“A translator? No need, I am bilingual.”

“A translator? No need, I am bilingual.” You can’t imagine the number of people who use this argument to dismiss or ignore their translation needs. In our prospecting efforts, this represents perhaps a third of explanations for refusal. When I’m dealing with this type of response, very often I respond by email, with some arguments that I believe are strong enough to make my contact think. Often, I have the distinct impression that my words fall on deaf ears.

Are you sufficiently bilingual to be able to do a translation?

I frequently change from French, English and Spanish. Nothing exceptional in the translation sector, this is the bare minimum. My emails are written in these languages with more or less success. It is indeed difficult to translate all of our communications on a daily basis. But email exchanges remain simple and repetitive, once the formulas is known, a relatively good knowledge of grammar and a working memory is enough.

A simple question, how many words do you think you know in your native language? Answer: 2 000, 3 000, 5 000, 10 000? It doesn’t really matter. The real question is: do you really know so many words in this language in which you claim to be bilingual? And do you think you’ve mastered the subtlety of the grammar as well as that of your native language to provide a professional translation? Come on, be honest, please.

Indeed, you are not bilingual, you are fluent. According to the explanations on our friend Wikipedia (for the skeptics of this source, our friend Larousse will come later), a person is bilingual when they are able to “express themselves perfectly without any preference in either language”.

Do I want my client to see in their first contact with me, mistakes or mistranslations? Not me, what about you? tweet

An example. Even though I have mastered these languages, it does not occur to me to write this blog article in French or Spanish, although the target audience is far wider. Why? Simply because I have not totally mastered (and certainly never will) these languages and this material is too important. If I had done a translation of this article or directly wrote it in one of these languages, I would have certainly made mistakes, it would be badly expressed on one point and not developed in another. It is still a website, one of my first communication tools between me and my client. Do I want my client to see in their first contact with me, mistakes or mistranslations? Not me, what about you?

With a level of 940 in TOEIC, I know how to do translations!

“My TOEIC level is 940 anyway,” you tell me! TOEIC or “Test of English for International Communication” is, without discrediting it, an aptitude test for the general use of English in a daily context. It absolutely does not give the ability to translate anything. And even less when it comes to sustained or highly technical language. And what about style? Do you think that you can reproduce a colloquial style or business language required for a professional translation?

Unless you have parents of 2 different nationalities and have lived in their respective countries for several years, you will only have a single native language. Whether you like it or not, you will never speak both English and French, never.

Now that you understand this, do you honestly think that you are able to correctly translate your documents yourself? Or worse, ask a trainee to make a translation… Here, I honestly question your seriousness.

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