Bilingual and Even Multilingual Does Not Always Equate to Professional Translation or Proofreading Services– A Guest Post by  Ofer Tirosh 

The new business is up and running, the website is up and running, and now it is time to expand and move into a more diverse market with a larger potential customer base. Should you find a professional translation company to hire certified and professional proofreaders or is someone who grew up in a bilingual or multilingual environment going to be sufficient to meet all of your translation and proofreading requirements? It may even be possible that you yourself would like to learn how to become a proofreader.

The new shop is finally open, and the neighborhood you have invested in has a large Hispanic population. This is a very common occurrence as Spanish is prevalent in many parts of the United States and is one of the most common languages globally. Advertising and marketing materials need to be adjusted accordingly so you want to find someone to translate into Spanish, all of the requisite materials. That kid from Spain working in the store can probably do all that right?

That new financial business is finally up and running online, advertising heavily in the Hong Kong markets, and that programmer from China speaks Chinese right? What could it possibly hurt to have friends, neighbors or others whose “extensive qualifications” extend no further than having grown up in a bilingual household, to provide cheap translating and proofreading services?

Some people will not trust translators with no work experience to translate such documents. Oddly however, these are also the people who will sometimes use basic machine translations and hire these unqualified translators and proofreaders to proofread all of the document translations. What could possibly go wrong? Besides everything?

                    Professional Document Translations and Proofreading Services vs Friends and Family Services

“What is the preferred makeup of a relationship” This seems like a fairly straightforward question, but how would it be translated? Does the makeup refer to the composition of the relationship? Does it refer to the preferred makeup that a woman elects to wear within a relationship? Perhaps it is discussing how to makeup after the increasingly common breakup of an ongoing relationship? All of these variations will require entirely different words and context in terms of a translation.

In terms of translation and more notably within the realm of proofreading, these examples are the same in one language and quite different in others. The most challenging aspects of instances such as this are during live interpretations when no context will be made available beforehand, and may or may not even be implied in the conversation taking place.

There are still many cases wherein little things like this will be included in document translations as well, and as such, it may be much more beneficial to find a professional translation company that has native speakers on staff in order to ensure that the documents are completely and accurately translated and proofread.

Someone who has grown up in a bilingual household may be intimately familiar with both languages, and even speak them both with a native proficiency. Does this mean however, that they are ready to take on the task of a proofreader for professional document translations? Probably not. Why not though? If a person speaks two languages with a native level of proficiency, would that not qualify them to become a professional proofreader?

                    Unexpected Limitations Growing Up in a Bilingual Household

Granted, someone who grows up in a bilingual or even a multilingual household may very well attain a native level of proficiency in the common languages being spoken. This however, also tends to leave them with a vast gap in regards to a more diverse and expansive experience. Each and every language has its own variations. These are sometimes small and seemingly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

Local idioms and colloquialisms and even discourse markers are often unique and specific to more localized geographic areas. Different forms of expression are used in different geographical locations. These may often be displayed more expressly in terms of verbal communications, such as encountering someone on the South side of Boston who works as a god. To the person not intimately familiar with the different “flavors” and variations of English, this may often be a cause for confusion.

Conversely, someone who has grown up in that nation and who is familiar with the different aspects of the same language being spoken throughout the country, such a misunderstanding would never have happened in the first place. They would quickly recognize the unique and distinct characteristics of a Boston accent and recognize that this person actually works as a guard, and is not in any way saying that they are a god.

Problems very similar to these are often found in the written word as well, and can lead to the same level of confusion for someone not more intimately familiar with the language and with substantially more experience in local variations. If someone has asked another individual to “grab their pop” are they asking the person to find their father or to get their refreshing cold soft drink?

In some cases, it may merely be a misunderstanding of or confusion in the proper use of a homonym. In English, “two”, “to” and “too” as well as “there”, “their” and “they’re” are among the most common examples, though certainly not the only ones. These however, are largely among those people who have grown up in a bilingual household who actually learn to read and write in both languages.

It is surprisingly common however, for people growing up in multilingual environments, only to read and write in the parent language of the nation in which they live, remaining effectively illiterate in their native or historical language.

Cultural influence and cultural restrictions are another area where someone who has grown up in a bilingual or multilingual home may be woefully unaware. Such is true especially in the area of international marketing. Such mistakes when missed, often create an overwhelming obstacle to the person using their friend or family member to translate and proofread documents or even to review other equally uncontroversial materials such as photographs.

A photograph showing people eating hamburgers or hot dogs may be great in one location, but considered to be highly offensive in other countries around the world. Since these photos may be used as a part of the document translation services for the advertising and marketing campaigns, it is important that the cultural norms and sensitivities be both well known and understood by the professional proofreader.

Are there other pictures that can be used in some instances? Is it better to use the same picture in all of the campaigns or is there perhaps something that would ring a more familiar tone with locals in another area of the world? Can a picture of the Statue of Liberty be expected to get the same response in the Middle East as it would receive in the US? Again, these are all issues where someone who may have more than a fair grasp on what is essentially their native language, but lacks the required cultural and social understanding to become a professional proofreader.

In such cases, it is still very easy and even very common to have native speakers miss such seemingly little and inconsequential details, but the consequences can be very real and very expensive for the business that wishes to maintain a professional appearance. There are numerous cases wherein these small errors may very well determine the difference between life and death.

                    When The Case Counts, Professional Proofreading and Translation Services Matter

There was a time back in the days before home computers and internet access when many companies got in trouble for selling expensive medical transcription equipment to unqualified people. While medical transcription was (and continues to be) a good way to make a living, it requires certain skills that have to be developed and practiced over the course of time. This is just as true for those working as certified proofreaders and translators in some fields even today.

In many instances, there are industry specific needs, including industry specific language. Still, both speed and accuracy in translation and proofreading are mandatory as lives are often quite literally on the line.

Imagine a judge trying an arson case, and a witness or other asking the defendant on trial, “What’s up with the fire?” How does this get translated? In that particular case, it is merely asking how their wife or girlfriend is doing, albeit in (North American) Spanish. If that is translated literally without the benefit of any qualifier, it would probably look pretty bad for the defendant.

Again, someone who has grown up in a single family speaking only the local vernacular may be wholly unfamiliar with the phrase, much less how common or innocuous it is in reality, despite the seriousness of the charges being pressed.

What about cases of medical translation where a woman may have a rash or other matter of concern in a more sensitive area, and the translator, being the friend that they are, is hesitant to use such “crude” terms in regards to their friends and uses another word instead of an exact translation of what was spoken? Such confusion can lead to a misdiagnosis, mistreatment and may even result in the death of the patient, all because someone was concerned about their friend.

The same is often true when a friend or family of the patient is depended upon to accurately and completely translate or proofread all of the documents provided to the patient. In the case of billing or insurance paperwork being filled out incorrectly and the proofreader missing even small items, the result may be in no coverage being provided and the patient being held responsible for large portions, if not all of the medical bill. 

In the case of friends or family of the patient translating or interpreting for the purpose of treatments, even the smallest of errors can result in all of the treatment being for naught. In worst case scenarios, such translations can even lead to debilitating conditions including death. These can then turn into lawsuits where not only the hospital may be sued, but also the individual who was “just trying to help” and was “just translating for a friend”.

                    When To Hire Certified Professional Proofreaders and When to Phone a Friend

When someone is merely translating a wedding invitation, a birth announcement or even handing out invitations to a birthday party, or effectively any other document translation that does not have major ramifications, it is generally fine to merely phone a friend rather than figuring out how to hire a professional proofreading service.

Chances are pretty good that if there are enough friends who speak that language to invite, there is a friend somewhere who can translate and proofread documents well enough to get the job done. It should perhaps be noted however, that when focusing on learning a second language online or in school, there are numerous options to have someone else write the materials for them. This is probably always going to be a really bad idea.

In terms of schooling and education, it is expected that some errors will be made. The entire point of the classroom environment is not only to pass on the requisite knowledge to gain a more functional grasp of the second language, but also to provide the student with an area wherein mistakes can be made without serious ramifications.

Errors are part of the learning process and should never be shied away from or denied, but merely used as the tools that they are to assist the student in focusing on areas where improvement may be needed. It may still be a good idea if there is a friend about who is a bit more proficient in the language to review the work, but this does not mean hiring them to write the school assignments on behalf of the students.

Many professional or certified proofreaders are specific to a more refined pursuit, sometimes in the translation of medical documents, sometimes in legal translation and proofreading or other more industry specific areas. The reasons for this are generally two-fold, as it allows the professional proofreader to hone and refine their skills, and thus, it also allows them to command a better price for their work.

Even many professional translation companies will hire translators and proofreaders based on other criteria, including their specialty in high-demand industries such as those in legal and medical translation, and also for the general knowledge they may possess in regards to cultural sensitivities and to local variations of more widely spoken languages.

The best online proofreading services are not always the most expensive or the cheapest proofreading services. The benefit here moves to the advantage of the person who needs to hire a professional proofreader. Since the translators, interpreters and even proofreaders are already on staff, it can be both easier and cheaper to hire a certified proofreader from a professional translation company. Not only will all of the translation and proofreading be guaranteed, but it will be on time and on budget as well.

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This entry was posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Upper Intermediate (Level 5). Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Bilingual and Even Multilingual Does Not Always Equate to Professional Translation or Proofreading Services

  1. Pingback: Bilingual and Even Multilingual Does Not Always Equate to Professional Translation or Proofreading Services – Online English Learning Boutique

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