The Unicorn in Translation: Native English Translator

At some point, we have to tackle this one and get it over with. We see it everywhere and at the same time, it is such an elusive definition. You have probably already guessed what I am going to talk about from the headline of this article—a must-have in the resources of every big translation agency, a sales pitch, and a requirement of almost every client your sales team talks to.

Oh yes, you’ve got that right!

I am going to discuss the topic of Native English Translators alongside Asian languages. And to be more specific—the narrowly specialized ones—medical, legal, technology, engineering, or any other specific field that is out there.

Who are the Native English Translators with Asian languages

One thing I am offering here is honesty. We all know what a native English speaker is, so I’ll skip that one and go straight to the whole phrase. From a historical point of view, the people who are fluent in the English language in Asia and have obtained a decent knowledge of an Asian language as a second one have usually spent a significant amount of time already in Asia. These are people who have moved to Asia in the past decades and had enough time to get the language right along with the cultural differences. They have either been soldiers or missionaries or something very similar to that but they are no doctors or engineers.

Let’s turn it the other way around – native in Korean for example with a very fluent English and a translation degree and an engineering degree. Do you see where I am going?
The truth is that English is so much more difficult for Koreans due to the difference between Korean and English, that they start to learn English from the age of six in order to have a decent level of English. And this is very far away from having a degree in translation and on top of that to get an engineering degree.

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Another group of people, which can be defined as native translators are 2nd or 3rd generation of Asians born in the US. Do you think that if someone majored in Medicine working as a translator rather than his own hard-earned profession is an option? Even if we assume that it is so, the thing is these people still won’t qualify as a translator because they’ll lack the written language knowledge they need to do it. The spoken one is still good but it is not nearly enough with regards to vocabulary, grammar, and writing skills.

Did we mention the B-word so far?

I am talking about Budget here. In the translation industry, it is all about competitive prices, low budget, and good quality. There is no single client of yours who won’t bargain for volumes and pricing. When we interpret this to the groups of translators I’ve described above we go way south—too much, too slow, poor quality technology-wise, and language-wise.


Newsflash! If you pay for peanuts you will get peanuts.


native english translator

How about a solution?

Naturally, it would’ve been pointless to write all of the above without even having a suggestion or a plan to share with you on that topic. So, I’d be quite brief and make a simple list for you. This one will show you how we get a “Unicorn Translation” without a native English translator. It is no big secret, just a practical way to benefit the most from what’s available in reality.

Step 1: Get that expert to translate for you, despite the quality you’ll get.
Step 2: Continue with a top-notch native English editor.
Step 3: Secure a specialist from the side of the client to answer all the questions of your linguists.
Step 4: Don’t let your client buy the peanuts, please!

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Voila! We’ve got it. And now you know better than to ask for a Native English Translator, right?