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Verifying terminology during proofreading/editing
Thread poster: Shannon Summers

Shannon Summers  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:36
Member (2008)
French to English
Aug 27, 2008

I'd like to think that all translators are competent and resourceful in that they thoroughly research terminology used for technical translations. The fact is, I've seen that this is often not the case and sometimes they just "guess", or else the project manager gives the translation job to a translator who isn't familiar with the subject matter (in case they just happened to be the lowest bidder and/or the first to say they're available).

My problem is that when I am asked to do a proofreading job on a technical translation, I feel obligated to check and verify that the correct translated terms were used by the translator, just in case the project fell upon an incompetent translator. For projects that contain a lot of very specific terminology (can be hundreds of terms), this often takes quite a bit of time to research myself and I find that the time I spend isn't worth the money I'll make using my standard editing/proofreading rates.

First of all, I'd like to ask the forum to what extent do you verify technical terminology (every single term?), and who is at fault (the original translator or the editor/proofreader) if an incorrect translated term is used? Secondly, do you adjust your rates based on the number of terms you anticipate needing to verify?


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 21:36
German to English
Always a problem Aug 27, 2008

A lot of proofreading (sometimes a misnomer) / editing / checking jobs are paid by the target word, with the outsourcer assuming that the terminology is, for the most part, correct. Unfortunately, there are a lot of hopelessly incompetent translators selling their services to otherwise reputable agencies, and this creates problems for checkers/editors who care about quality.

If the translation is part of an ongoing project, then the outsourcer is responsible for providing a glossary (in many cases created by a third party -- the end client, an editor or a competent translator). This simplifies terminology checking.

But this is not always the case.

As an editor/checker you have to decide whether there are critical terms for which no synonym is allowable, and whether there is a range of acceptable synonyms for a term. In technical writing, once a term is selected, there should be no deviation from the terminology (remove the screw, replace the screw) in the same or similar context. Technical writing is highly dependent upon consistency, e.g., you don't remove the screw, then replace the bolt.

Sometimes as an editor you have to rely upon gut feeling or, if you're lucky, superior knowledge. If the term doesn't seem right, checking it. If it seems OK, and your experience is such that you've seen the term in a similar context, then let it go. You have to decide: does it sound right? does it read well? If so, in many cases (but not all), the terminology is probably OK.

My advice is not to check every term if it is used consistently throughout the translation, *and* the translation appears otherwise competently executed. If the work sounds dodgy, then the terminology is probably off, too.

That said, I usually take editing jobs paid by the hour. But here's the disclaimer -- I only undertake jobs like this when I'm working with clients who have high standards for the selection of translators. The hourly rate usually comes in a little less than the per-word rate, but that's because the agency's translators produce high-quality work. Good translations don't require terminology checking, but sometimes they require a little editing for the sake of clarity. Occasionally a translator can't see the forest for the trees.


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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:36
English to French
+ ...
Do you work with per word proofreading/editing rates? Aug 27, 2008

I am glad that you asked this question. I work as you do, and feel as frustrated as you do. Thorough proofreading takes a lot of time, especially when many terms must be double-checked...
Some translators, apparently, make a difference between proofreading and editing... I don't. I check everything (fortunately, I mostly work in my area, otherwise I would have to trust the translator on some technical terms, I guess).
Actually, the problem is rather with the rules set by the translation agencies, which either offer a rate per word (sometimes without showing the document to proofread first !) or an hourly rate... but capped to a number of hours which usually means 1,000 words per hour. I can only reach that when I know the translator and he/she is good.
It seems that translators are becoming more and more reluctant to proofread people they don't know, and that PMs often struggle to find proofreaders for their documents... or get very upset when we tell them clearly that we don't agree with their word-rate rules.
In my opinion, we should all adjust our rates depending on the search work AND on the quality of the translation, or work on an hourly basis with an agreed-upon max number of hours...
Concerning who is responsible in case of error, I really don't know. I am tempted to answer "who cares ?" as I have often the impression that errors are not the main concern of translation agencies


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:36
English to French
+ ...
A sensible approach Aug 27, 2008

The problem you refer to, Shannon, is very frequent in my experience. I have thus learned to deal with it. Here is how I usually do.

First of all, I don't, under any circumstances, accept to review and/or proofread a text that I haven't had full sight of. You feel your text is too confidential for you to risk showing it to me? Well, then I guess my phone number is too confidential for me to risk giving it to you...

Once I've seen the translation, I quote a rate for the reviewing and/or proofreading job. In my mind, there are three types of service: proofreading (making sure that spelling and grammar have been respected and that a flowing, readable text was produced), linguistic review (checking that the meaning of the source text was correctly rendered by the target text + proofreading) and technical review (checking and correcting terminology + linguistic review + proofreading = the whole shebang). I explain all three services to the client, making sure they understand that each of these come with a different price tag attached. Then, I check how well the translator did their job.

I put all that down in a quote, even if the client already told me how much they are willing to pay - if they have decided on a set number of hours, for example, and I feel that it will take more time, I challenge the number of hours they were prepared to pay for. If they don't accept it, I'm sorry for them - they just lost the opportunity to get a professional service at an acceptable price. In the quote I send them, if there is any risk that my quote ultimately will not cover the time required for me to do a quality job, I add a condition: I may revise the initial quote if at any point during the task I was hired to perform I find out that the text will require more work than expected. So, the quote is only a preliminary one. The actual price charged will take shape only once I have started working on the text. Of course, in the rare cases where I underestimate the work to be performed, I advise the client long before the work is completed, usually the day after I go to work. If that isn't fair enough for them, then I ask to be paid for the part of the job that is already completed and I stop and let them find someone who is willing to take whatever rate they are thrown.

If the client only pays me for proofreading and I realize that the text also needs a technical review because the terminology is sloppy, I tell the client at the earliest opportunity. I never accept to work on a text that will not undergo a sound QA process, which would result in a poor translation even if I did my job right. And of course, if the client agrees to let me do more than just the proofreading, I cancel the original PO and make a new one which is adjusted to the revised task expected of me.

The key is negotiation. I refuse to let a client tell me how much my time is worth - that's for me to determine. If they don't agree, they are free to find somebody else to do the job. But one thing is for sure: clients are not employers - the employer is me (in that I am my own boss) and I reserve the right to act as such, which includes establishing my "salary". So, when people tell me "hey, review these 30K words - we'll pay you for 10 hours, that should do it", I either reply "Thanks, but no thanks" (when I feel they just might be trying me on) or "I'll review it, but I believe it will take me more like 30 hours - take it or leave it".

Don't let them tell you how much you're worth. Pretty soon, they'll tell you you're worth nothing and you should be so lucky you get to volunteer for them. Look at all the nice experience they are giving you! Yeah, right...

[Edited at 2008-08-27 03:49]


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Shannon Summers  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:36
Member (2008)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Great advice Aug 27, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

In my mind, there are three types of service: proofreading (making sure that spelling and grammar have been respected and that a flowing, readable text was produced), linguistic review (checking that the meaning of the source text was correctly rendered by the target text + proofreading) and technical review (checking and correcting terminology + linguistic review + proofreading = the whole shebang). I explain all three services to the client, making sure they understand that each of these come with a different price tag attached.


This makes perfect sense to me. The key I see here is to communicate - read educate - the client and let them make their own decision. I've always followed this approach in general business dealings, but never thought how I could apply it to editing/proofreading. Wish I had thought of it earlier! (Maybe it'll help you too, Bohy )

As for sending an "open quote" to a client (one that is subject to change), I suspect you are dealing with direct clients? I can't imagine translation agencies agreeing to this....let me know if there are any out there who do!!


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French Foodie  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:36
French to English
+ ...
open quote Aug 27, 2008

Shannon S. wrote:

As for sending an "open quote" to a client (one that is subject to change), I suspect you are dealing with direct clients? I can't imagine translation agencies agreeing to this....let me know if there are any out there who do!!


Open quote is the way I go, and although I don't do a lot of revising, the few agencies I do this work for have no absolutely no problems with it.
I charge by the hour, and give them a quote with my ESTIMATED hours (this is spelled out very clearly in the quotes, and explained in detail to any new clients). I tend to estimate slightly on the high side - my rule of thumb is 500 words per hour. If the text is well done, I can easily get double or triple that done in that time, but this covers me in case I run into difficult patches - which can happen even in an otherwise well-written text. Like Viktoria, if I see the text is a right mess, I call right away and let them know that it will undoubtedly take longer.

This way, the agency rarely gets a nasty surprise. Uusually, it's the opposite and they are pleased the job didn't cost as much they thought it would


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Tony Keily  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:36
Italian to English
+ ...
Not all agencies/translators are the same Aug 27, 2008

In regard to how agencies operate, it depends on who they are and how well they know you and work with you.

Recently I revised/corrected/edited an academic paper on applied maths. The agency advised me the terminology could be trusted 100% so not to waste time on that. They also thought the job was a tough one and recommended I raise my standard rates by third. I happily complied!

On another recent occasion I was offered a correction but didn't like the look of the text on offer. In this case I decided to ask for a pretty generous lump-sum payment, and the agency, knowing my specialisation in the area, agreed. It worked out very well for me. I doubt the agency made much out of the job, but it's a regular and very prestigious client, so I guess their priority was turning out good work and protecting a key long-term relationship.

The bottom line is not to do work - regardless of whether the work should originally have been done by someone else - unless you're well paid for it.


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 21:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
If you don't add value then you aren't giving value for money to your paymasters Aug 27, 2008

If stories we read in the ProZ.com forum are any guide, some people seem to equate proof-reading and editing with QA and use it, primarily, as a tool to justify paying less to the translator.

From the end-client's perspective, however, proof-reading and editing are parts of a value chain and as such are expected to add value to the work done in earlier stages in the process. In this respect, I find it interesting that after working full-time as an in-house translator for many years I was 'promoted' to sit in the chief editor's chair in the technical publications department of an international organization. And my work shifted from translating to making sure texts authored or translated by others were 'fit for purpose' (i.e. fit for publication as European Standards, fit for inclusion in the organization's academic journal, fit to be read out by our Directors at international conferences, etc.). A major part of that work was proof-reading and editing. This suggests to me that proof-reading and editing are 'superior' activities; consequently, that those engaged in this activity should be at least as competent in the languages and subject-matter as the translator - and preferably as competent in the subject-matter as the author of the source text.

Shannon S. wrote:
My problem is that when I am asked to do a proofreading job on a technical translation, I feel obligated to check and verify that the correct translated terms were used by the translator, ...


Yes, of course! That's part of the job!

but then Shannon S. went horribly astray, writing: (my bold type)
... just in case the project fell upon an incompetent translator.


No! Your job, as proof-reader/editor in that project, is to make sure the product is fit for purpose in every way - regardless of who translated it.

Digging herself into an even deeper hole, Shannon S. added:

For projects that contain a lot of very specific terminology (can be hundreds of terms), this often takes quite a bit of time to research myself and I find that the time I spend isn't worth the money ....


If you, as a proof-reader/editor, have to look up 'hundreds of terms' within a project then I would seriously question whether you are competent to handle that job. At best you will confirm the translator's choice of terminology; at worst - and this is a real danger in this situation - you will introduce errors into what was originally a correct translation.

You cannot hope to add value to a translation if you don't understand it.

MediaMatrix


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:36
English to French
+ ...
Reply to mediamatrix (too many quotes) Aug 28, 2008

First of all, I wholeheartedy agree about adding value to the service you provide. Adding value will, at best, help you raise your rate and, at worst, justify the rate you already charge. You can't go wrong.

However, I also disagree on some things.

When you say that looking up terms is part of Shannon's job, you seem to forget that Shannon talks about proofreading. If she really does mean proofreading (checking the target document, occasionally using the source document as a reference only), then I would have to disagree with you: checking terms is not her job. However, she should let the client know that, by the way, the terminology is not quite up to snuff and maybe offer to take care of that as well (and raise her rate accordingly to include the new task).

Shannon also uses this phrase: just in case the project fell upon an incompetent translator. Your comment is that it doesn't matter who it was translated by. I agree - it doesn't matter who did the translation. What does in fact matter is the quality of the translation. If Shannon expects for ten pages to take two hours to proofread and then realizes that the quality is significantly worse than it first appeared to be, it will also take her more time to do her job. It's only fair she gets paid for the "overtime". So, when quoting/invoicing, translation quality is a major factor. Shannon can't ignore the quality of the translation, or, as she says, who translated the document. You say she should make sure the product is fit for its purpose in every way. You are right. But I also say she should charge for it accordingly. If, because of translation quality, it takes more time to make sure the product is fit for its purpose, then Shannon should factor that in when she quotes/invoices.

Then, you say that looking up hundreds of terms within a project means that the translator is not competent enough to handle that job. I have to disagree again. First of all, in technical translation, documents are typically larger than in most other types of translation (I frequently translate single documents of 200, 300 or even 400 pages). The larger a document, the more terminology it contains. I have created a TDB for one such document and in the end, it contained over 1200 technical terms, for a single document. The document dealt with environmental, military, agricultural, mathematical, chemistry and cultural terms. That's a lot of stuff. It's not unusual that I have to research hundreds of terms within a project, even in areas I am specialized in.

Then, there is also a question of work methods. What if Shannon finds a term she initially disagrees with, but admits that it may be a synonym for the term she would have used and, instead of demolishing the translator's reputation, tries to find out first if the term used by the translator is correct even though she herself wouldn't use it in that context? Better yet, what if Shannon is required to comment on everything she edits? Then, she doesn't have the choice to research even terminology that she has known by heart for the past 20 years. Translators are not walking, talking dictionaries and you have to admit that even if you are deeply specialized and knowledgeable in a subject matter, you can't possibly know by heart all of its terminology, plus all synonyms of that terminology, plus all the abbreviations, graphical variants, etc.

I don't believe that having to research hundreds of terms is any indication that the reviewer/proofreader is incompetent.


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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:36
French to English
+ ...
Norms to the rescue! Aug 28, 2008

Hi all,

Whether you use the US or the EU norms, both specify, inter alia, the need for detailed project specifications (i.e. who does what) and the process to be followed to ensure quality. The client and/or translator are involved in terminology specifications (in house glossary, client available to answer questions, etc..), the translator .. translates, raising questions as needed with the client, then comes the bilingual revision phase (another professional), and finally the monolingual proofreading phase (third professional). With often a second proofing, once the translated-revised-proof'ed text has gone through DTP and before going to press.

The post topic "verifying terminology" should take place in the first instance before and during translation and then during the bilingual editing phase if questions arise. It is not the responsibility of the monolingual proofreader. Of course, if he/she lands on an obvious blooper, he/she will get even more added value brownie points for flagging it. But if there are such bloopers at that stage of the game, IMHO the entire project was poorly managed to begin with.....

HTH,

Patricia


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James O'Reilly
Germany
German to English
+ ...
Verifying terminology during proofreading/editing Aug 30, 2008

How about implementing this process within the framework of a wiki...

Collaborative Use of Wikis for Terminology, Abbreviation & Term Log List, Style Guides,
Language Register, Recommendation & Error Log Protocol and More
http://collaborative-translation.ning.com/forum/topic/show?id=2237585:Topic:341

[Edited at 2008-08-30 23:04]


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Pablo Arig  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 22:36
English to Spanish
+ ...
Really fascinating thread Sep 2, 2008

Viktoria you are delicious. Very professional, I can guess your jobs are of very high quality, (at least all a reference for me), and at the same time you are a good defender of the good cause. I think it's fair to "say" and it's not all balck or white.

I think threads like this are as soft to deal with, as translations are.

Although I don't know a 10th of everything that has been stated all along this thread I learned a lot with it. What's more now I feel prepared to agree with you when you state that knowing or not knowing some specific terminology doesn't make you an incompetent technical proofreader. But more prepared I feel taking into account what Patricia wrote regarding the division of tasks.

I am of the idea that being the proofreading at the end of the process, rather than at the beginning or in the middle of it, it could be expected to think it as a phase of polishing not of building the whole thing.

The more polishing the piece of work needs, no doubt the less quality the translation has.

P.


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
Claim to specialisation Sep 2, 2008

While I appreciate Viktoria's argument, I don't think that a person can truly claim to be specialised in an area if they are needing to look up hundreds of terms. You should have come across most the terms appearing in the translation or have them stored in a memory. Terminology is clearly a very important part of a technical translation and therefore the person paid to check the translation must be at least as good a technical translator as the original translator.

I don't offer any proofing or editing services, I simply can't be bothered to deal with issues of this ilk even if it paid me to do so.


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Stuart Dowell  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 03:36
Member (2007)
Polish to English
+ ...
A bold claim Sep 3, 2008

Tatty wrote:

I don't think that a person can truly claim to be specialised in an area if they are needing to look up hundreds of terms. You should have come across most the terms appearing in the translation or have them stored in a memory.


I think you would have to know something about Viktoria's texts to make a claim like that.

It's possible to have very narrow specialisations in which a good terminologist might already be familiar with all the main terminology.
On the other hand, there are bound to be broad specialisations which incorporate many areas.


She gave a bit of detail about the range of specialisations included in one text and it sounded trully daunting. I am not surprised it required a lot of terminology research.

Stuart


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not clear enough... Sep 3, 2008

I wasn't commenting on Viktoria's text rather on the original poster's comment, and the comment was intended to be couched in general terms for general application, but maybe that wasn't clear enough from my posting.

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