Native Speaker Certification: reasons and rationale
Thread poster: CLS Lexi-tech

CLS Lexi-tech
Local time: 21:54
Member (2004)
English to Italian
+ ...
Oct 19, 2001

I would like to bring to everybody\'s attention what Henry Dotterer, founder of, wrote in another thread about his certification:


Given the contentious nature of the debate surrounding \"being native\", it is not surprising that a number of misconceptions have arisen over the Native Speaker initiative.

I\'ll explain where the idea came from.

Many members of this site are by now familiar with InstantJobs. InstanJobs is a service offered via partner websites (you won\'t find it here), whereby a short text can be uploaded for translation, and paid for online by credit card. Behind the scenes, these texts are passed from the partner sites to the server, which in turn proceeds to *automatically* invite members to complete the assignment. These members have been \"prequalified\" based on 7 different factors, including credentials earned from translator associations, etc.

The promise made by InstantJob partner sites, in some cases, is that the translated texts will be \"native.\" This is a promise made apart from the promise that the translation will be of high-quality. (So let\'s put aside the debate of the relationship between native language and quality of translation; that has no bearing here.) Some clients demand that translations be \"native\", and wishes to support this marketing decision in those cases.

So the challenge for us, as staffers, is to devise a method by which the InstantJobs system will be able to select native speakers of a language specifically, when required. Instantly. With no coordinator intervention.

To date, we have relied on the judgement of the individuals invited. Invitees are instructed not to accept jobs unless they are native speakers of the target languages and target dialects. By and large, this approach has worked; most people are attentive enough to read the instructions, and most people are conscientious enough to respect the request.

However, in a small percentage of the cases, non-native speakers, or in one case, a speaker of a dialect other than the one requested by the client, have accepted the assignments. This has caused a problem. (Not from the client, since the texts were caught in time, but from within--others invited to the InstantJobs but beaten to it objected strongly, since according to the instructions, the assignment should have been left for them.) Over time, the Native Speaker certification will solve this problem. It will also solve the problem for clients in a similar position.

But again, the program is optional.

Yes, some outsourcers will take the time to determine whether or not you are a native speaker of the target language, either by talking with you or reviewing your passport (not that I believe that is any indication), etc. The question you may ask yourself, as a business-person, is whether it will serve your interests to take care of that task for your clients, in advance.

The PNS certification is not something being imposed upon clients or translators. Rather, it is just one more tool provides for service providers. Judging from the response to our announcement so far, many professionals see value in it.


Seen in this light, the certification makes a lot of sense. This is why I wanted to start the thread again with Henry\'s statement from another thread.

Paola L M

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-10-19 17:27 ]


Francesco Volpe  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:54
English to Italian
+ ...
It depends Oct 22, 2001

I haven\'t changed my mind about this initiative, but I think some aspects pointed out by Angela and Paola are relevant because they are bilingual. And for people who are bilingual it\'s very important to show they have native speaker competence in 2 languages.

Let\'s say then that I think it\'s wrong the way the native speaker certification works now. A monolingual translator, for the simple fact that is a translator, must be proficient at least in his/her own language; otherwise he/she would do another job. I think it should be given for granted that a professional translator, simply because he/she has completed a specific course of studies or has lived all his/her life in a country, is a native speaker of that language. I think it\'s discriminatory having to pay to demonstrate that I can master my own mother tongue because that would be unfair for other translators who don\'t want to pay for it and seem they don\'t have the requirements to work in their language. It\'s not like paying for being a Platinum or a Premium member. That is a marketing decision for which you pay to be more visible on the market. It doesn\'t interfere with your professional capabilities. The fee doesn\'t add value to my profile because it\'s simply obvious that a monolingual professional translator translates into the language he/she knows and masters better.

The case of bilingual translators is different. They have native speaker competencies in 2 languages. In a way they have exceptional skills (and I envy them!). In that case I think it\'s reasonable to have a certification that testifies that not only someone is native speaker of language A because he/she was born and has studied and lived in X country for X years, but also that he/she has the same linguistic abilities in language B (for example because he/she has lived in a country for many years and despite his/her name). In this case I can pay a fee for a certification that DOES add value to my profile and let me stand out among other professional translators because I\'m equally proficient in 2 languages and not only one.

We should also ask ourselves what \"native speaker\" means and if a conversation on the phone can really tells you that.

Does it mean speaking fluently another language? Of course not. I think we all agree that knowing a language is something more than saying a word after another. It has to do with the culture of a language, with ideas behind the words and how these ideas relate to a specific cultural context. It\'s about semantic appropriateness and social acceptability and a lot more. Can you tell this from a conversation on the phone? Maybe.

It\'s also true that being a native speaker of a language doesn\'t mean you are a good translator. We all seem to agree on that.

So this is my suggestion.

I think it would be fair that each paying member of the ProZ community could have the native speaker symbol in his/her mother tongue (only one) displayed. It can be a service included in the annual membership fee.

Members who are bilingual or trilingual can have their proficiency in the other language(s) tested with a paid certification and have a special mark on their profiles to show their privileged condition of translators who have a \"dual\" native speaker status.

It\'s only an idea.


Gilda Manara  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:54
German to Italian
+ ...
I agree Oct 22, 2001

yours seems to me a very good idea... I agree perfectly with it.



gianfranco  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:54
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
I agree with Francesco Oct 22, 2001

( I said already in the other thread... the one that is now on fire and gone ballistic...)

Francesco, your idea is brilliant!

You are absolutely right!

I understand some of the reasons behind the PNS qualification but I don\'t like its implementation. The fees are not enourmous but I consider them unjustified for the first language.

I am not willing to spend 50, or 25 or 1$ for that matter, to have a little blue N inside a yellow circle to demonstrate that I am Italian native speaker, my only and undoubtable mother tongue.

This controversial certification could be used by a number of translators interested in having a recognition for their skills at mother tongue level in 2 or even 3 languages, but it cannot be forced upon all of us for the first language.

This is not necessary and it will not go down easily.

Please note that I am not being stingy! I am very happy to support ProZ with daily contributions to several activities and with my Platinum membership.

What will happen is that job posters having the possibility of ticking a box such as \"Native speaker only\" will select the option. Who wouldn\'t?

and this will cut-off any native speaker not willing to acquire the PNS stamp. icon_confused.gif

You may argue that PNS is optional, but I see it as quite unfair.

Moreover, many members paying 120$ will be excluded from most of the InstantJobs and perhaps from Bids if they are not-PNS.

I definitely don\'t like what will be implemented soon in the Jobs area.


Italian Native Speaker, unofficially icon_biggrin.gif

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-10-22 08:44 ]


Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:54
Italian to English
+ ...
spezzo una lancia per Henry Oct 22, 2001

I opted for the PNS certification because I too grew up with two languages, but if I were to tell anyone that my fine English name of Bolton conceals someone fluent in Italian, who would believe me? On the other hand, I have had customers call and say \"but I wanted a native English speaker and you\'re Italian\" -- because I don\'t have an English accent when I speak Italian.

For me, this kind of qualification is important.

As to my subject -- speaking up for Henry -- I did the certification bit for both English and Italian at no extra cost. One language or two (or probably even ten if there are geniuses of the sort out there) -- the cost is the same.

Henry has offered a service for those (like me) who feel it may be useful in promoting business. If you don\'t need it, you are certainly under no obligation.

However, the option of automatic PNS when you purchase your platinum membership certainly seems like a good idea.


CLS Lexi-tech
Local time: 21:54
Member (2004)
English to Italian
+ ...
PNS and the global translators market Oct 22, 2001

Francesco Volpe has a good point: he was born, raised, went to school, lives in Italy and translates English-Italian. Why should he need the PNS certification? It would seem unnecessary, and it would be unfair to exclude him from jobs.

The case could be made for PNS certification for people who live in a country where the target language is not the official language and therefore your \"nativity\" could be called into question (I live in Canada, where there has been a great influx of Italians, and it could be questioned whether Italian is truly my native language.

What seems to be the case, from what Henry says, is that the clients are asking for it. The global outsourcers who come to need that reassurance, considering that they can reach Italian translators living in the States, or in Japan or in Timbuctu, for that matter.

Perhaps we could consider that people in Francesco\'s situation do not really need the PNS certification(birth, schooling, residence in the country where the language is spoken; translates into that language) but have already earned their N. Whereas, when birth, schooling and residence point to a more mottled situation, then the PNS would work well.

paola l m


Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:54
French to English
Native speaker Oct 24, 2001

You cannot always tell when a text has been translated by a non-native speaker, but you can always tell when it has not!


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Native Speaker Certification: reasons and rationale

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