THE NATIVE SPEAKER TRANSLATOR ISSUE
Now and then translation clients specifically request translators who are native speakers of the target language. At first sight, this is a quite reasonable requirement. After all, everyone has seen a foreigner struggling to convey their ideas in the local language; hilarious anecdotes often come to our minds.
However this is all about professional translators, not merely bilingual people. What would be the difference? To me, a bilingual individual is someone capable of properly expressing their own ideas in two different languages, whereas a translator is someone able to faithfully and correctly express someone else's ideas in a language different from the one in which they were originally stated.
The most extreme case I ever saw was the late uncle of a close friend of mine. The man was born in Russia, emigrated to Brazil in his teen years. I don't know exactly how, but he mastered some 12-14 languages with such perfection and eruditeness to the point of baffling native speakers in each of them, in spite of his unavoidable accent. Yet, he never translated anything in his life, he was a lawyer.
A professional translator must have mastered the writing skills in the target language they intend to translate into. This is not acquired by osmosis in childhood, but instead through a deliberate learning effort, and practice. The result is that the market gets flooded with translators who didn't take that extra step, regardless of their native language. So, demanding a 'native' translator becomes an argument as good as requiring a left-handed mechanic to repair a UK-style (viz. steering wheel on the right side) vehicle.
Many mid-range translators deliver text that is apparently "correct". A spellchecker won't find anything wrong there. Grammar checking will seldom spot anything that will justify an amendment. Yet a native speaker of that language will have an uneasy feeling throughout it, a sensation that something does not fit. It's definitely not the case in the challenge I'm about to pose you, but sometimes a bilingual reader can't refrain from mentally back-translating to get to the gist of what's written there.
So here is your challenge: Compare the two texts below, and guess which one was written by a native English speaker. After you are through both, click on your answer at the bottom, to know where they came from.
What is the ABRATES Translator Accreditation Program and what is its use?
Accreditation makes it easier for the translator to communicate to clients regarding his or her qualifications and professionalism. Through stating that accreditation is held, the translator is giving the information that his or her qualifications have measured up to the standards of the Brazilian Association of Translators.
Accreditation through a Professional Association is a common practice in our profession. This information may represent an advantage in obtaining work and clients, since it may decisively influence the client's choice. In many countries, a program has been adopted for proving that the translator has had his or her qualification recognized beyond the school benches: ATA (United States), NAATI (Australia) and CTIC (Canada), for example.
It also should be remembered that, in many other countries without accreditation programs for translators, there are instead government programs for nominating public or sworn translators. Such programs are frequently carried out in countries like Argentina, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Mexico, for example, which means that sworn translators are trained practically every year.
In Brazil, public translators are nominated by means of a public competition held by each State's Board of Trade. How long is it since the last time there was a public competition for sworn translators in your state? In the State of Rio de Janeiro, for example, the last public competition was held more than twenty years ago... The last public competition in the State of São Paulo was held five years ago.
Thus, apart from the rare public competitions for public translators, there is no government program for certifying the professional's qualifications. And it is not unreasonable to think that, if there were, it would certainly resemble ENEM (the national high school quality examination) or the university entrance examination. We do not believe that this solution would be appropriate for good professionals (whether or not they were trained in a university-level teaching institution) who are practicing translators and keep themselves up to date, study, invest and, ultimately, seek professional betterment.
The Accreditation Program in Brazil is offered and administered by an association of translators, ABRATES, by means of a practical evaluation, in contrast to programs in several other countries that are state-run or aimed at sworn translators, or programs that are based only on training courses. In Brazil, it is a program made by translators for translators. This is a factor that makes your participation worthwhile, regardless of the other virtues of Accreditation.
What are the characteristics of the Accreditation Program and why is it appropriate for the professional translator?
The Accreditation Certification is conferred on the translator after passing a specific test, held under controlled conditions. The tests are prepared and marked by an Examining Committee composed of professionals of recognized suitability and competence in various fields. Examine the Program Regulations and the Criteria for Marking and Acceptance, which are available on the ABRATES site.
It must also be emphasized that the tests are marked by the Committee without identifying the translator, and that only the names of candidates who pass are released.
It should always be remembered that ABRATES prides itself on the transparency and seriousness with which its Accreditation Program is administered.
Find out about the Accreditation Program and take part!
What is the ABRATES Translator Accreditation Program and what is its purpose?
Accreditation provides adequate means for a translator to assert their qualification and professional ability before prospects. Upon showing their accreditation, a translator will demonstrate that their competence has been assessed and deemed as compliant with the standards set by the Brazilian Translators Association - ABRATES.
Accreditation by a professional association is a standard practice in our profession. Being accredited means a plus upon applying for translation jobs, as the prospect will feel inclined towards choosing a candidate who has some third-party reassurance. Programs have been developed in several countries to assess and accredit translators’ professional qualifications beyond school exams, such as ATA (United States), NAATI (Australia) and CTIC (Canada), to quote a few.
Other countries not having such translator accreditation programs have laws on the translation of documents for official purposes, and hence their governments have implemented procedures to verify and appoint the so-called sworn or publicly certified translators. Some of the countries adopting such procedures are Argentina, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Germany, and Mexico, for example.
In Brazil, certified public translators must pass an exam, and then they are appointed by the Board of Trade of the State they live in. How long ago was the last such exam held in your state? In Rio de Janeiro, for instance, the last time it took place was over two decades ago... São Paulo did it five years ago.
Therefore, apart from the extremely occasional exams for certified public translators, Brazil has no other governmental program to endorse a translator’s professional qualification. Yet, if there were any, it wouldn’t be farfetched to think that it would be fraught with dysfunctions similar to those found in ENEM (the national high school quality exam) or the “vestibular” (university entrance exam). We consider this solution inadequate for practicing professional translators (regardless of their university degree or lack thereof) who invest time, effort, and resources in developing their competence.
The translators Accreditation Program in Brazil is organized and executed by ABRATES, a translators association, through a practical examination, quite different from programs adopted elsewhere that are either state-run for certifying public translators, or solely based on the successful completion of training courses. This Brazilian Accreditation Program is peer-driven, i.e. it involves professional translators assessing their forthcoming peers. This is something that makes it worthwhile for any translator to seek such Accreditation.
What are the features of this Accreditation Program, and why should a professional translator attempt to get such accreditation?
An Accreditation Certification is granted upon the translator having passed a practical exam under controlled conditions. Tests are developed and scored by an Examination Board made up of professional translators duly recognized for their background and competence in various specialized areas. Please check the Program Rules as well as the Scoring and Approval Criteria on the ABRATES site.
It is worth pointing out that the applicants’ tests are scored as anonymous, and only applicants who have passed will have their names disclosed.
It should also be noted that ABRATES takes pride on the transparency and fairness it adopts in its entire Accreditation Program.
Learn more about the Accreditation Program, and join!
Now it's your turn...
Click on the option below that you consider to be the correct answer.