Discrimination in seeking translators/Rechtliche Frage zur Diskriminierung von Übersetzern

Kann es gesetzlich verboten sein, “englische Muttersprachler” (“native English speakers”) als Übersetzer oder Dolmetscher zu suchen? Im früheren Beitrag zitierte ich eine englischsprachige Werbung aus der Süddeutschen Zeitung für Übersetzer, die in beide Richtungen übersetzen sollen und “mother tongue standard” (auf dem Sprachniveau von Muttersprachlern) aufweisen sollten. Im Kommentar schreibt Robin Bonthrone, die Guardian habe eine solche Anzeige abgelehnt.

Ich habe aber den Eindruck, es könnte in der EU als diskriminierend angesehen werden, als *nicht*-Übersetzer englische Muttersprachler zu suchen, und die Guardian hat etwas durcheinandergebracht (sie erwähnte auch Rassendiskriminierung). Denn native speaker kann jeder Rasse oder Nationalität angehören, muss bloß in einer englischsprachigen Umgebung aufgewachsen sein.

In an earlier entry, I quoted an English ad for translators of ‘mother tongue standard’ in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. in one of the comments, Robin Bonthrone says that the Guardian refused to place an ad for a translator into English and he had to put it in the Economist:

bq. I wonder if this has a legal background? Earlier this year, we were going to advertise a position for a senior native-English translator with the Guardian in the UK. They refused to accept the job requirement for a “native English speaker”, claiming this breached equal opportunities and/or racial discrimination law. So we pulled the Guardian ad and it went into the Economist instead.

I would be quite annoyed if I discovered that native speakers could not be sought. The word ‘native’ in ‘native’ speaker does not, of course, mean someone who has lived in England since birth. It means, I would say, someone who has grown up in an English-speaking environment. Probably that definition could be polished, but a person born to English-speaking missionaries in some distant land would still be a native English speaker.

A Google search revealed some Esperantist anger at the EU seeking native speakers of English for *non*-translation jobs. That I can see.

bq. Die Beschwerde richtete sich gegen Fälle sprachlicher Diskriminierung sowohl seitens europäischer Organisationen, die teilweise oder gänzlich durch die Europäische Kommission finanziert werden, als auch seitens privater Unternehmen, die mit der Europäischen Kommission zusammenarbeiten. Diese Organisationen veröffentlichten wiederholt Stellenanzeigen, die Sprecher mit “English mother tongue” oder “English native speakers” verlangten. Dies hat zur Folge, dass europäische Bürgerinnen und Bürger, die gute oder ausgezeichnete Englischkenntnisse besitzen, diskriminiert werden und nicht eingestellt werden können. Die Europäische Esperanto-Union hat über 700 solcher Anzeigen gesammelt (siehe Liste unter http://www.lingvo.org/eo/2/15). Die Liste beinhaltet keine sprachenspezifische Stellen als Übersetzer oder Dolmetscher, sondern lediglich Arbeitsplätze, für die alle europäischen Bürger theoretisch gleiche Chancen haben sollten – auch wenn sie nicht englischer Muttersprache sind.

Other comments on EU practice also seem to radiate from this Esperantist initiative.

The definition of a native speaker, and even of ‘native speaker competence’, was a recent topic on languagehat, incidentally.

4 thoughts on “Discrimination in seeking translators/Rechtliche Frage zur Diskriminierung von Übersetzern

  1. Margaret,
    The recruitment consultant who tried to place the ad for us told us that this had happened before. I assume there are two possibilities: 1. a genuine misunderstanding on the part of the Grauniad as to what the term “native speaker” actually means, coupled with total terror at the thought that somebody, somewhere, might consider it offensive that an advertiser might refuse to consider an application from a non-native speaker; or 2. your typical “18-year-old called Darren” (or Sharon) in the ad sales department who’s never heard of the term before in any case and certainly can’t spell it. Or 3. (this is getting like “our two main weapons…”) a total lack of understanding about what a translator does, and that the level of language knowledge isn’t some arbitrary or discriminatory requirement (basically the only issue we discriminate on is ability), but a measure of skill.

    I just hope that we’re not sliding down the slippery path to a situation where a translator position candidate needn’t have any language skills at all…

  2. O.K. I do understand the Esperantists’ complaint, but in the Guardian case… as far as i know the phrase in question was “native English speaker”? I’d prefer to suspect that what incites this outbreak of PC is not the “native speaker” but the “native English” (as opposed to, say, the native Scotsman… or the native American, for that matter) – ever tried a “native speaker of English”, just to probe whether the idea that such a notion might exist at all has ever entered the minds of ad sales staff before?

  3. It’s paradoxical that language should be such an inferior, inadequate and ambiguous medium for carrying the recruitment message for the recruitment of linguists.

    Though supporting Robert’s idea of a native speaker of English, that too has its shortcomings as much anecdotal evidence – inc. on Language Hat – will testify.

    Are Gaelic-born Scots or bi/multilingual Indians, Pakhastanis and Bengladeshis ‘native’ speakers of English? What about my Swiss-born, UK-married secretary who – during childhood – moved between the Italian-, French- and German-speaking borders? No primary or native language there.

    As a real-life Sharon or Tracy once asked of a Languages Career adviser – it’s in an ITI Bulletin – ‘do I need an inoculation to become an interpreter? If so, how many jabs will I need?’. Answers on a postcard to London Zoo please.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.