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Proofreader trying to make you look bad?
Thread poster: Burrell

Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:13
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Mar 2, 2005

I suppose it has happened to everybody at some stage. I have just seen a report done by a proofreader who edited my translation. It does not have a single mistake, however the proofreader made sure my work does not look too good (well, maybe I am too sensitive here). All the changes are done because of "extremely poor wording", "incredibly bad flow of translation" etc. Plus the fact, most of the changes were done to the terms I used, basing on the previous translations the client had approved (they were provided for reference).
My first thought was that it is a classical case of proofreader trying to tell the client to choose him/her next time, as I am no good anyhow.
I have only once told a client that the translator had no idea what he/she was doing, basically because carbohydrates were translated as carbo-hydrogen. But in every single other case I made sure the client knew he had a good translator working for him, even if the translator had missed a paragraph or made a couple unsignificant mistakes. We all are humans.
How do normal proofreaders treat other translators work? Is it normal to point out "poor working", instead of "this sounds better".
And do you normally coment this to the client? I told client I was not sure about proofreaders motivation and the client said he did not agree with all the corrections either so I should not feel so bad after all.
Thanks for your time!

Cheers,
Burrell


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:13
Spanish to English
+ ...
My editing days are numbered.......... Mar 2, 2005

As it happens Burrell, I am editing a 26,000 word translation, and I think it's going to be my last edit, as it's so ungratifying.

Assuming that the original translation is not up to standard, these are all the issues raised:

1. To inform the client of the errors, mostly from self-interest - to cover your own back - but also to alert them

2. To work within a reasonable margin of time, which for a decently translated reasonably technical text should be around 750 +/-250 words/hour

3. Dealing with repetitions, which means repeated errors that have to be manually and repeatedly corrected (and with Trados this is even worse, as you can't copy and paste entire paragraphs because of segmenting)

4. Ultimately one is rewriting bad writing, which means that teh final quality is theoretically less than a properly translated text that needs minimal correction.

5. Who's reposnsible for the final text? The editor who tries to make the best of a bad job? The bad translator?

Sorry for going off at a tangent there, so more to the point of what you are commenting: I personally want to produce the best possible text in the minimum of time, nothing more. I have no personal agenda with the translator, just a sense of desperation at the futility of editing a bad text to try and produce something that is going to be worse than a properly translated text in the first place.

My combination is ES-EN, and I once heard a reputable project leader comment that it is extremely hard to get good translators in this combination. My own experience in editing would confirm this and I think I have never, ever edited a text that was of a reasonable standard. Another factor in Spain is that agencies pay poorly, so they don't get the best translators.

There was a recent post on this subject, and someone pointed out that the only improvements should be necessary ones from the reader's perspective. In other words, if it's acceptable, let it go. Which is what I do, as time is invariably limited.

With the text I am editing now:

+ Terminology fine as far as the subject matter is concerned, except for a lack of research into institutions.
- Consistent evidence of a complete lack of effort/interest in making decent attempts at interpreting complex sentences, resulting in occasional gibberish
- Poor phraseology (every noun has a THE in front of it, every noun phrase is an OF THE construction, in both case that's about 90% of the time wrong - and this pisses me off no end, becuase there are thousands of such NEEDLESS corrections in this text)
-Poor attention to formatting and inconsistency in formatting
- Unsuitable register, occasional grammatical, syntactical, punctuation, spelling errors....

Finally, as for 'agreeing with all the corrections', in theory no changes should be made that could be disputed by another 'expert', i.e. any change should be one that a handful of experts would agree on, and any other change maybe is personal and subjective. But what really matters is changes to KEY elements in the text, and other changes maybe should only be made if time permits....

Sorry to unburden myself, but I'm a bit pissed off with all the THEs and OF THEs I have to delete, with the consequent rearrangements.......:-(


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gad
United States
Local time: 10:13
Member
French to English
You may be right about the motivation here Mar 2, 2005

Burrell,

Sorry this happened to you.

I am not sure if this has ever happened to me, I imagine it has but that I haven’t been informed of it. The only comparable situation I have encountered is with an agency where the end client complained, about 2 months after the fact, that my translation was supposedly too literal, etc. What I found interesting about that is it happened when the agency was looking for payment, and also, those jobs were all such a rush when they needed them but they didn’t use them enough to notice this for two months, until payment was due? Anyway, your situation is obviously different than that, though.

I am thorough when I proofread/edit a document, but I have to say that the large majority of these jobs I have done have still not entailed too many edit marks, etc, because more are at least quality translations. I kind of figure the final product speaks for itself, so I don’t really comment, unless my comment is to say something good about the translator. Yes, I have said before, if you haven’t used this translator before, I have to tell you that based on this work I would recommend that you definitely use that person again. I haven’t said the opposite, because on the occasions when the mark up very marked up by me, then it’s obvious to the client.

You may consider explaining to the client why you had used the terms you used, being that it was based on previous translations they had in fact approved, which were provided for your reference. I am glad you mentioned to the client that you suspect this proofreader’s motivation, I think it is important to stand up for yourself and your translations as professional work products. The proofreader may have actually had good intentions but just overstepped his or her boundaries. I don’t personally feel it’s appropriate to have to comment like that – I feel that the end product speaks for itself, and I only want to give out praise anyway.

Take care,
G.


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gad
United States
Local time: 10:13
Member
French to English
Are you sure that a human translator performed this translation? Mar 2, 2005

Alish, my first thought is that it was done on translation sofware - particularly when you mentioned the THE and OF THE type mistakes.

I've recently had a frustrating editing job myself, so I can empathize...


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Vladimir Dubisskiy  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:13
English to Russian
+ ...
some thoughts Mar 2, 2005

You wrote: ....even if the translator had missed a paragraph or made a couple unsignificant mistakes. We all are humans.

Well, we are all humans indeed, but not all humans are translators)) I mean, a missed paragraph is a bad-bad thing to do. Hardly acceptable, I would say. But we have proofreaders / editors for that.

I am doing proofreading from time to time, and my personal quess is that quite often a client does a "simple math", giving the translation out for less, then asking "the well-known guy" (but who'd charge more for translation) to proofread it, - and it brings "savings"!

When doing editing/proofreading I never use words as "incredible" / extremely" when judging the translation. it can be poor and very bad, but I prefer to fix what I think needs to be fixed and give it to the client for them to judge. BTW, i was asked to provide my thoughts about the quality of translator's work prob. in 2 cases from 20 (I mean it's quite rare), and only once my client said that they will send my judgement to the translator. But, when "judging" I simply write about the obvious and serious mistakes / omissions and put my idea why it happened. Never use words like "extremeley" / "incredibly" etc.

So I mean, it was not me))

On the other note - take it easy!
You know better what you know.



[Edited at 2005-03-03 06:00]

[Edited at 2005-03-03 06:05]


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:13
Partial member (2003)
Spanish to English
Continuing the tangent Mar 2, 2005

Ailish Maher wrote:

My combination is ES-EN, and I once heard a reputable project leader comment that it is extremely hard to get good translators in this combination. My own experience in editing would confirm this and I think I have never, ever edited a text that was of a reasonable standard. Another factor in Spain is that agencies pay poorly, so they don't get the best translators.



In my experience, very few people working in the ES-EN translation market in Spain have any idea what it should all be about. For a start, translators are not superheroes who can magically transform any Spanish text into wonderful English regardless of content/subject matter/style, etc. If agencies and other people farming out the work could only realise that, then maybe you wouldn't get such rubbish to edit in the first place And as they don't pay very much, they'll never get the real experts to do the job.

I have never ever tried to make a translator look bad intentionally. But like Ailish, I've had absolutely horrific things to "edit/proofread/check" (mostly by non-native speakers -it's been that obvious-) and the money you are usually paid to "rewrite" the text is not worth getting out of bed for. However, I'm sure there are people out there who can convince others that you've done a bad job even when you haven't. I recently discovered that my perfectly acceptable rendering of a translation agency's website had been "edited" by someone who can't be a native speaker because it now has grammatical mistakes to boot. How did this happen? No idea. Some people must just be very good at persuading others they know best


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Mario Cerutti  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 00:13
Italian to Japanese
+ ...
Editing when proofreading is like a game Mar 3, 2005

I think that everybody, either in good or bad faith, is always tempted to amend the work of other translators. The fact is that agencies normally do not have the capability to judge the quality of the target language and are often - and quite stupidly - convinced that proofreaders are necessarily better than translators.

Convincing these agencies about whom between the translator and the proofreader has done a better job is very timeconsuming and, at the end of the day, doesn't pay well. This is why I refuse any proofreading assignment and look suspiciously at any proofreader (I apologize with the "good" prooreaders for this statement). Besides, I think it frequently happens that agencies do not inform the original translator about the proofreading results and simply stop called him when the next job arrives. This isn't very professional either, for it doesn't help improving the overall situation.

Finally, I can't imagine whether it will really happen that we, the translators, will all become proofreaders of machine-translated works one day. Sometimes I end up thinking that the large number of proofreaders available today in the market bear the only fruit of motivating customers to use machine translation tools in the first place and adding just a small rate for cheap proofreaders.

Mario Cerutti


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:13
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
The devil and the deep blue sea Mar 3, 2005

Burrell wrote:

I suppose it has happened to everybody at some stage. I have just seen a report done by a proofreader who edited my translation. It does not have a single mistake, however the proofreader made sure my work does not look too good (well, maybe I am too sensitive here). All the changes are done because of "extremely poor wording", "incredibly bad flow of translation" etc. Plus the fact, most of the changes were done to the terms I used, basing on the previous translations the client had approved (they were provided for reference).
My first thought was that it is a classical case of proofreader trying to tell the client to choose him/her next time, as I am no good anyhow.


I think the client knows, if they didn't agree with all the corrections. I've had to work with memories and had the memory terms edited. In your case, you had a history to work around. I have also been asked why I capitalized words in the title when the original was in lowercase (and if that seems obvious to some, I'll still say that's part of what an editor does, he sees the whole body of text - mine AND others' - at a distance, and is supposed to impose some kind of unifying criteria: what if, in the others' work, the titles were whole sentences?)

How do normal proofreaders treat other translators work? Is it normal to point out "poor working", instead of "this sounds better".


Actually, the first thing you learn in translation school is that there are as many translations as there are students. And they do take a vote on what sounds better. But that's a dialogue.

And do you normally coment this to the client?


The client's in the middle, so some kind of contact can't be avoided. But I always try to open a dialogue with the proofreader for the sake of the text. I check my sources and corpus literature and work around the problems with him. That way, each one of us knows where he's coming from and the process is transparent.

I expect the same when I proofread, which I also keep to a minimum. I try to avoid proofing non-natives (unless they wrote the original and there's no help for it, they have to publish or submit, etc.). In fact, the only time I bitched was when a flagellant was called a self-flagellator, "barrio chino" was translated "Chinatown", the "Reyes Católicos" (Ferdinand and Isabel) became two kings, a medieval guild was transformed into a trade union, La Celestina became a sculpture, and a chair in the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando became a seat in an art school.



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Graciela Guzman  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 12:13
English to Spanish
+ ...
It happens! Mar 3, 2005

Hello,

It happened to me some two years ago. I was requested to make a test and a week later I received the feedback from the proofreader. He had practically re-written my translation making all kinds of gross grammar and terminology mistakes. As a conclusion he included a funny comment: "Though she made some mistakes (when he had corrected every word), she wouldn't be a nightmare for any proofreader."
As I found this difficult to swallow I decided to spend some time rejecting all the changes he had introduced and I fundamented each of them with references to different books and dictionaries. Also, I recommended the agency to get some good Spanish grammar books and dictionaries for their proofreader.
I think it doesn't make sense to lose our time with that kind of people.
My two cents.


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Walter Lockhart Ries  Identity Verified
Spanish to English
+ ...
Solution? Mar 3, 2005

[quote]Ailish Maher wrote:

Finally, as for 'agreeing with all the corrections', in theory no changes should be made that could be disputed by another 'expert', i.e. any change should be one that a handful of experts would agree on, and any other change maybe is personal and subjective. But what really matters is changes to KEY elements in the text, and other changes maybe should only be made if time permits....

Hi, Ailish. I throughly agree with this.

No, the question is how to avoid tedious proofing (editing?) jobs. Mr. Cerutti said, one way is to never edit/proofread. That is an option.

My strategies:

If I don't get a Spanish source text, I must see the text before accepting. If there are going to be sentences that I do not understand (because they were written by a non-native speaker), I do not accept the job. In these cases, there is no good solution. If I ask the author (through the agency), there are two possibilities. 1) The author thinks I am criticising his competence in English or 2) the author tells the agency that I am imcompetent with the subject matter, because I don't understand it.

If it is a translation (there is a Spanish source text) and I have not proofread/edited that translator before, I must see the translation before I accept. When I see it, there are three possibilities:
1) It is a good translation. I accept to do it at a standard rate (for example, 30% of translation rate)
2) It is a poor translation. I accept to do it and charge by the hour.
3) It is very bad translation. I offer to translate it from the source text and charge translation fee.


Walter Lockhart


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Conor McAuley  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:13
French to English
+ ...
A series of subjective choices Mar 3, 2005

Stylistically, translation is a series of choices.

But there is absolutely no excuse for getting the basics wrong, i.e. "the" in front of all nouns (happens in Fr>En translations too), layout, gibberish (if the original text was also in gibberish, then it should be ["sic"]ced!

Rereading and correction is often a thankless task (often better to start completely afresh - less time-consuming and more rewarding) so perhaps this accounts for the corrector's frustration and is the reason why your translation was hammered, Burrell.

I used to think rereading would be a nice sideline to translation (correcting somebody's mistakes is great for the ego!), but as with interpretation it's not as simple as that.

I got a horrific translation (Fr>En) of a motorsport website a few months ago, but the client (a non-native English speaker, to boot) did not agree that it needed to be completely re-written, leading to all kinds of hassle.

You need to bear in mind that some people still use extremely poor non-native translators (I don't know why, maybe to save money, or because they're in-house), which is ragingly annoying for pros like us.

Sp>En rates seem to be rock-bottom, €0.06 per word for a top-class translator!!! (The cost of living in Spain is lower of course).

HTH.


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James Calder  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:13
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing Mar 3, 2005

Nikki Graham wrote:

I recently discovered that my perfectly acceptable rendering of a translation agency's website had been "edited" by someone who can't be a native speaker because it now has grammatical mistakes to boot. How did this happen? No idea. Some people must just be very good at persuading others they know best


The very same thing happened to me only yesterday. The problem with working in the ES>EN combination in Spain is that clients here think spending a month on an English course in the UK when they were 15 automatically makes them an authority on the English language. Hence the pointless, nonsensical changes to carefully-worded translations provided by native speakers of English.

As for proofreading I charge a high rate by the hour or suggest that the document be translated from scratch again. Thankfully, I have had very few things to check in recent months. The standard, as Ailish points out, is usually dreadful. Why? Because self-styled "experts" in English think they can produce flawless, flowing prose when they patently cannot.



[Edited at 2005-03-03 11:37]


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Sylvia Moreno

Local time: 16:13
A comment on "Chinatown translated as barrio chino" Mar 3, 2005

Parrot wrote: In fact, the only time I bitched was when a flagellant was called a self-flagellator, "barrio chino" was translated "Chinatown", ...........

[/quote]

It must have been a somewhat amusing but at the same time pretty annoying translation to correct.

I hope you don't mind my commenting on one of the examples you gave: In my opinion, barrio chino, can be translated not only as Chinese quarter but also as Chinatown (U.S), that is: A quarter of any city or town outside China with a predominantly Chinese population. For instance, I would choose "Chinatown" to refer to the Chinese quarters in San Francisco and LA (although Chinese quarter is correct), but "Chinese quarter" (certainly not Chinatown) when referring to the Chinese community in Birmingham-UK. It would depend on the context and the readership.

Justs my modest point of view.


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Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:13
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Work is work Mar 3, 2005

[quote]Conor McAuley wrote:

Rereading and correction is often a thankless task (often better to start completely afresh - less time-consuming and more rewarding) so perhaps this accounts for the corrector's frustration and is the reason why your translation was hammered, Burrell.


Actually I am one hundred percent sure my translation was quite good. There are always things you could have said better but even they sounded alright in my case. All the corrections were quite small ones, there were not so many of them, and in a highly technical text there was not a single one correcting my technical terms. However what made me post this topic was the sheer attacking nature of the remarks.
I do agree with all of you saying it is not a very rewarding job. I myself prefer translating to proofreading. But work is work, I do not always like to translate heavy machinery manuals and would prefer a nice report on fisheries' situation in EU, for example. But I still end up working on the heavy machinery. I just do not think it is a valid point for slaying somebody's else work.

Burrell


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