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Qualifications - many state that they are capable of translating both to and from their language
Thread poster: Angus Cameron

Angus Cameron  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:23
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Jul 9, 2009

I know I'm whistling in the wind and am not sure which forum this belongs in but ...

Often, when I go to ProZ, I notice that many of the translators pictured state that they are capable of translating to and from their language pair(s). To me, the implication is that they are bilingual. In more than 25 years as a translator, I think I have encountered only two people whom I would regard as bilingual. Of course, ProZ has to accept self-assessments at face value but one does pity the customer. One of my own language pairs is Dutch-English, and I do a lot of proofreading of English translations here as well. It is clear in many cases that the translations have been made by Dutch-speakers claiming to be fluent in English. I'm sure they can speak it adequately during their travels, but that does not qualify them to make NL-EN translations. The long-term result of lying about your fluency will be to bring translation in general into disrepute, and that is in none of our interests. I also think that situation is not helped by formal "qualifications" dished out by national organisations. As such bodies charge money to sit their "examinations", it is clearly in their interests to set the bar low enough to attract the greatest number of applicants. But, as I say, whistling in the wind ...

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-07-09 11:49 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:23
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Low enough? Jul 9, 2009

Angus Cameron wrote:
I also think that situation is not helped by formal "qualifications" dished out by national organisations. As such bodies charge money to sit their "examinations", it is clearly in their interests to set the bar low enough to attract the greatest number of applicants. But, as I say, whistling in the wind ...

I think this way of expressing your concerns will raise some criticism here. I can only speak of ATA or IOL, two generously paid certification schemes: they either don't set the bar "low enough" or not enough good translators do the exams. In the case of ATA, being English into Spanish a major pair in the US, the ATA certification is only awarded to some 10-12 people every year, and that is a pass rate of well under 20% in an exam that is open only to qualified or very experienced translators.

In the case of DipTrans, I know of several very good translators who haven't passed the exam. So probably another case of "low bar" or insufficient number of good translators doing the exam.

What do you prefer to think about these two certifications? Will it be that not enough good translators do the exams, or will the bar be a bit higher than you thought?

Having said all this, may I add that I also agree that many people are "overconfident" in their CVs (I would not say they lie; overconfidence describes the situation better, because they are not aware that their assessment of their capabilities is clearly wrong).


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:23
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Some of us are truly bilingual Jul 9, 2009

Hi,

I agree that many are not fully bilingual, however a few of us are.

I am fully bilingual in Spanish/English. When I speak to someone from Spain they think I am a native Spanish speaker and when I speak to someone in English they think I am a native English speaker.

My mother is English and my father is Spanish, my father speaks perfect English (you hear him you think he is English) but my mother does speak Spanish with an accent.

At home I grew up speaking both languages, and was regularly visited by relatives from both languages.

I have lived in Spain, the UK and the USA.

Now I admit most people have not had these advantages, but many have and amongst them a few translators I know.

I do however agree that most people do not have this ability, but I think claiming this is just the same as some people who claim they can translate from various languages into their own and then it turns out they have a very basic grasp of most of those languages.

Unfortunately translation is plagued with people who misrepresent themselves which does not help with the profession's reputation.


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Anke Guido
Local time: 04:23
English to German
+ ...
English translations Jul 9, 2009

I think there are simply not enough good native level English translators around. Just to give you an example from my own regular work: when I copy-edit German medical publications this includes checking the English language abstracts translated by native speakers. All too often I find translation mistakes, because the translator obviously didn't understand the German text correctly.

During the short time I have been using proz.com I have noticed many German language questions by native English translators in the KudoZ section where I've been wondering why the person didn't know the terms or the context. Sometimes I don't understand how someone can call themselves a translator and offer their professional services when they seem to struggle with the source language in this way.

It seems that the qualification English native speaker is enough for some customers...

Either way they would really need good editing services applied to translations. If a native speaker of English with a less than perfect grasp of the source language translates the text, a native speaker of that source language should check the translation. Or vice versa an English native speaker should proofread the translation.

[Edited at 2009-07-09 11:34 GMT]


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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 22:23
SITE FOUNDER
I don't think the associations have the bias you suggest Jul 9, 2009

Angus Cameron wrote:

As such bodies charge money to sit their "examinations", it is clearly in their interests to set the bar low enough to attract the greatest number of applicants.

I don't think so. I am not familiar with the fees charged by all certifying bodies around the world, but based on what I have seen, my guess would be that such activities are generally not profitable. The ATA has open books (by law), and if I remember correctly (someone please correct me if I am wrong), their certification activities are subsidized by other activities. So if you look only at commercial interests (and by the way I don't think things are that simple), the incentive would actually be the opposite: they save money by doing fewer sittings. (This might explain the relatively low number of sittings -- and the fact that most ATA members are not certified... I don't know.)

All in all, though, I think the certifying bodies in our industry do a pretty good job with the tough task of certification.


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Angus Cameron  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:23
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Qualifications Jul 9, 2009

Tomás: I hear that ATA is good, but don't know about IoL. I don't doubt that there is good training available, but there are also a lot of short "mickey-mouse" courses (much like those English-language schools recently caught out in the UK) that give you a worthless piece of paper or merely tack on a few more letters after your name.
Alex: Half your luck, mate!


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Richardson Lisa  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:23
Member (2009)
French to English
It all depends what you mean by bilingual? Jul 9, 2009

Hi Angus
I suppose it all depends what you mean by bilingual doesn't it? I've been living in France since 1995, I've studied here ,both my children were born here , and French people(myself included) consider me bilingual. However, although I feel completely at ease in both cultures and languages I would not translate on a professional basis from English to French although I have done so many times for friends and family. As for qualifications, I shall be sitting the IOL exam in January 2010 and shall be proud if I suceed as I understand it to be rather challenging. I certainly don't think the bar is set too low and the entrance fee for the exam is high enough to deter those that aren't experienced or well prepared.
I'd be interested to know what your criteria for being bilingual is? Will my kids be bilingual? They certainly are in my eyes. For me, I guess I sort of considered myself bilingual from the moment i didn't have to think at all when flicking from one language to another. I think the problem lies in keeping a balance between the languages , not slipping too far into one or another, as a translator this is my main problem.
Your profile says you live in a tri - lingual environment, do you consider yourself bi/trilingual?
I'm intrigued as I had never really doubted my bilingualism before. the dico says it's someone who is fluent in both languages - I am therefore I am

look forward to hearing your comments

Lisa


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:23
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Bilinguality not required to translate Jul 9, 2009

Angus Cameron wrote:
I notice that many of the translators pictured state that they are capable of translating to and from their language pair(s). To me, the implication is that they are bilingual. ... I think I have encountered only two people whom I would regard as bilingual.


When you say "bilingual" it sounds to me like you refer to being able to speak (and read, write and understand) a second language at the same level as one's native language. Not quite two native languages, but for most practical purposes just about that. Am I right?

Why would you think it necessary for someone to be bilingual to translate into a language? The implication is that language training (even in one's own language) counts for very little. I think that a second-language speaker with language training is more likely to translate well than a first-language speaker who relies only on common sense.


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Angus Cameron  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:23
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Qualifications Jul 9, 2009

Hi Lisa,
Because this is ProZ-land, by bilingual I mean (from a translator's point of view) able to localise and write as well in one language as the other. If you claim to be able to translate medical or legal texts, say, which require a specific form of expression, you must be able to do so in both. I really doubt that many people can do so. Your kids are doubtless bilingual, but is their written command of both languages the same? Do they want to be translators, anyway? I'm not so much worried about the spoken language, where communication is usually more important than strict grammatical accuracy. I do live in a tri-lingual (+ English) environment, but would not claim to be capable of fluent translation in anything but English. I envy those few who can. They've probably also worked in both environments, something that recent graduate translators I've noticed claiming to be bilingual on ProZ cannot have done. Grumble, grumble.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:23
Flemish to English
+ ...
The proof of the pudding.... Jul 9, 2009

Why don't we meet and I'll make a translation from Dutch into English about a general topic using Van-Dale Dutch-English and the internet? You can evaluate how good or bad this translation is.
Unless things change, I have time to do that end of September.
Best Regards,
Somebody who knows your multilingual environment all too well.


[Bijgewerkt op 2009-07-09 12:52 GMT]


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Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:23
Member
French to English
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A few thoughts Jul 9, 2009

Have you seen this recent thread, Angus? http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/139427-on_the_importance_requirement_of_being_native_speaker.html

This is indeed a recurrent question and you are, for the most part, preaching to the choir. I don't know that people translating into a non-native language are necessarily doing a disservice to the profession as a whole, although I am quite convinced that they do often shoot themselves in the foot - if their customers are capable of judging the quality of their work, that is.

For the most part, good professional translators have to be paid for and, after getting burned a few times with bargain-bin rates and quality, most customers start to realise this.

The problem, however, as the above link shows, is that some translators are not actually very concerned about quality at all. This, I fear, is not solely a problem of translating into one's mother tongue, but rather a larger issue of professionals just not caring about one fundamental aspect of our job: delivering quality!

I too do a lot of proofreading and have come across horrible translations from both native and non-native English speakers. There are unfortunately a lot of unprofessional people out there claiming to be translators. There are also some non-natives who do a very good job translating into English (I can't speak for other languages); many of whom also work hand-in-hand with a native proofreader.

There are very few people who can lie about their mother tongue and actually get away with it for long. I think that the long-term result of lying is likely to be professional discredit and loss of customer confidence – and that's a pretty bad scenario for any professional!

There is, however, an argument raised by Taija in the above post which points out that the reality of translation into English is also different in different language pairs.

If clients want to hire non-natives for whatever reason, that is of course their right; it is however also their right to be told the truth.

Lying, as we learn at about the age of three, is never a good idea. As my grandmother used to say, "No one is smart enough to be a good liar for long." I don't see any exceptions in translation.

Best,
Jocelyne


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Angus Cameron  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:23
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Qualifications Jul 9, 2009

I agree with you, Jocelyne and I followed the thread. There are a lot if "ifs" and "it depends", I know. And there are lots of "translators" and translation agencies for whom near enough is good enough. I liked the response from Tom of London (if I remember correctly) that you can tell from reading the posts who is and who isn't a native speaker of English. And Williamson, you tempt me. Let's see towards the end of September. One thing, though. I know it's the only general dictionary of its size and scope, but boy the Van Dale NL-EN volume is a sloppy piece of work, IMHO!

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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:23
Dutch to English
+ ...
Pudding ingredients Jul 9, 2009

Van Dale.

Curious: would that be an essential ingredient -- like baking powder, for instance -- or just the cherry on top?

[Edited at 2009-07-09 15:28 GMT]


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:23
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Close enough Jul 9, 2009

Angus Cameron wrote:
... there are lots of "translators" and translation agencies for whom near enough is good enough.


I tend to think that only works for hand grenades, and those who have such sloppy criteria ought to have a few lobbed their way.

That said, the enormous volume of crappy translation out there really doesn't bother me. It makes the good stuff stand out all the more, and if damage is done to property, jobs are lost and people die as a result of lousy standards, overconfidence or plain idiocy, that's not such a bad thing either. It merely underscores the value of getting things right and allows competent translators with a bit of marketing savvy and awareness of the news to raise prices.

With that in mind I would encourage outsourcers to use natives of the source language wherever possible for their projects. As one colleague recently pointed out, it's not about grammar or style (or possible even communication), it's about MEANING. And charity, too, probably. How undignified it would be if many of those claiming the competence to translate into their second languages without a good target language native editor would end up on the streets holding signs offering to translate for table scraps. Those of us who are good native speakers of the target language and who have a firm grasp of the source language will always eat well, so we should stand aside wherever possible and let the others have more of a chance. The results will speak for themselves and we can raise our prices even faster

[Edited at 2009-07-09 14:56 GMT]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:23
Flemish to English
+ ...
Deutsch, Sprache sein ich kennen.... Jul 9, 2009

Kevin Lossner wrote:
With that in mind I would encourage outsourcers to use natives of the source language wherever possible for their projects. As one colleague recently pointed out, it's not about grammar or style (or possible even communication), it's about MEANING.


[Edited at 2009-07-09 14:56 GMT]


Weird. So you would be able to use German without knowing its grammar. According to you "Deutsch Sprache sein ich verstehe nicht" or "Language, English be I understand" would be correct.
Grammar (semantics and syntax) is the backbone of any language.
Take away grammar and you are left over with a number of words without being able to form a sentence. In some languages meaning is derived from syntax. Meaning and register only come on top of language skills. Of course, if I had to study the Standard Chart of Accounts and the function of an account in Accounting, I'll be better able to understand what is meant, but without language I would not be able to learn accounting. The same is true for medicine, maths, you name it.

BTW, Communication (conference interpreting) and the spoken word as as important as translation. A better cognitive knowledge of the target-language is required. It is held in higher esteem than translation.

So what if a native proofreads a translation made by a non-native. I am not an egocentric person. After all, as long as it according to his/her expectation the customer does not care who made the translation. In every company teamwork is essential, except in the virtual world of freelance translation. There "EGO SUM" (look how good I am and look how lousy the others are) prevails.

I know van Dale is sloppy, but it is the only thing bilingual general dictionary there is.

@Agnus. If you want to meet and bring a short adequate text with you in Dutch or French, let's meet end of September. Just send a message through the Proz.com system.





[Bijgewerkt op 2009-07-09 16:41 GMT]


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