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Replying to proofreader
Thread poster: Silvia Barra

Silvia Barra  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:09
English to Italian
+ ...
Nov 6, 2008

Hello,
I'd like to know your opinions about this argument. When your work is revised/proofread by another person, who send you his/her feedback, do you always answer to him/her? I mean avobe all if the feedback is not so good and you're quite sure of your translation. This occurs to me sometimes. I think I'm humble and always eager for learning but it can occurs that I want to defend my ideas and my work. Only, I fear being too protesting. What do you do in these cases? Do you have some suggestions as for the behaviour in this situation?
Thank you and good afternoon (or morning, or night wherever you are)
Silvia


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The Misha
Local time: 01:09
Russian to English
+ ...
Forget your fears Nov 6, 2008

On two occasions that I received such negative feedback (one involved two minor points and was rather a request for clarification/justification, and the other was fairly extensive and quite frivolous), I wrote detailed replies with commentaries on each incident, substantiating it why I thought I was right and they were wrong. As someone here mentioned it before, most of proofreader/editor comments in this unfortunate industry are unsubstantiated, and thus often suspect. So go ahead, stick it to them, let them know why you think you know your business better than they do. It's your professional reputation that is at stake.

Of course, if this is not the case, and the comments are in fact to the point, there's nothing to do but to concede gracefully and go out of your way to do better next time. That is, if you get to keep the client. Good luck.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:09
English to French
+ ...
Taking and giving feedback Nov 6, 2008

If a reviewer can give feedback, then it is only normal they are prepared to receive feedback as well. I don't see anything wrong with this, especially if you are convinced that some of the corrections are not justified and you have arguments to demonstrate it.

I am lucky enough to have the last word as a translator most of the time. This means that nobody edits my work without me having a final say. This is really useful, because the reviewer's comments push me to improve my translation, but nobody gets the chance to worsen my work (I correct my own work based on the reviewer's comments). This also encourages communication between the translator and the reviewer. In the past years, I have had many conversations with people who review my work and with people whose work I review. What I've learnt from this experience is that the golden rule should be to always be impartial and say the truth. If you are not sure about something, don't say you are. If you have proof to back up what you say, provide it (or quote it). If your reviewer feels attacked even though you are not attacking them, well, it's their problem. I am, however, surprised at how much better reviewers can take my comments than I used to expect a while back.

As long as you stay polite and pepper your comments with a little bit of humanity ("This is a common mistake - it happens to me, too, sometimes!"), there should be no problem. If you are a competent translator and people see mistakes in your work where there are none, it is part of your job to discuss it. Not only do you have the right, sometimes you just HAVE to, for the sake of quality. In the end, what you want to achieve is customer satisfaction, and discussing reviewing issues with the reviewer is part of the means to achieve it.

If you aren't required to give feedback to the reviewer, you don't have to of course. But that doesn't mean you can't!

[Edited at 2008-11-06 15:12]


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:09
German to English
should be a two-way process if possible Nov 7, 2008

I also think the best type of proofreading is when you get the proofread document back and can accept or refuse any of the changes. Recently I translated a text where, in the German, they had accidentally spelt "parenteral" (a medical term) as "parental". I corrected the mistake in the translation, but forgot to mention it to the proofreader, who "corrected" it back to "parental" even though that made no sense. When translating you sometimes get much deeper into the meaning of the text and any specialist vocab than the proofreader has time for.

I also sometimes check others' work for errors and wonder what the translator made of my comments. If I think the translator might not realise why I've made a change, I often add a note to explain it in case he or she doesn't understand what I've done and simply changes it back - for example, if I notice a sentence is ambiguous and change the word order to correct that.

One translator I proofread for directly then writes or phones back and asks, if she still has any doubts. That often leads to a discussion about the meaning of the source text and the translation which could only be of interest to complete word geeks - i.e. it's fascinating! We both learn from the process, and it feels good to have someone I can discuss the job with realistically, rather than keeping up that pretence that a good translator never errs.

So, to answer your question (finally), why not send back some comments? I wouldn't see it as defending your work, though, but just as having a discussion about the pros and cons of each possibiity with a fellow professional. Maybe they'll convince you of some of their suggestions after all!


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Alain Chouraki  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:09
English to French
+ ...
If only for your own morale... Nov 8, 2008

Getting criticized or having one's work depreciated (for whatever reason, good or not), and not allowing yourself the possibility to communicate about it... well, you're liable to start each new job with less enthusiasm and less self-confidence.

And sorry if I might sound too emphatic about it, but after all, this is human right number 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights... Freedom of Expression.

[Modifié le 2008-11-08 09:54]

[Modifié le 2008-11-08 09:54]


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:09
German to English
Proofreading shouldn't be criticism Nov 8, 2008

Alain Chouraki wrote:
Getting criticized or having one's work depreciated (for whatever reason, good or not), and not allowing yourself the possibility to communicate about it...


I know what you mean, Alain, but don't think this applies for most proofreading. It's the proofreader's job to find errors or make improvements: the fact he's been employed to do so indicates that the translator's work cannot always be 100% perfect when submitted - it's an acknowledgement that we all make little mistakes or can't find that really natural translation from time to time. If the proofreader changes something, you shouldn't normally see it as criticism or deprecation; he's just doing his job.

Sometimes, the proofreader does go beyond correction and improvement, and it's easy to see that as criticism. It's annoying if you open a file to discover a sea of red and find the proofreader has made a lot of changes all down to his own personal tastes and preferences. But you can also just see it as a poor proofreader not knowing how to do the job properly - and hope they don't proofread anything of yours again soon! (Of course, if their proofreading might lose you any work or money, it's far more serious, but it's worth waiting an hour to calm down before sending off any reply.)

When I'm proofreading I sometimes feel embarrassed to make changes in people's work. If they've made an obvious mistake: I imagine the translator cringing when he sees it, as I would. If there's something really small, and I'm not sure if it's just my own taste; often I'll look it up on Google, change it, then undo the change, then re-add it. I'd be sorry to think that the translator reading my corrections then thought I was trying to criticise him.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:09
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Asynchronous teamwork Nov 8, 2008

I work often for an agency that pairs translator & proofreader as a team for each project. Since my "usual" partner (we switch roles often) was unavailable for one project, last week I was proofreading for a translator new to me.

To clarify the setting, this agency works always at top quality level, and only hires translators capable of sustaining that. Rates are not an issue. (I'm not bragging, just clarifying that it's not any close to a 5¢/word outfit, and that I take for granted that the translator and proofreader they select will be professionals of comparable skill.)

This is what I wrote on my message to the translator, cc to agency PM, with my proofread text attached:

First of all, please don't get shocked from my m.o., aka "paint it red".
This is the way I do it, and it has been working very well for [name of the agency].

Of course, while proofreading I'll fix any mistakes I find, BUT... I'll also change anything that I'd have translated differently.

This gives you two options to consider.
You may then weigh the two options and, with Accept/Reject, choose yours or mine to make it *ours*.
After you've seen mine, you might stop liking both, or the two together might spark another idea, so feel invited to suggest a new one you think is better.

One caveat: Never, never assume that I'm right!



When my partner understands that it's not contempt, but understanding that I (as proofreader) fully endorse whatever I left unchanged, and that I reckon that at first glance I might have translated just as s/he did, but as I'm having the second glance with their translation to help, I might have more and better ideas... they don't waste precious time explaining their initial choice, they simply just choose one or the other. When they (as translator) paint it blue, I take the same stance. So we get there very quickly. All it takes from translator and proofreader is an extreme professional respect for each other. Of course, the agency's recruitment and selection process plays a most vital role in making it possible.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:09
English to French
+ ...
Agree fully with José Nov 8, 2008

We must be much alike, because your post expresses pretty much my perception of the translator-reviewer relationship. I especially like when you refer to not being happy with the original translation, and being equally unhappy with the corrected version, which then inspires a third (or even fourth, fifth, etc.) option which one is eventually happy with.

I just want to add that I don't see reviewers as people who correct my work - I rather perceive them as people who offer me a different perspective on my own work, and as helping hands to help me improve my work. I see reviewers as friends rather than as foes, and I actually feel better - and safer - working with a reviewer than working without. Realizing this boosts one's capacity to take criticism and to make the most of it rather than feeling scolded for a mistake and getting flustered about it. This leads to a lot of learning, and in time, thanks to our trusted reviewer colleagues, we become better translators.

[Edited at 2008-11-08 20:58]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 07:09
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
my experience Nov 8, 2008

I had a job to translate 27 (twenty seven) words for an agency that lets everything get proofread. The proofreader (on top of saying "I like your translation") succeeded to insert (!) two spelling mistakes into my translation which was then graded accordingly. On my loud reaction the rating was corrected.

Now, my point is not that judges can make wrong decisions (so an appelate court would be needed). My point is, that there should be many many more agencies like this one that shows this kind of care for quality. I am proud to be its customer and of course I'll do whatever I can to get some more orders from them (even plugging for them without mentioning any names;).

So my crying out loud in the above case should only be understood as the concern about my standing with the agency: I want as much business from them as possible.

I dont know if my comment here adresses the initial issue. But on the other hand I hope it points the right way - we want to provide the best posible service and any help in this regard is pretty much welcome. Even if it comes from somebody who's sometimes seen as our non-friend, if not enemy - and that's the agency.

regards

Vito


[Edited at 2008-11-08 23:13]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:09
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Cooperation vs. competition Nov 9, 2008

It's all about that classic cartoon about the two donkeys. The only sample I found online was at http://re3.yt-thm-a01.yimg.com/image/25/m3/2349453994 - if you don't know it, a mammoth-sized monitor may be necessary to see it.

A translation agency may put translator and proofreader to cooperate. This cooperation can be asynchronous as I described in an earlier post here - my usual partner is 4-6 time zones away from me, depending on the time of the year. It may also be synchronous, which I'll illustrate with a real example, though not exactly to the point I'm making here:

Once a regular client asked me to translate eight training videos for dubbing. The only shortcoming was that they were... in French! Yes, I do speak French, studied it for a few years, some natives say I still speak it reasonably well and fluently, considering that my last appearance at the local Alliance Française here took place 4 decades ago. However I'd have to study a lot more to translate from it. These videos were right at the core of my specialty area - management development - so they really wanted me to do it. The end-client solved the problem by providing two proopreaders, who were not translators but executive bilingual secretaries, one native French, the other native Brazilian, working together. After they had done their job, I still had a chance to fix the metrics for dubbing. The final outcome was simply great.

These two ladies - as I was told, endowed with unusual good looks and charm, I never met them - were not competing, as they had their secretarial full-time jobs there. They were just thrilled to pool their skills together into something so different from their usual activities.

However the agency might put translator and proofreader to compete againsta each other. Of course, proofreading rates are usually near 1/3 of translation rates. They set it up so that if the proofreader finds enough flaws in the translator's work, next time their roles will be reversed. So a proofreader who is not as loaded with work as s/he would like, tends to go about fixing everything - broken or not - to prove their superior skills.

The bottom line is that the agency will never know which one is better, and not even if there is any difference. In that "fixing spree", the proofreader might spoil what was already good. This often triggers a war, because the agency wants do deduct from the translator's pay some money for the "extensive" work done by the proofreader, even if they don't intend give the proofreader any part of that. The translator then attempts to stick by their guns, offering megabytes of evidence that s/he was right. Regardless of the outcome, it's open war. Notwithstanding agency PM, translator, and/or proofreader being any good, all three will hope that they will never work together again. It's a lose-lose-lose-lose situation. The fourth lose is the end-client's , who will receive some patchwork resulting from a competition where the objective was to prove who is the best, instead of delivering the best possible final job.

Some agencies strive to hire the cheapest translator available for the language pair required; sometimes the translator will be obviously too cheap, so they'll have to part with some extra money for proofreading. Recruitment there is just a numbers game.

Other agencies work hard to find the most suitable team for the job they have been assigned. Extremely competent recruitment and vendor satisfaction are among their key objectives.


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gad
United States
Local time: 01:09
Member
French to English
You have a right to respond to a proofreader's edits Nov 10, 2008

Once I got very negative feedback told to an agency that had been a long-time client of mine, which really surprized me but I was expecting to see actual mistakes that I'd made when I got the edited version back. However, once I saw the "corrections", I was horrified to see that those changes they had made were almost all incorrect and there were quite a few grammatical and spelling errors that the 'proofreader' made that I couldn't believe that anyone that sloppy could be that nervy to criticize someone else's work. I responded to each and every edit and sent back the document back to the agency with my comments, letting them know that I seriously hoped that they did not submit to the client the edited version! I highly doubt that the 'proofreader' was even a native speaker of English, much less U.S. English, so I have no idea why the agency used that person. I guess they didn't know any better or something.

I also agree with Anne that it is better when the translator can review the edits made. I do that with one agency, who gives me the final say - but also, their proofreader will add useful comments like "this is how we usually translate for this client", if there is a difference in terminology that's not a mistake, for instance, so that I can learn, too.

There is a purpose to proofreaders, but it's not to go on about how a document is so poorly translated - I've never done so when I've proofread/edited, I only give positive comments when applicable.


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