Right from the start, let me state that I am no snob regarding my love of English, it’s just what I know best due to the chance location of my birthplace.
It’s a dreadfully complex language, made up of so many historical influences and invasions, therefore anyone who learns English as a foreign language has my admiration!
But if English writers need a proofreader to check over their work when they have known how to write English since school days, how much more might a non-native English speaker need the proofreader’s services.
It is not due to of a lack of skill or education on their part, since it is true that it’s easier to learn how to speak a language than it is to write it. Millions of people around the world speak more than one language; many speak all equally well, having lived in a multi-cultural society, and absorbed the words through their skin, as it were.
Shamefully, this is less true in England.
As a former language teacher myself, I have met students who complain that there is no point in learning a foreign language as they find that the holiday reps, the waiters, in fact most of the people they encounter in the holiday resort, already speak pretty decent English.
Possibly another reason for a lack of interest in learning a foreign language is that we do not share any land borders with other countries, (other than our Celtic neighbours). Unlike France, bordered by Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy, Monaco, Spain and Andorra, we can’t just hop into the car for a short trip to another country and find ourselves amongst a language we don’t understand.
- A French family living in Alsace is very likely to be bi-lingual in German and French.
- Those living in Perpignan quite likely often travel across the border into Spain just to go shopping.
- If you live in India, you may speak several of the 22 official languages of that country, maybe regional dialects as well.
Add to this the fact that English is the most widely spoken language around the world after Spanish, and it’s not surprising that it is also the language of business and of the internet.
What about using a web-based translation tool or an app?
Unfortunately, I do see a huge amount of information on the web that has obviously been either (very badly) translated via a computer assisted translation tool or has been written by someone whose English language skills need a little more practice.
Tools such as Babelfish are extremely useful, but cannot be relied upon to produce perfect English. If anything, they make a dreadful mess of what could have been a wonderful piece of writing. The human input is crucial, with or without the benefit of the translation tool. A proofreader who also has translation skills should be the ultimate choice.