ATA Exam question - Interested in other input (EN>FR)
Thread poster: Sylvain Meyrous

Sylvain Meyrous  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:35
English to French
Mar 15, 2010

Dear colleagues,

I have just received the results from my "trial" test with the ATA in English to French. The result is, according to the marker, that I barely pass.

Now here is my concern: the corrector was not a native French speaker. This is quite obvious from his/her comments. S/he misunderstood some of the French words used, which resulted in lots of points being substracted for mistranslation.
I do not mean to be contemptuous, but the person's misunderstandings are typical of English speakers. It is not that this person's French was poor, but there are nuances of meaning and certain uses of words that s/he just did not get. I consider 60 % of my "mistranslations" to be improper understanding from the grader.

I consider my English to be good, but it is certainly insufficient to correct a translation INTO ENGLISH. I do not consider it fair to have a non-native speaker of the target language correct a translation test into that very language.
In some instances, I used formal language to reflect the original English style, and that was counted as a mistransltion because the marker did not know that particular form of speech. Having to "tone down" my French to non-native speaker level would be yet another layer of difficulty. Even worse, that may be interpreted as poor knowledge of French if the marker IS a native speaker!

Has anyone had the same experience with the trial test or the real test?
This is quite worrying.

Thank you for your feedback.

-Sylvain


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Alison Sabedoria  Identity Verified
France
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Get a second opinion Mar 15, 2010

You really need to get another independent native French speaker to look at this, to give you an objective assessment, otherwise it might be seen as just a case of sour grapes.

Once you have at least one other objective view, you can see how you feel about taking this up with the ATA.

This does sound very surprising for such a reputable translators association, which is why you need to get this checked and double checked!

Alison


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xxxDesdemone
Local time: 17:35
French to English
Are you absolutely sure? Mar 15, 2010

It sounds odd - as Alison said, verify it with them.
PS - Why not write the CTTIC exam? You'll get much more work in Canada with CTTIC certification (at higher rates!).


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Sylvain Meyrous  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:35
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Second opinion Mar 15, 2010

Hello Alison,

Thank you for your reply.

Do you suggest I request another assessment through the ATA?

I am also surprised. The ATA has a great reputation. I do intend to file a complaint, but I am indeed afraid it will sound like a case of the sour grapes. I wonder what the best way to go about it is.
Suggestions are welcome.

One problem is that there is no way to be certain someone is a native speaker, because native speakers are self-proclaimed. I know someone who claims to be a native French speaker because she has French parents, but the reality is she can hardly carry a conversation. Moreover, in my native France, more and more unilingual French speakers, borned and raised in French, have such a poor grasp of the written language that they cannot clearly convey any message in writing...

Thank you


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Sylvain Meyrous  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:35
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Good suggestion Mar 15, 2010

Paula Rennie wrote:

It sounds odd - as Alison said, verify it with them.
PS - Why not write the CTTIC exam? You'll get much more work in Canada with CTTIC certification (at higher rates!).



This is a good suggestion, Paula. I will look into it.


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Jean-Marc Poisson  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:35
Member (2006)
English to French
ATA Certification Examination E>F Grader Group members are all native speakers Mar 18, 2010

Hi Sylvain,

As the head of the ATA Certification Examination E>F Grader Group I can guarantee you that all of our members are native French speakers, born, raised and educated, in France, Belgium or Quebec. All have higher education degrees from their native countries and extensive professional experience in translation; all spend several weeks or months in their native countries every year and keep abreast of the latest development in their respective areas of expertise; and all take their duties as graders very seriously knowing full well what is at stake for candidates who take the Certification Exam.

Best,

Jean-Marc Poisson, Ph.D.
ATA-Certified E>F
E>F Grader Group Head


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:35
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Could the version of French be the issue here? Mar 18, 2010

Jean-Marc Poisson wrote:
... all of our members are native French speakers, born, raised and educated, in France, Belgium or Quebec.


Is it possible that the problem is a different version of French being used by the test taker and the grader?
(I do not know French and the extent of possible differences, but I have seen some heated KudoZ discussions due to such issues, so I thought I would ask.)
Katalin


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liviu roth
United States
Local time: 16:35
Romanian to English
+ ...
beg to differ Mar 20, 2010

[quote]Jean-Marc Poisson wrote:

Hi Sylvain,

As the head of the ATA Certification Examination E>F Grader Group I can guarantee you that all of our members are native French speakers, born, raised and educated, in France, Belgium or Quebec. All have higher education degrees from their native countries and extensive professional experience in translation; all spend several weeks or months in their native countries every year and keep abreast of the latest development in their respective areas of expertise; and all take their duties as graders very seriously knowing full well what is at stake for candidates who take the Certification Exam.

I have great respect for the ATA, its staff and the graders, but... being native speaker of a country and higher education does not guarantee perfection. Errare humanum est.
To prove my point: not too long ago I had to translate a classified official document regarding criminal acts committed in the US by foreign nationals. Due to the sensitivity of the document, my translation went for proofreading to a native Romanian, born, raised and educated in Romania , college professor of linguistics in the US.
She made a multitude of corrections proving that actually she has no clue about the subtleties and nuances of the legal language. It took me almost two hours, through a mediator, to prove her wrong. Eventually she admitted that she is not familiar with the legal terms.
Therefore, although she fulfills all the requirements for a high-level linguist, when it came to legal texts, she failed.

[Edited at 2010-03-20 02:57 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-03-20 03:31 GMT]


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Natalia Ershova
United States
Local time: 16:35
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
ATA principles Mar 26, 2010

I fully agree with lee roth. Even though one can be a native, born, raised, whatever speaker....doesn't necessarily mean he/she is competent in translating medical, legal, etc. documentation. In that sense, I happen to believe in Sylvain Meyrous’ story.

Also question to the head of the ATA Certification Examination E>F Grader Group:

Dear Jean-Marc Poisson,

How come one gets to see corrected exam papers of a “trial” test, but if I take the actual test, ATA fails to show me my corrected papers….aren’t those papers a good way to substantiate the ATA’s verdict???

Instead they make you pay extra 200 dollars for the appeal procedure...


hm I wonder what else they can charge people for…may be a couple of dimes each time you visit their website???


[Edited at 2010-03-26 13:55 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:35
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I feel this is unfair Mar 26, 2010

Natalia Ershova wrote:
Instead they make you pay extra 200 dollars for the appeal procedure...

hm I wonder what else they can charge people for…may be a couple of dimes each time you visit their website???

This is an unfair comment indeed. All grading and reviewing is done by ATA members, not ATA staff, and these ATA members are translators who, like you and me, deserve to be paid for their work. I hope you agree.

The bill for the grading and review processes should be footed by the person writing the exam, and not by all other members. It would be unfair that we all members (let's not forget that ATA is an association) paid for other people's exam fees!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:35
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Is the text exam also graded by two people? Mar 26, 2010

Jean-Marc Poisson wrote:
As the head of the ATA Certification Examination E>F Grader Group I can guarantee you that all of our members are native French speakers, born, raised and educated, in France, Belgium or Quebec. All have higher education degrees from their native countries and extensive professional experience in translation; all spend several weeks or months in their native countries every year and keep abreast of the latest development in their respective areas of expertise; and all take their duties as graders very seriously knowing full well what is at stake for candidates who take the Certification Exam.

Hello Jean-Marc. It was indeed a good idea to explain this in the forum.

Now, let me ask you this, since I feel that Sylvain's case could be a matter of nuances: Are the test exams also graded by two people, as it is the case in the actual exam, or just by one person?


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:35
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Look for a second opinion from a certified person Mar 26, 2010

Sylvain Meyrous wrote:
In some instances, I used formal language to reflect the original English style, and that was counted as a mistransltion because the marker did not know that particular form of speech. Having to "tone down" my French to non-native speaker level would be yet another layer of difficulty. Even worse, that may be interpreted as poor knowledge of French if the marker IS a native speaker!

Look for a second opinion.

Sylvain, seeing that you have a strong marketing background, I suspect that you might be misinterpreting the reviewer's marks: in very many cases, people tend to overtranslate, i.e. saying things that in fact make the text more compelling or effective, but don't reflect the actual register or stress of the source text. In every translation you must successfully port the meaning to an idiomatic expression of the target language, but you must only convey the exact meaning, tone, and register.

Just for a second assessment of whether the grader was taking away points for this reason (to mean that you overtranslated/undertranslated), how about having the text reviewed by another French ATA-certified translator?


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Natalia Ershova
United States
Local time: 16:35
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
unfair indeed:-) Mar 26, 2010

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

This is an unfair comment indeed. All grading and reviewing is done by ATA members, not ATA staff, and these ATA members are translators who, like you and me, deserve to be paid for their work. I hope you agree.

The bill for the grading and review processes should be footed by the person writing the exam, and not by all other members. It would be unfair that we all members (let's not forget that ATA is an association) paid for other people's exam fees!



Tomás,

I didn't mean ATA members (graders) should not be paid for their work neither that other members should pay for an exam taker . I just wanted to voice my concern: do you think it is fair that they don't show you your exam papers just saying you fail, and the only way to see those papers is to appeal and PAY 200$. What if a person doesn't want to appeal, he/she already paid for the membership and the exam itself, just send those papers!!!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:35
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree, but please take into account... Mar 26, 2010

Natalia Ershova wrote:
What if a person doesn't want to appeal, he/she already paid for the membership and the exam itself, just send those papers!!!

Actually this is something I agree with: candidates should receive their graded papers if they fail.

However, you surely understand that ATA uses the same exams in sittings that take place during the whole year. The same text is used for all candidates in many exam dates, so the exams cannot be returned to candidates until 4 months have ellapsed since the last exam of each year. This is just so that candidates still to take the exam have any chance of receiving copies of the exam texts or advice about them.

This means that a candidate taking the exam in January 2010 would have to wait until May 2011 to receive the graded exams. Personally I prefer to pay the US$ 200 for the review and avoid losing a whole year!


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Madeleine Chevassus  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:35
Member (2010)
English to French
ATA exam questions Jun 17, 2012

I have great respect for the ATA, its staff and the graders, but... being native speaker of a country and higher education does not guarantee perfection. Errare humanum est.

I translate from English to French (FR), often in the IT domain and quite often for US companies.

If I prepared the ATA Exam (a $250 value), I would like:

* to be judged by native French linguists living in France (not Belgium, not Quebec).

* to be judged by domain specialists (i.e. IT..)

* to receive a good feedback: annoted mistakes and corrections.

Sorry for answering that late

Marie


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ATA Exam question - Interested in other input (EN>FR)

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