators out there who have an extremely advanced passive knowledge of their source language, but couldn't begin to express themselves in it. In that sense, the exam requires skills that aren't absolutely necessary to be a good translator.

In short, I would say the tests are a very imperfect, but far from useless indicator of a translator's language knowledge. However, I don't see any reason to use the CEFR if you aren't requiring verification, because then you have all the disadvantages with none of the advantages.


 

Maria S. Loose, LL.M.  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 23:28
German to English
+ ...
EU in-house translator selection procedures Feb 23

Just to let you know that for in-house translator selection procedures the European Personnel Selection Office requires C1 for the source language and C2 for the target language as a minimum requirement. This is also the standard that the EU institutions require in their calls for tender. So according to this system C2 is sufficient to translate into a language. The term "native language" is not used because it is too vague.

 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Difficult to evaluate yourself Feb 23

The fact is that it is extremely difficult to evaluate your own level objectively. It would also be impossible for Proz to provide the massive resources that would be required to test every claim.

Diplomas are supposed to make it easier to get certainty about a professional's qualifications, but reality tells another story. Countless are the basic errors I have found in translations written by people claiming to be sworn and/or have diplomas.

The CEFR levels referred to presume some degree of equivalence between understanding the written language and writing it, but that is not necessarily the case for a translator. For example, I don't need to be able to speak Norwegian or Swedish to understand a text well enough to translate it into another language. The Scandinavian languages all have the same root, and two of them are extremely similar, but they are pronounced very differently. So should I rate my Norwegian and Swedish skills on all the CEFR criteria or only on my ability to understand a text? This is something Proz could clarify, so that we all use the same basic criteria. I don't market these languages in translation combinations, as I consider my abilities too limited in these languages, but a regular client sometimes asks for these combinations, well knowing they are not my strongest, and in return I tell them if a given text is too difficult.

At the end of the day, one cannot obtain regular clients and repeat business by exaggerating one's abilities. The client is the final arbiter.

[Edited at 2018-02-23 16:58 GMT]


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:28
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Scandinavian languages Feb 23

The CEFR levels are not suitable for indicating the competence of translators who are highly proficient in one of the major Scandinavian languages (Norwegian, Danish, Swedish) and also translate from the other two. I speak and write Norwegian at a near-native level and speak Norwegian with speakers of Danish and Swedish. My understanding of spoken and written Danish and Swedish is excellent, but the CEFR levels do not distinguish between passive and active proficiency. So, C2 for Norwegian. C1, or even C2, for Danish and Swedish, but that would only be true of spoken and written comprehension. Comprehension of the written language is what counts for translation. That means the C levels. But for speaking proficiency that would be misleading.



[Edited at 2018-02-23 20:21 GMT]


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:28
Member
English to Italian
Differences Feb 23

Maria S. Loose, LL.M. wrote:

Just to let you know that for in-house translator selection procedures the European Personnel Selection Office requires C1 for the source language and C2 for the target language as a minimum requirement. This is also the standard that the EU institutions require in their calls for tender. So according to this system C2 is sufficient to translate into a language. The term "native language" is not used because it is too vague.


The differences are that: 1) There you're applying to become an employee (and maybe even your hobbies and pet projects could be relevant...) 2) The CEFR evaluation is composed of 5 different levels for 5 different skills, not just 1 and 3) Someone is actually going to verify those claims (unlike here)...

As Sheila rightly noted: 'Of course, like everything else, only a relatively small percentage of ProZ.com profiles would end up showing the truth. That's clear from the ridiculous number of English native speakers the site purports to have'. Adding yet another unverifiable self-assessed parameter is not going to help, and actually could hurt honest professionals and give not-so honest ones unfair advantages (especially when these parameters are going to be used in directory searches...).


 

Henry Dotterer
Local time: 17:28
SITE FOUNDER
Thank you, Maria Feb 23

Maria S. Loose, LL.M. wrote:

Just to let you know that for in-house translator selection procedures the European Personnel Selection Office requires C1 for the source language and C2 for the target language as a minimum requirement. This is also the standard that the EU institutions require in their calls for tender. So according to this system C2 is sufficient to translate into a language. The term "native language" is not used because it is too vague.

Thanks for sharing this useful information.


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:28
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Optional or required? Feb 24

Gerard de Noord wrote:

I propose to retract the functionality.


I tried to add a language today. I could not do so without setting a proficiency level. It seems the "option" is not really an option.


 

Alf Ivar Tronsmo
Norway
Local time: 23:28
Member (2009)
English to Norwegian
Scandinvian languages Feb 28

Michele Fauble wrote:

I speak and write Norwegian at a near-native level and speak Norwegian with speakers of Danish and Swedish.[Edited at 2018-02-23 20:21 GMT]


There are differences between ie Norwegian and Swedish, that sometimes makes me as a Norwegian a bit sceptic about taking to easy on a job. The Norwegian word for calm is the Swedish word for fun. And Swedes in southern parts of Sweden sounds a lot like Danish, and are for me completely impossible to understand. Norwegian and Danish have however a lot of similarities in the written language.

I have however always claimed that the most important thing is that you understand the source language, and that you are native in the target language.


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
@Henry Mar 1

Henry Dotterer wrote:
I wonder how you would explain the difference between your clients' needs and the needs of clients using ProZ.com. Why do you feel that certain clients of yours can use such data (that is, information on your language proficiencies below C1), while clients here would have no use for such data?


Why would ANY client want to know that I have a language I don't work in?


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
@Michele Mar 1

Michele Fauble wrote:
The CEFR levels are not suitable for indicating the competence of translators who are highly proficient in one of the major Scandinavian languages (Norwegian, Danish, Swedish) and also translate from the other two.


Surely you can claim C2 at reading without being C2 at speaking?

My spoken Danish is non-existent but I work from it daily and would therefore claim a C2 ability.


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Languages one does not work in Mar 1

Chris S wrote:

Why would ANY client want to know that I have a language I don't work in?



You never really know, do you? Some clients may like to see that a translator has some wider understanding of subjects or languages over and above their exact fields of specialisation. If a French text about a Spanish artist contains a few Spanish words, for example, it always helps to have even just a smattering of Spanish rather than none at all. Translation is not an exact on/off science, but a field where all sorts of knowledge can be helpful in one way or another.


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Reading/writing Mar 1

Chris S wrote:

Surely you can claim C2 at reading without being C2 at speaking?

My spoken Danish is non-existent but I work from it daily and would therefore claim a C2 ability.


Indeed. The trouble with this new feature is that you cannot specify what your ability refers to. Maybe it should be possible to rate reading, writing, listening and speaking separately.


 
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