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Why is it important to use mother tongue translators?

I’ve been told that it’s very important to have my translation done by a mother tongue translator but I’m not sure exactly what that means and why it matters. Please can you explain?

We have a large document in German which needs to be translated into English and I’m not sure if I need a German person or an English person to do the work.


The term ‘mother tongue’ usually refers to the language which a person first learns to speak as a child.

For instance if you were born and raised in Germany then your mother tongue would be German. Another term which is frequently used is ‘native language’. Your mother tongue is your native language.

It’s important to use someone translating into their mother tongue as this is the language which they are usually most fluent in, both in terms of vocabulary and also cultural nuances.

So, in your case, if you have a document in German and you want it translated into English we’d ask one of our native English speakers who is a qualified German to English translator to translate it into English for you.

You don’t mention the subject matter of the document, but we’d also make sure that the translator is an expert in the subject matter covered so that you get the best possible translation quality.

It’s worth noting that the term ‘mother tongue’ can be a bit controversial as some people claim to be bilingual or even multilingual meaning they are equally proficient in more than one language. We’ve been in the translation business for many years and have only met a handful of people like this. Most people have a natural bias towards a single language.

Where it can get a bit complicated is in the case of people who learned one language as a child and then moved to another country when they were young or have simply lived in another country for a very long time.

For example, if someone is born in Germany and moves to the UK at the age of 8 and is now in their 40s which language is there mother tongue? In such cases we would normally class their mother tongue as being English as they have lived the majority of their live as an English speaker and moved at an age where taking onboard new languages is still easy to do.

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