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grawrt

When Chinese people correct your English as a native speaker… uhh what?

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grawrt

When Chinese people correct your English as a native speaker… uhh what?

 

A little background information before I begin. I’m currently in my final year of my master’s program in Interpreting (Chinese, English), born and bred in the USA, and hold a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. I’ve been doing proofreading work for Chinese clients over the last year or so. I’m not perfect (who is?). I don’t think a native English speaker is necessarily ‘always right’. However, that said. I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of proofreading translations over the last year or so and I can tell you right now that Chinese people are just not that good, and I feel confident that I would do a lot better job at translating.

 

Recently I brought this up to one of my client’s attention and he decided to give me a shot to at translation. He sent me an image to translate. Yes... I said an ‘image’. You can only imagine the difficulty of reading Chinese characters from a crappy low quality screenshot... but I managed. I sent it back to him and he told me that the translation looked good except I missed out one thing and I should be really careful because omitting things was a very serious matter. Fair enough. I apologized told him that perhaps next time he could send me it in a world file as opposed to an image. He said sure and that he would consider me for translations in the future. Days pass and today he messaged me again about the translation practice I did. I almost didn’t recognize the text because it had clearly been worked over by a Chinese speaker. I would never write that a company was a ‘subordinate’ of another company. So I fixed that up for him. Then he proceeded to tell me how the English language works and tried to school me on plurals. Nothing personal but no native English speaker would ever write ‘customer services’.  I just told him actually we would never add the s there. I wasn’t upset with him for trying to fix my English because believe it or not this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered it. But the he went and told me ‘Our company strictly maintains high quality translations, you need to be extremely careful about this’

 

Oh really? I literally opened up the last file he sent me to proofread, circled the first line that read ’now archetechure?’  sent it back to him and suggested that his translators should try and maintain the ‘high quality’ level he wanted me to follow because I would never make such a basic error.

 

I think it’s a really interesting discovery about Chinese people. There is something ingrained in them that says that a ‘waiguoren’ will not only never understand Chinese well enough to grasp its concepts but also that we don’t even grasp the English language as well as them.

 

One of my favorite memories:  ‘English with Chinese characteristics’ (sorry this screenshot is from my Instagram haha…)

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Any one else have this experience? 

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mackie1402

A friend of mine from the UK went for an interview to teach English at a language school for 4 year olds in China. The Chinese staff gave him a demo class where they pretended to be the students. At the end of the interview they gave him their feedback regarding his demo class. 

 

"Your English pronunciation is very bad. You can't say these words properly. You were saying '.....', but you should say it like this, listen... '.....'." 

 

Just to make it clear, his pronunciation is perfectly fine. 

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mungouk
36 minutes ago, grawrt said:

no native English speaker would ever write ‘customer services’

 

Plenty would, but maybe not in the context you're thinking of but didn't tell us.

 

37 minutes ago, grawrt said:

I think it’s a really interesting discovery about Chinese people.

 

Or possibly about one particular Chinese person?

 

21 minutes ago, mackie1402 said:

Your English pronunciation is very bad. You can't say these words properly.

 

With my accent (Northern England) I suspect this could quite easily happen to me.  Never mind a New Zealander... 😉

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Lu

I've had my Dutch translations changed, by a client who didn't know Dutch, because I did not abide by the standard translations for certain words that the client had set. These translations were simply bad, which is why I had not followed them. I explained to them how the translations were bad. They still wanted them. If your name isn't on it, you just need to have a small ego about these things. (I am still learning this.)

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roddy

I've had similar things happen to me back when I was proofreading. Simple fact is that the 'customer' often isn't a native speaker, it's someone who wants to make sure this translation looks like all the other translations, because God help them if all the other translations are wrong. It's annoying.

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Zbigniew

Sadly the Dunning-Kruger effect is a universal phenomenon, not one confined to Chinese people.

 

Your apparently absolute objection to "customer services" is puzzling; as mungouk suggests, we need to see some context really to know why you feel the way you do.

 

1 hour ago, grawrt said:

Any one else have this experience? 

 

I have, but I've also had the opposite experience plenty of times, a recent one being a Chinese person who repeatedly preceded a word starting with a vowel with the indefinite article "a" rather than "an" and when questioned asserted they'd been told by a native English speaker that doing so is completely standard.

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roddy
3 minutes ago, Zbigniew said:

repeatedly preceded a word starting with a vowel with the indefinite article "a" rather than "an"

Which word? I'd look at sound, not letter. An understanding, a university.

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Lu
3 minutes ago, Zbigniew said:

I have, but I've also had the opposite experience plenty of times, a recent one being a Chinese person who repeatedly preceded a word starting with a vowel with the indefinite article "a" rather than "an" and when questioned asserted they'd been told by a native English speaker that doing so is completely standard.

This kind of thing happens really often. I think (I believe) that often it is not so much that the native speaker taught the wrong thing, but that the learner misunderstood, or misremembered, or in one particular context it was correct but not always, etc etc. Happens for Chinese as well, I can't think of an example right now but some people have learned bits and pieces of Chinese, supposedly from native speakers, that are just not correct.

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Zbigniew
1 hour ago, roddy said:

Which word?

Lots of words, namely all those in her conversation starting with a vowel that called for a preceding "an" rather than an "a". 

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Tomsima
3 hours ago, mungouk said:
4 hours ago, grawrt said:

I think it’s a really interesting discovery about Chinese people.

 

Or possibly about one particular Chinese person?


Most important observation here. Sounds like the guy is trying to look for ways to drive your price down perhaps. Interestingly, one of my interpreting lecturers dedicates quite a lot of time teaching us different forms of interpreting for UK delegations vs for Chinese delegations. Apparently, correcting the interpreters English is one way to impress your colleagues/seniors. So if you say something different to their official translations they will say your English was wrong (eg. they will listen for the English along the lines of 'un-matured' when 不成熟 is used in the Chinese)...

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Bibu
8 hours ago, Zbigniew said:

Sadly the Dunning-Kruger effect is a universal phenomenon,

pretty  to the point.

 

I had similar experience when teaching mandarin: a student of mine keep saying my hand writing is SO BAD. In fact, I did not tell her anything of the Chinese character yet.

 

The good thing is , my student is very friendly and this only reflects she is so indulged with learning mandarin the moment.

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murrayjames
10 hours ago, mungouk said:
11 hours ago, grawrt said:

no native English speaker would ever write ‘customer services’

 

Plenty would, but maybe not in the context you're thinking of but didn't tell us.

 

10 hours ago, Zbigniew said:

Your apparently absolute objection to "customer services" is puzzling; as mungouk suggests, we need to see some context really to know why you feel the way you do.

 

Does “customer services” really need additional context? @grawrt is referring to the unnecessary pluralization of terms that are usually used in the singular in English. It is a fairly common error among non-native speakers in China.

 

e.g., Lauren is a fantastic employee and gives excellent customer services

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mouse

I think the point was that “customer services” does exist in English, as a name of a department. While I’m sure all native speakers would be able to guess that grawrt was being hyperbolic about the total lack of “customer services” in English, not everyone who posts here is a native English speaker, so it helps to be clear.

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murrayjames

@mouse

 

Sure, but that is not what is happening here. The authors of the replies above (that I replied to) objected not to @grawrt's argument, but to his tone.

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realmayo

I can't help wondering if a culture which only one generational memory ago was terror-bound to believe that white was black and up was down might sometimes latch on quite sporadically to this or that authority for what is right and what is wrong.

But then there's a wider point about different types of rationality -- and the western belief that there's only one type of rationality -- which is off-topic and beyond my understanding anyway.

 

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Lu
38 minutes ago, realmayo said:

I can't help wondering if a culture which only one generational memory ago was terror-bound to believe that white was black and up was down might sometimes latch on quite sporadically to this or that authority for what is right and what is wrong.

But this is not a Chinese thing. There are plenty of Western people who are more than happy to explain to Chinese people how their country works. There are even American people who are happy to tell me how the Netherlands work, and vice versa. It is possible that there is a specific brand of Chinese stubbornness, but I am not sure if that is the case.

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li3wei1

My first day teaching English in Taipei, I put the word 'seldomly' on the board, and my students cheerfully corrected me. I've met plenty of non-native speakers whose understanding and application of the rules of grammar, let alone English vocabulary, is far superior to that of the majority of native speakers. Right is right, wrong is wrong. 'Qualified as an authority' doesn't mean shit.

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realmayo
7 minutes ago, Lu said:

There are plenty of Western people who are more than happy to explain to Chinese people how their country works. There are even American people who are happy to tell me how the Netherlands work, and vice versa.

 

Absolutely, one comes across that kind of thing all the time, I even know people from outside the UK who express views on Brexit.

 

But I'm talking about a sporadic and unpredictable latching on to authority - and yes, as you are right to identify, a stubbornness about accepting in the face of new information that that authority might be flawed. Then again it could be a face thing. Anyway, it's unlikely not be cultural.

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