Native Translators vs Non-Native Translators
20/01/2021

Native Translators vs Non-Native Translators

While both native translators and non-native translators have valuable skill sets, native translators often have the upper hand over non-native translators thanks to their organic understanding of the target language and culture. A native translator translates source text into their mother tongue. They have extensive knowledge of a secondary language from which they translate into their first language. A non-native translator is one that translates from their mother language into a second language, which they have extensive knowledge of.

Keep reading to learn about the key differences between working with native translators and non-native translators. 

Writing Skills 

While reading the source copy, a native translator will be able to infer the meaning easily enough and will know when they need to do research to complete their understanding of the text. If you flip the table though and expect them to translate content from their native language to a secondary language, this is where they may fall behind a native translator of the target language. 

For example, if a German translator is translating a Russian text (their second language) into German (their first language), they can understand the text easily enough because of their extensive knowledge of the second language and can do more research as necessary. If, in turn, they needed to translate text from German to Russian, their job would become a lot more difficult. They could fall behind a translator who is Russian and a native translator of the target language.

A native translator will be less likely to make grammar mistakes or overly complicate their grammar use in their native language. Proper sentence flow comes so much more naturally in your native tongue, which is what you’ll want the reader to experience. In addition, native translators can create more complex written content and will have more opportunities to use the best possible word choices. It’s important to note that some non-native linguists have years of experience gained from living many years in another country using the second language and can have proficient use of the second language. 

Cultural Knowledge

Knowledge of culture plays an important role in both translation and transcreation. Especially when it comes to forms of content that rely heavily on cultural references, such as entertainment subtitles or marketing campaigns. When conveying or adapting cultural elements in translation, once again, native translators have an advantage as they can cater to the target audience with their organic knowledge. References relating to politics, movies, current events, and common jokes are all useful cultural aspects available to native speakers. This is especially true when it comes to dialect choices.

Because a language can have various dialects often associated with physical locations, a native translator will usually be aware of relevant dialect choices that a fluent, but non-native translator won’t be privy to. A simple example of how dialect can vary is seen in the United States, where the use of English is modified by region. For example, Midwestern residents refer to “soda” as “pop”, whereas someone on the West or East Coast would never call a soda pop. A literal translation while technically correct may not be as accurately expressive as a non-literal translation by someone with regional expertise.

Creative Potential

For both translation and transcreation, creativity is often necessary to do the job most effectively. A native translator can frequently assist with translating humor and cultural references that would fall flat if translated literally. Marketing materials are a prime example of where creativity can shine. When trying to sell a product to a new culture, a native translator will be more aware of what could potentially offend that culture, what they will find funny, or what they will relate to. Not to mention, language devices like rhyming, idioms, and alliteration will be much more attainable by a native translator, leaving the native translator with more creative opportunities. 
At Terra Translation, our translators are native speakers of the target language. We follow the standards, set by ISO 17100 in which we have certification. This standard, for translation services requirements, states that translation work should be completed by a professional translator translating source text into their native language.

06/10/2020

How to Choose the Best Translator for your Project

Many industries and businesses across the world use translators every day to break down borders and expand their reach. If you find that you too need to hire a translator for a project, there are a few considerations you’ll want to take first. Keep reading for our expert breakdown on how to choose the best translator for your project. By prioritizing these qualities and strategies, you’ll find yourself the perfect translator in no time. 

Choose the Right Native Speaker

What do we mean by choosing the right native speaker? Well, it’s important that the translator you work with is a native speaker specifically in the language you are translating into. As they have an organic understanding of the language they are translating for, their translations will sound more natural. It is possible for translators to achieve fluency in languages that aren’t their native tongue, but you’ll generally find that native speakers do the best work. 

It is worth nothing, though, that if the language you’re working in varies between countries (such as how Spanish in Mexico differs from Spanish spoken in other Latin American countries), you’ll want to not only use a native speaker, but a translator that has country specific expertise. 

Typically when you translate from non-native language to native language, you are more likely to have accurate text as it’s easier for translators to understand ideas that are written in a foreign language and in turn express that meaning in their native language.

Training and Experience is a Must

To start, your translator should have a translation degree or certification. Although there are plenty of translators without formal translation degrees who can do a good job, choosing to work with a professional who has formal training and job experience is your safest option. You can expect them to do a better job and have industry expertise that can help you avoid mistakes, such as knowing if your translation needs to be certified or not. 

Similar to how you want to work with a native speaker, you’ll want to work with a translator who specializes in your specific topic, such as medical translation or video game localization. Doing so will mean that the translator is aware of complex industry terms and knows the best way to tackle your project. 

Make Sure They Have a Large Tool Kit 

Translation software offers many benefits such as saving time and minimizing mistakes. Your translator should be familiar with using a variety of software localization or translation tools. While it would be ideal if they have experience with your tools of choice, it is not necessary if they already have a general familiarity with these types of tools and are willing to learn to use a new platform.

Be Realistic with Your Deadlines

If you want your translator to do the best job possible, don’t expect them to meet unrealistic deadlines. If you don’t give them ample time to research, review important references, or make room for questions to help bring clarity, then their work will suffer. If a translator offers an unreasonably quick turnaround, you may want to get a second opinion on how long the project should take. It is best to choose a translator who is honest about how much time your project will take to execute properly.