Going Native

Published 15th December 2011
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 Going Native

When it comes to professional translation services, the issue of whether someone should translate out of their native language is a contentious one. There are a number of greatly differing opinions on this topic. There are so many levels of linguistic competence. Nevertheless, I think it remains impossible to suggest that anyone can write or speak better in their second or third language than in their mother tongue. My point has more to do with the brain and personal experience than any amount of learning. This is demonstrated perfectly by Alexei Bayer over at Words without Borders, who describes his native language as follows:

It is wired into my brain. Some parts of me are made in Russian. Perhaps all of them. Certain processes, especially those which are central to being, come with Russian instructions.

This attitude is shared by the majority of the translation community. They consider that no non-native can really provide professional translation services which are as highly idiomatic, flowing and culturally relevant as if the texts were written by a native speaker.

Bilingual natives?

This perspective is of course complicated by bilingual translators who live in countries such as Canada. Canada has two official languages and citizens have grown up with two languages. There are a small number of cases where this applies to the degree that a person can truly claim to be a bilingual translator. That is to say that they have all of the cultural and linguistic knowledge and experience to be able to write as a native in both languages. This is a very rare occurrence. People often do not, or cannot, distinguish between understanding a language to a working level and being able to render that language accurately and professionally, with a real ‘feel’ for the text.

One way that some translators and companies organise translation into a linguist’s non-native language is getting the translation proofread by a native speaker. This takes much longer and is potentially a very laborious task. Lingua Translations would never consider this option. There is a pool of expert linguists worldwide, who only translate into their respective native languages. This ensures the provision of the very best professional translation services.

Lingua seal of approval

At Lingua Translations, everyone involved in the translation process has a language degree and extensive experience in their second and third languages. No-one here would ever try to translate out of their mother tongue! We know just how important native-level knowledge is in producing an accurate and natural translations. We pass this knowledge on to our clients. Moreover, our translators are based in the country where their native language is spoken. This enables us to offer quality localisation and translation services in over 250 languages, from Brazilian Portuguese to Zulu.

Translations should be precisely tailored to their target audience, which demands native-level linguistic competence. This cannot be gained through even extensive experience, as is proven by many of our translators who are excellent speakers of English. Although they can communicate, and even write, to a very high level in English, the tell-tale signs are always there. A superfluous article or a misplaced preposition, a clumsy expression or the wrong connotation. These are the tiny margins that determine expert language services. Here at Lingua Translations, we make every word count.

For more information about the services offered by Lingua Translations, take a look at our professional translation services page.

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Ian Chapman – Director of Holiday Experience –

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