TRANSLATIONS BY NON-NATIVE SPEAKERS

It is never advisable to use a translator who is not a-native speaker of the target language, because no matter how fluent they are, a word often ends up in the wrong place in a sentence or a word is used which has a slightly different meaning that only a native speaker would pick up. This can make a big difference to the quality of the text.

Occasionally, however, we are forced to engage translators who do not translate into their native language. This can happen with extremely complex subjects, such as scientific patents or with specific subjects in very rare languages, such as Swahili or Inuit, where it is unusual for native speakers of other countries to learn that language. Non-native translators must meet very strict requirements:

  • They must have studied the language and preferably also studied linguistics. They are expected to have achieved a near native level in the target language (this is a level that people who have studied a language often wrongly attribute to themselves), thorough training and education. Also, the translator must have a realistic view of the flaws which still form part of his second language.
  • Specialised texts sometimes require a translator who is specialised in a particular area. This expertise can offset a non-linguistic background as long as the translator has a native-level-command of one of the languages and an advanced level of the other.

In both cases, the translator must be able to produce an adequate translation, and it is then preferable to have the text proofread and fine-tuned by a native speaker.

Translating is much more than having a perfect command of a language. Even people who have been raised as bilinguals are sometimes poor translators: they are just not capable of taking a text in one language and creating an equivalent in the other language.

2016-08-04T08:17:36.7293478Z

Ingrid Verhees
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