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Translating from one's native language - feedback needed
מפרסם התגובה: Kelly Efird

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
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Going both ways Aug 14, 2014

Many native speakers - let alone learners - of any given language express themselves poorly in writing.

Expressive ability carries across languages, so if you are unable to express yourself competently in writing in a language, you either:
1. Have a sub-adequate command of that language and should not be translating from it either
2. Have a sub-adequate command of writing and should not be translating.

Unfortunately there are far too many translators whose ability to read and comprehend the source text exists only in their imagination.

[Edited at 2014-08-14 13:23 GMT]


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
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Ability Aug 14, 2014

Lincoln Hui wrote:

Expressive ability carries across languages, so if you are unable to express yourself competently in writing in a language, you either:
1. Have a sub-adequate command of that language and should not be translating from it either
2. Have a sub-adequate command of writing and should not be translating.



If you want to tell people what they should or shouldn't do, translation probably isn't the best career to embark on



Unfortunately there are far too many translators whose ability to read and comprehend the source text exists only in their imagination.



If they do it for money, the market will find them out.

And in any case, they're probably pulling rates you wouldn't want to look at. Just make sure you are around when their customers want to upgrade to a more professional service.


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
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Right Aug 14, 2014

Giles Watson wrote:

Lincoln Hui wrote:

Expressive ability carries across languages, so if you are unable to express yourself competently in writing in a language, you either:
1. Have a sub-adequate command of that language and should not be translating from it either
2. Have a sub-adequate command of writing and should not be translating.



If you want to tell people what they should or shouldn't do, translation probably isn't the best career to embark on



Unfortunately there are far too many translators whose ability to read and comprehend the source text exists only in their imagination.



If they do it for money, the market will find them out.

And in any case, they're probably pulling rates you wouldn't want to look at. Just make sure you are around when their customers want to upgrade to a more professional service.

So, why are some people up in arms when people translate into a non-native language, to the extent that this thread needs to exist at all? Why do we even complain about bad translations at all, then?

[Edited at 2014-08-14 13:52 GMT]


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
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Law of supply and demand Aug 14, 2014

Lincoln Hui wrote:

So, why are some people up in arms when people translate into a non-native language, to the extent that this thread needs to exist at all?



I imagine most of the protests come from target language-native translators who feel threatened by an incoming wave of low-cost competition. But they're forgetting that you can ride waves as well as let yourself be swamped by them. Low-cost supply expands markets to new customers, who are not going to be remain satisfied with low-cost quality forever.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
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As I see it Aug 14, 2014

Two totally different concepts are being rolled into one here, Lincoln.

1) There are those who possess the necessary writing skills and techniques to produce natural texts; and those who don't. I reckon that by the time you're an adult you either have good writing skills, or you're never going to have them in any language. To some extent, it's an innate ability linked to structured thought processes. You could expect that only competent writers would have a presence here on ProZ.com
... See more
Two totally different concepts are being rolled into one here, Lincoln.

1) There are those who possess the necessary writing skills and techniques to produce natural texts; and those who don't. I reckon that by the time you're an adult you either have good writing skills, or you're never going to have them in any language. To some extent, it's an innate ability linked to structured thought processes. You could expect that only competent writers would have a presence here on ProZ.com but that manifestly is not the case. Certainly, anyone who doesn't have abilities in this direction shouldn't choose translation as a career.

2) There are those who have the necessary level in two or more languages to permit them to produce faithful translations; and those who don't. A few translators believe they are good enough to choose any one of their languages as the target (i.e. whether it's the most common "into native language" pair, the reverse pair, or between two languages neither of which is the native language).

As an adult, you can certainly go from zero writing skill in a foreign language (clearly, if you haven't yet learnt the grammar...) to an acceptable level in terms of sentence structure. But would you have the depth of feeling for the language to produce 100% natural-sounding text in that language, not simply error-free but even free of the "nose-wrinkling effect" you get when it isn't an error but somehow it just isn't quite natural? You might be able to produce that when translating out of your native language, Lincoln; some others here certainly can - but it's rare.

Learning a foreign language to a high level of comprehension is NOT rare - I don't understand why you are so dubious about the standards of your peers in that respect. Of couse there are some on here who don't have the required level, but that's because this is a site that's open to all and even free to many. We should be discussing which jobs a competent translator should be undertaking; not what an incompetent translator might be attempting.
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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
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Language pair Aug 14, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Learning a foreign language to a high level of comprehension is NOT rare - I don't understand why you are so dubious about the standards of your peers in that respect.

I think there is a difference in experience here. The Chinese-English pair does seem to lend itself to comprehension problems in a way that I just don't see happening in European languages. Even at relatively high levels of translation, you still get some really spectacular errors. I guess it's the cultural distance or something.
Like, there's a certain level of vocabulary that you need to be able to read a newspaper. It seems to be quite possible in this pair to possess that level of vocabulary, and yet be unable to understand newspaper articles. Not everyone, but it happens.


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
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Going both ways Aug 14, 2014

not what an incompetent translator might be attempting.

Because this is exactly what most discussions about translating into a native or non-native language revolves around. The production of incompetent translators is the main and often the only point raised when arguing what language one should or should not be allowed to translate into, and it is exactly what you yourself are dwelling upon when you talk about "not simply error-free but even free of the "nose-wrinkling effect" you get when it isn't an error but somehow it just isn't quite natural".


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
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LOL Aug 14, 2014

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

not this old chestnut again... where's Bala?


Feel like I've just stepped out of my DeLorean into the summer of 2012.


 

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
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Cultural nuances Aug 14, 2014

Full command of a language is also knowing when what one is saying or how it is being said is culturally acceptable or just downright rude to other native speakers of the language. I'm astonished at the tone being used here.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
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Actually... Aug 14, 2014

Gerard de Noord wrote:
What happens when you're translating into a non-native language is that you make mistakes you're not even aware of.


Theoretically, it is the other way around. You are more likely to know your limitations in your second language, and are more likely to know the language rules by rote instead of by feeling, in your second language. Therefore you are less likely to commit a language error when writing in your second language. Also, you are more likely to be unaware of hidden or secondary meanings and nuances in your second language. This would mean that it is actually safer to translate from your native language into your second language.

Suppose your source text contains a phrase that has a literal and a figurative meaning. If it is your native language, you are likely to know both meanings, but if it is your second language, you may be unaware of the figurative meaning. Then your translation will be pristinely idiomatic native-sounding language... but will also incorrect.


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
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Aug 14, 2014



[Edited at 2014-08-15 00:08 GMT]


 

564354352 (X)  Identity Verified
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Agree with Lisa Aug 15, 2014

Lisa Simpson, MCIL MITI wrote:

Full command of a language is also knowing when what one is saying or how it is being said is culturally acceptable or just downright rude to other native speakers of the language. I'm astonished at the tone being used here.


Even as a non-native English-speaker, I am appalled.

[Edited at 2014-08-15 04:53 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-08-15 05:03 GMT]


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
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Victor Meldrew Syndrome Aug 15, 2014

Gitte Hovedskov, MCIL wrote:

Lisa Simpson, MCIL MITI wrote:

Full command of a language is also knowing when what one is saying or how it is being said is culturally acceptable or just downright rude to other native speakers of the language. I'm astonished at the tone being used here.


Even as a non-native English-speaker, I am appalled.



As a long-time sufferer from VMS (Victor Meldrew Syndrome), I find it's generally more effective to write off-forum to a moderator and/or the offending party/ies when the old knee starts jerking and the immortal words "I don't believe it!" spring unbidden to the lips.


 

DLyons  Identity Verified
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As they used to say on Usenet Aug 15, 2014

Giles Watson wrote:

I find it's generally more effective to write off-forum to a moderator and/or the offending party/ies when the old knee starts jerking and the immortal words "I don't believe it!" spring unbidden to the lips.


Totally agree!

"Don't feed the trolls".


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
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Thanks for your kind words, Texte Style ;) Aug 15, 2014

But as for this...
Texte Style wrote:
Nobody ever corrected your French? My experience is akin to that of Eva Joly who said that the French language was their religion and every Frenchman a guardian of the temple. My children in particular will never let the slightest little error slip by. I have managed to raise a couple of "grammar nazis"!

Our neighbours absolutely insisted on French: even if they could manage a few words of English to tourists, nobody ever helped us - and that's the way it should be, of course. But to be honest, I don't think many would have felt confident correcting us. This was the Midi, among the vineyards of Languedoc, not Paris. I'm sure they all spoke reasonably correctly, but their written French was often quite atrocious, so I very much doubt that they knew the difference between a past participle and a preposition; and they certainly didn't know how the former differed from an infinitive.

On the other hand, my own son, who came top in a "dictée" in his second term after joining the school as a 7-y-o monolingual English kid... I shall never forget his reaction when I used "tu" for his teacher and "vous" for him! (I wasn't a translator at that stage, of course.)

@ Phil: I take your point about Chinese being much more difficult to learn than European languages. I suppose English native speakers could do with collaborating with Chinese speakers who can paraphrase the more obscure texts. Maybe that's a potential income stream for some.


 
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