Thursday, February 24, 2011

12 Native vs. non-native Mortal Kombat

Click image to enlarge

Based on a crazy idea by Mykhailo Voloshko. Mykhailo is both a translator and an engineer based in Ukraine.


  1. Come on Mox, kick him in the groin! Only native speakers should translate! :)

  2. This is just stupid, I mean for marketing and such ok, but do you seriously think it is required to be a native-speaker for really technical translation. I would think that for very "dry" texts, it is better to have a really good non-native, this way, he will not take any liberties with rules he had to learn the hard way, not like a native speaker for whom it will be easier to take shortcuts...

    Just saying :)
    Love your work BTW

  3. Love it, too funny as usual. Ah, the ancient debate...

    BTW, just had the chance to share a dinner in Vegas with the world's most talented translation cartoonist. Had such a great time. ;) Saludos.

  4. Lionel, perhaps it depends on the language combination, but I personally believe that even for technical translations, it is better to have a native speaker or someone who speaks the target language to a native level. In my experience, non-native speakers often stick too closely to the source text when they are not sure of their translation, resulting in technical gobbledy-gook that doesn't mean much in the target language. Perhaps, as you say, it is less important for a technical text as for a marketing text; however, I have come across my fair share of operating manuals that seem to be fine until you reach step 9 out of 10 where suddenly the writer either failed to explain thoroughly or the translator did not understand the source text or the target text sufficiently.

  5. I would agree that every translator should only translate into his or her mother tongue. I’d say that this also applies to “dry” texts – which professionals for legal translation would get distracted translating into their mother tongue and end up writing a piece of literature only because it is their native language? To “hit” the appropriate style and tone (and to use the appropriate vocabulary of course) translators simply need subject knowledge, experience and a good deal of sprachgefühl.

  6. I thought Id comment that this was bang on hilarious, but I think the comments are even funnier! awesome



  7. Angela,
    You really wrote something interesting: "..or someone who speaks the target language to a native level". That is the problem, I guess. A lot of translation agencies I have worked with will only give me translations into my mother tongue, but I speak Dutch quite fluently. And yet they won't pass those projects on to me! How would you make it clear for them to understand you are in both languages at the same level?


  8. Thank you all for your fabulous comments.

    I agree with the previous comment by Pam and it is something that happens very often in this blog, the comments are better than the strip.

    Regarding the native vs. non-native speaker debate, I think that it is obvious that there are people who can translate into several languages. Through history, there are lots of notable writers who have written in more than one language (for example, two Spaniards come to my mind: José Blanco White and Salvador de Madariaga). However, I do understand PMs who are cautious about this. For my part, I know for sure that I will never be able to translate in a language other than Spanish.

  9. Once I was asked to translate from Ukrainian into English (I am native in Ukrainian & Russian). The source text was such a terrible mixture of Ukrainian & Russian that a translator who is not a native speaker of Ukrainian would hardly decipher most of words found in no dictionary.

    This is one of cases when a non-native wins the combat, isn't it? ;)

  10. Thanks so much, Mox.
    I wholeheartedly agree. First and foremost, translation should be done by natives with very few exceptions (yes, there are exceptions). Please, non-natives, don't you even think about editing my work. Please.

  11. Awesome! Let's also say to mortals that if you speak another language it doesn't mean you're authomatically a translator.


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