Is every bilingual a translator?
Many people have the capacity to learn a second language. It may be another language in the same country or a totally different language of another country. Nowadays, several institutes and schools offering foreign language courses are popping up throughout the world. Many colleges and universities have included some foreign language courses in their regular academic syllabus, too. When learning another language, you need to understand its basic grammar and learn its vocabulary. Being bilingual offers greater sensitivity to language, more flexibility in thinking and a better ear for listening. It also improves a person’s understanding for the native language. It opens the door to other cultures. Moreover, the knowledge of other languages increases the career opportunities, offering several job options. The term bilingualism derives from ’bi’ and ’lingua’ which means two languages. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines bilingual as having, speaking, or writing in two languages. Complete mastery of two languages is designated as bilingualism. Normally, people acquire a single language initially, that is, their first language or mother tongue. Subsequent languages are learned to different degrees of competence under various conditions. Speakers of these learnt languages grow up as bilinguals, but ordinarily the learning, to any extent, of a second or other language is an activity superimposed on the prior mastery of one’s first language and it is a different process intellectually. Bilingualism is a deliberate activity whenb undertaken after adolescence, when one has already or nearly or fully acquired the basic structure and vocabulary of one’s first language. It is only in getting in contact with a second language that one realizes how complex language is and how much effort must be devoted to acquiring one. One can generally distinguish two types of bilingualism according to whether the two languages were acquired from the simultaneous experience of the use of both languages in the same setting and circumstances or whether they were acquired from exposure to each language in different settings. In Thierry’s (1978) is saying in his work ’True Bilingualism and second language learning’ when he states that the term ’perfect bilingual’ suggest two things. One speaks both languages equally well One has two mother languages An example of the first scenario, English children living in India during the period of British dominance learned English from their parents and learned an Indian language from their nurses or family maids. This may not be considered a general case of bilingualism because it may be difficult if not totally impossible to measure whether or not a person can speak two languages equally well. This is so because; no criterion for comparison has ever been put in place. In the case of the second type of perfect bilingualism, one may want to consider what is actually meant by mother tongue and even how languages are acquired. Thiery (1978:146) defines mother tongue as ’the language or languages which the child has acquired by immersion, that is, by the natural reaction to the sounds made by its environment in order to communicate with it. So, mother tongue can be considered as not taught via another language. If one accepts this definition, a person cannot be considered a true bilingual if he has ’learnt it by tuition, regardless how well he speaks it. Acquired bilingualism leads to mutual interference between the two languages involved. Interference may take place in pronunciation, in grammar, and even in the meanings of words. Bilinguals often speak their two languages each with ‘an accent’ because they carry certain pronunciation features from one language to the other. So, a true bilingual, according to Thiery, is someone who is accepted by both language communities of the same social and cultural level. Translation is ideally a matter of bilingualism because it has to do with two languages. Bilingualism is indeed the ability of an individual to speak two languages at the same level of competence. It has to do with the acquisition and knowledge of the two languages and this necessitates bringing the knowledge of the two to the same level. Bell Rogers classifies bilinguals into Compound and Coordinate. Lambert (1978:137-138) agrees with this classification and, according to him, A compound bilingual is defined as the one who has learnt two languages simultaneously (from infancy) and with interlocutors who used the two languages equally well and often interchangeably. This is also known as the true or perfect bilingualism. For compound bilinguals, words and phrases in different languages are the same concepts. That means that ’chien’ and ’dog’ are two words for the same concept for a French-English speaker of this type. These speakers are usually fluent in both languages. A coordinate bilingual is that one who has different acquisition settings for each language, that is different times of acquisition (the second language learned after infancy) and socio-cultural context, one language at home and the other outside the home (at school or in the neighborhood. this can also be called ’ la bilingual d’expression’which means mastering a second language as a working language but without competently speaking it. For example, speaking good French but managing to speak English. For coordinate bilinguals, words and phrases in the speaker’s mind are all related to their own unique concepts. Thus a bilingual speaker of this type has different associations for ’chien’ and for ’dog’. In these individuals, one language, usually the first language, is dominant, and it may interfere in thinking in the second language. These speakers are known to use very different intonation and pronunciation features, and sometimes to assert the feeling of having different personalities attached to each of their languages. The distinction between compound and coordinate bilingualism has come under scrutiny. In studies done on multilinguals, most are found to show an intermediate behavior between compound and coordinate bilingualism. Some authors have suggested that the distinction should be made only at the level of grammar rather than vocabulary, others use "coordinate bilingual" as a synonym for one who has learned two languages from birth, and others have proposed dropping the distinction altogether. In bilingualism, there are always the issues of balanced bilingualism, the idea of language dominance, because one cannot talk of perfect bilingualism, so it is difficult to evaluate equivalence as far as translation is concerned. One only has to measure the dominance of one language over the other. At the level of cognitive competency, those bilinguals who are highly proficient in two or more languages, such as compound and coordinate bilinguals, are reported to have a higher cognitive proficiency, and are found to be better language learners (third, fourth, etc.) at a later age, than monolinguals. The early discovery that concepts of the world can be labeled in more than one fashion gives those bilinguals an advantage. A continuous link between two mutually incomprehensible tongues and one that does not lead either to suppression or extension of either is translation. And as soon as two speakers of different languages need to converse, translation is necessary either through a third party or directly. Paul Kholer (1973) discusses the relationship between bilingualism and translation giving real examples as case studies by considering the lexical levels of translation and the role bilingualism plays. Kholer also goes further to say that there is no satisfactory machine translation for the simple reason that language structure is complex and words have more than one interpretation depending on the context in which they are used. Machine translation cannot make a distinction between the different meanings of words. Translation is a practical application of the theory of meaning. This meaning can be analyzed at different levels and for different units, that is, from word to phrase to sentence to text. The importance of meaning in translation can be observed in the statements credited to Peter Newmark (1982) who defines translation as “rendering the meaning of a text into another language in the way that the author intended the text.” Eugene Nida also defines translation as “reproducing in the receptor language the closest natural equivalent of the source language message first in terms of meaning and secondly in terms of style.” From the above definitions, we observe that meaning must be given priority in any translation activity because it is meaning that is constant and must be held as such; the form can change depending on the style of the translator or the text. Translation as Catford (1965:20) puts it simply implies the “substitution or replacement of textual materials in one language by equivalent textual material in another language.” The concept of equivalence however poses some problems because it can be interpreted in different ways. In equivalence, it is not only the word that is taken into consideration but the context is also considered. Is translation synonymous with bilingualism? It is one of the general misconceptions in translation practice that translation is bilingualism and that every bilingual individual is automatically a translator. But is this really so? Can every bilingual be or become a translator? Before one can effectively answer this question, one has to have an understanding of who a bilingual is and what a translator actually does. It is also very essential to understand the relationship between bilingualism and translation. The understanding of the above will help the reader know that translation is not synonymous with bilingualism, although one can complement the other. The different types of bilingualism such as social, professional and native will be discussed here. Relationship between bilingualism an