+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 12

Thread: Are all translators bi-lingual?

 
  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Texas, USA
    Posts
    1,674
    Rep Power
    3148

    Default Are all translators bi-lingual?

    I have been on this forum for years and the thought just occurred to me.

    Are there translators who do not actually speak the languages they translate? I know that there can be a difference between reading/writing and actually speaking a language. To my knowledge I haven't met anyone who can read/write but not speak a language. However, I have known those who can speak Spanish but cannot read/write it. Is the reverse true also? Is it possible to be a good translator without having a command of both pair languages?

    This might explain some of the posts I've seen over the years on the board. It would also help in responding to a request for translation. I often respond in English because it is easier for me to explain exactly what I mean...but if the person asking the question does not understand English very well then I'm not being of any help to him/her.

    Has anybody else ever had concerns about this?

    Saludos!
    vicente

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    295
    Rep Power
    939

    Default Re: Are all translators bi-lingual?

    Quote Originally Posted by vicente View Post
    I have been on this forum for years and the thought just occurred to me.

    Are there translators who do not actually speak the languages they translate? I know that there can be a difference between reading/writing and actually speaking a language. To my knowledge I haven't met anyone who can read/write but not speak a language. However, I have known those who can speak Spanish but cannot read/write it. Is the reverse true also? Is it possible to be a good translator without having a command of both pair languages?

    This might explain some of the posts I've seen over the years on the board. It would also help in responding to a request for translation. I often respond in English because it is easier for me to explain exactly what I mean...but if the person asking the question does not understand English very well then I'm not being of any help to him/her.

    Has anybody else ever had concerns about this?

    Saludos!
    I am not a professional translator. However, I have to think that it would be extremely difficult to be a translator if you do not speak the language with moderately high level of proficiency.
    Sometimes, being able to speak it is not even enough to do a good translation. Sometimes, you have to be bi-cultural to grasp the meaning of what is being said.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Texas, USA
    Posts
    1,674
    Rep Power
    3148

    Default Re: Are all translators bi-lingual?

    Certainly, all that's true, but I'm not so sure that a person couldn't read and understand a language in writing and still not be able to understand it when it is being spoken. That's basically the problem with studying a language in school. One might be able to read and write it very well in a classroom setting but not speak it well at all because their only experience has been in class and have never been around native speakers. I think such a person could be an effective translator, as opposed to being an interpreter, if he limited his work to writing. And that was my question: Are there translators who do not speak a language well but are still able to translate it? Based on my experience, I tend to think there are.
    vicente

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    748
    Rep Power
    710

    Default Re: Are all translators bi-lingual?

    Vicente,

    As a matter of fact, there are. I remember attending a subject called –interpretation- at university and the teacher in charge of it gave the class in Spanish. On a very few occasions she spoke English which was awful. She lacked fluency, and accuracy left much to be desired.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    295
    Rep Power
    939

    Default Re: Are all translators bi-lingual?

    Quote Originally Posted by vicente View Post
    Certainly, all that's true, but I'm not so sure that a person couldn't read and understand a language in writing and still not be able to understand it when it is being spoken. That's basically the problem with studying a language in school. One might be able to read and write it very well in a classroom setting but not speak it well at all because their only experience has been in class and have never been around native speakers. I think such a person could be an effective translator, as opposed to being an interpreter, if he limited his work to writing. And that was my question: Are there translators who do not speak a language well but are still able to translate it? Based on my experience, I tend to think there are.
    Since there is always a market for everything, I imagine that a person with just beginner English skills could still be a professional translator if that person only limits his work to translating children's books for children less than 2 years old. Of course the market he can reach would be very much limited. Can it happen? I sure think so. Can that person be effective? Sure. However, at some point that kind of translator also runs the risk of being replaced by something like google translator.

    If I were looking for a translator, I probably would skip a person who cannot speak the source and target language with similar fluency. I can understand the person may have an accent but that should not affect fluency too much.

    In this day and age, when technology is changing the way we do things so rapidly, I have to think that translators want to bring more skills (like being bilingual, being bicultural, etc) to the table in order to be effective and differentiate themselves from other translators.

  6. #6
    Contributing User
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Buenos Aires
    Posts
    127
    Rep Power
    84

    Default Re: Are all translators bi-lingual?

    I also think that's possible. I remember an American poet, Jerome Rothenberg, who translated many Spanish language poets (Lorca I think among them, possibly Vallejo as well) and his Spanish was terrible to say the least. I met him in Spain and he wouldn't even be able to order a beer. His English versions of the poems, however, were pretty good and he surely dealt with their rhythm very well.

    I don't think he would have been able to translate a users manual for a microwave oven, though. Fortunately, he didn't have to!

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Texas, USA
    Posts
    1,674
    Rep Power
    3148

    Default Re: Are all translators bi-lingual?

    I'm pretty sure there are many translators...not to be confused with interpreters... who are not fluent or even competently speak the language they translate. Couldn't a mute, unable to speak at all, learn to read and write in a foreign language but never speak it?

    What about translators of technical documents such as medical and legal? I would think that somebody who limited themselves to one area of expertise could be very competent in translating such documents without ever speaking the language, probably better than a native speaker who is unfamiliar with technical terms.
    vicente

  8. #8
    Contributing User
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Buenos Aires
    Posts
    127
    Rep Power
    84

    Default Re: Are all translators bi-lingual?

    Quote Originally Posted by vicente View Post
    What about translators of technical documents such as medical and legal? I would think that somebody who limited themselves to one area of expertise could be very competent in translating such documents without ever speaking the language, probably better than a native speaker who is unfamiliar with technical terms.
    That's an interesting approach.

    Somewhat unrelated, but I remember that, when studying Shakespeare, I (a native Spanish speaker studying English as a second language) would have less trouble with most of the vocabulary than my fellow students from the UK and US. It was partly out of the habit of reading older English and partly because much of it was very close its Latin origins, which made it sound familiar to me.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Texas, USA
    Posts
    1,674
    Rep Power
    3148

    Default Re: Are all translators bi-lingual?

    Haha...I'm a native English speaker and anybody could handle Shakespere better that I could!! I tried just watching Lawrence Olivier's Hamlet on TV a few days ago and just couldn't take it. Reading it would be impossible.

    I commend you on your English. As a person who struggles to write proper Spanish, I am always impressed by someone who has mastered a language other than their native tongue. I live in an area of bilingual people (U.S./Mexican border) who learned both English and Spanish at home and in school. Very few are masters of both.

    Where are you from? Do you speak English as well as you write it?
    vicente

  10. #10
    Contributing User
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Buenos Aires
    Posts
    127
    Rep Power
    84

    Default Re: Are all translators bi-lingual?

    Quote Originally Posted by vicente View Post
    I commend you on your English. As a person who struggles to write proper Spanish, I am always impressed by someone who has mastered a language other than their native tongue. I live in an area of bilingual people (U.S./Mexican border) who learned both English and Spanish at home and in school. Very few are masters of both.

    Where are you from? Do you speak English as well as you write it?
    Thank you, Vicente
    I'm from Argentina and I do struggle more than I should whenever I speak English. I guess I'm one of those translators we were talking about that are not fully bilingual!

+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •