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What does a proof-reader actually do?
Thread poster: patyjs

patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 11:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 29, 2008

Seems a naïve question but what I would really like to know is what is expected of a proof-reader.

For example,
~ Do they work with the target and source documents side by side and check every single word, reference, footnote etc.?
~ Do they look up quoted material to make sure it has been extracted from the right source?
~ Do they check to see whether bibliography entries are available in the target language if they haven't been translated?
~ Would they approach a large document translated by a single translator differently, perhaps only proof-reading a couple of paragraphs every 5 or 10 pages after establishing the competence of the translator?
~ Do they approach technical/legal/financial/literary jobs differently?

Do tell.

Paty


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 13:57
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
A suggestion Jan 29, 2008

Hi Paty,

Concerning your first question, please look at this thread, http://www.proz.com/topic/85819
Especially at Lia's contribution: http://www.proz.com/post/686636#686636

[Edited at 2008-01-29 16:23]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:57
English to French
+ ...
Editing and proofreading Jan 29, 2008

Proofreading is not the same thing as editing. Also, it is not at all worth the same thing in terms of time and money.

I wrote an article about this a while ago: http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/articles/543/1/The-difference-between-editing-and-proofreading

I hope this helps to clear it up. Your questions are most valid, but sadly, I noticed too many of us don't take the time to ask ourselves and others these questions - hence the article.

All the best!


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Anabel Canon
Local time: 18:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Wonderful article! Jan 29, 2008



Absolutely enlightening. Thanks a lot!


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 11:57
Partial member
Spanish
+ ...
Proofreading=Editing=Localizing Jan 29, 2008

Unfortunately not all direct clients know there is a difference between proofreading, editing and even localizing text. A project manager once asked me what was my per-word rate to "proofread some documents into US Spanish"

I agree with Viktoria, for these kind of projects, it is better to charge per hour.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 13:57
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A matter of expectations Jan 29, 2008

Good article, Viktoria, however it seems to me - using your definitions - that too many outsourcers want to buy proofreading and get first-class editing.

Some outsourcers hire translators for 5¢/w or less, and proofreaders (who usually translate at 10-12¢/w) at 3¢/w, to pay less than 8¢/w for the whole nine yards, instead of hiring the latter individual to translate at 10-12¢/w. Pretty smart, uh?

And then there are the clients who hire translators at 10-12¢/w plus proofreaders at 3¢/w to get as much of a perfect job as they can. These two professionals now and then swap roles, just to say that they would be equally capable of doing the entire job single-handedly to an acceptable quality standard.

So it seems to me that proofreaders are required only on both ends of the spectrum: either the actual translator was so cheap that someone must check that work, or the quality requirements are so high that two heads think better than one.

Apparently in the middle range one competent professional should be able to do the whole job alone, and check it for quality with electronic proofreading tools.

Editing requires deep knowledge of the subject itself, at least in the target language. When the subject per se is rather shallow, editing is not behooved. But there are cases when it becomes an absolute must.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:57
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Proofreading or editing? Jan 29, 2008

Great article Viktoria!

What about checking the target document against the original to verify that there are no missing parts (headings, headers/footers, sentences, paragraphs, etc.) and checking to see if all non-translated information (such as numbers) was correctly re-typed. Clearly this would be part of the editing process, but could this also be considered proofreading?



[Edited at 2008-01-29 22:01]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:57
English to French
+ ...
Grey zones in translation Jan 29, 2008

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

seems to me - using your definitions - that too many outsourcers want to buy proofreading and get first-class editing.

[/quote]

...and vice versa!

The problem is that both the majority of outsourcers and the majority or freelancers have a bit of trouble distinguishing between these tasks. I have seen cases where an outsourcer knew the difference perfectly well and was trying to sucker translators into editing at proofreading rates (judging from some job board postings, this is not uncommon). I have also seen cases where the outsourcer just didn't know the difference because he thought both were the same - and some outsourcers do get suckered into getting proofreading at editing rates, although that is much less common (and any outsourcer who does get suckered into this should not be an outsourcer, for everybody's sake - I wouldn't want to be that outsourcer's client).

I wrote that article not only for freelancers but also for outsourcers. It is important that people get educated about such basic things. When I started out, I was amazed at how many people didn't have a clue about this. The point is to avoid having people working for lower rates than they deserve for the work they do and also to help outsourcers better evaluate the work at hand and use the appropriate resources. Knowing the difference is good for everybody.

May I also add that I don't consider that a document that was translated and proofread is ready for publishing. Editing is vital if you want to produce a quality product. I believe that editing is not so much about catching the errors that "dumb translator" made as it is about having the original translator look at their job from a different perpective. This other perpective can help them find better sentence structures, inspire them to use better terminology and a whole lot of stuff. I have learned much more from editors than I ever did from translators. I can say that thanks to some of the editors I've had the pleasure to work with, I am a better translator. And thanks to these same guys, the client was more satisfied as well, so the outsourcer also has a pretty significant interest in this - whether they acknowledge this is a different story. I also believe that editing should never be final - ultimately, it is the original translator who should decide what improvements s/he accepts and which ones s/he rejets. I have one such client, and I find that the team of translators and editors I am part of in this client's case does produce better quality documents.

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

What about checking the target document against the original to verify that there are no missing parts (headings, headers/footers, sentences, paragraphs, etc.) and checking to see if all non-translated information (such as numbers) was correctly re-typed. Clearly this would be part of the editing process, but could this also be considered proofreading?



You are talking about something very specific, so I doubt there exists any common rule or convention for this. However, my rule of thumb (yours may be different) is that as soon as both source and target documents (or a bilingual file) are involved, the task is not covered by proofreading alone and I would be tempted to charge my editing per word rate, if I were to charge by the word (or something in between my editing and proofreading per word rates). In this particular case, I would simply charge by the hour - and DO charge your hourly translation rate, not the hourly editing/proofreading rate. As a translator, you should only have one hourly rate, and that is the one used for translation. As explained in the article, an hour of your time is an hour of your time, no matter what task you spend it on.

Thanks a bunch for the nice comments about the article! It feels good - but what matters even more is that people read it and learn from it.


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Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:27
German to English
Book recommendation Jan 30, 2008

Dear Paty,

I'm reading a very interesting and useful book on the subject at the moment, "Revising and editing for translators," by Brian Mossop. It's available from St.Jerome Publishing:

http://www.stjerome.co.uk

As you know, proofreading is the term many translators now use for what is actually *revising* a translation. Mossop writes about the different forms of editing and revising and how they are relevant to the work of a translator. He aims at language students, but the book is very useful for experienced professionals as well. I strongly recommend this book as a guide on the subject.

All the best,
Niraja


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patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 11:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks a lot everyone... Jan 30, 2008

Fabio... the link was very informative, you were right.
Niraja... thanks for the tip about the book. My interest is nothing more than curiosity; to know what happens when its out of my hands, not to actually do any of it. I'll certainly look out for the book.
Viktoria your article is a great enlightner, as are your posts. Thanks for being so generous with your time and knowledge.

Still, I don't think anyone has actually answered my questions about how the revision (I think!) stage is approached. In a bibliography, for example, with many reports, articles, books with source language titles. Does the reviser/reviewer assume that the translator has checked thoroughly for target language versions? Or double-check?

Paty


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 18:57
French to Dutch
+ ...
Imo Jan 30, 2008


Still, I don't think anyone has actually answered my questions about how the revision (I think!) stage is approached. In a bibliography, for example, with many reports, articles, books with source language titles. Does the reviser/reviewer assume that the translator has checked thoroughly for target language versions? Or double-check?

Paty

In my opinion, the translator has to translate, that is to transpose a text in another language. The proofreader should check if the two texts are the same and if the message is correctly translated. Checking sources, references, links etc. (that is, going into the material) is always the responsibility of the client who wrote the orginal text. If your text, for instance, is a contract which contains references to national laws, you are not expected to look for the corresponding laws in your country, but the end client should hire a lawyer for this. If your text contains paying methods, for instance checks which in some countries aren't used anymore, this has to be translated, the proofreader should check if it is translated, and it is the client's responsibility to include this paragraph in his final text or not. The point is that translator and proofreader cannot make strategic decisions on behalf of the client. Did I understand your question?

If there is something strange in your text, you can always insert a translator's note or ask your client.

[Bijgewerkt op 2008-01-30 09:03]


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
My experience Jan 30, 2008

I can tell you my experience. I call it proofreading, rightly or wrongly, as when I think of editing I think about people editing books for publishing.

Proofreading means different things for different agencies. I worked in a high-volume agency and proofreading, if the document was long, simply meant check the first and last few words of each paragraph to make sure it was all there. For a shorter translation I had to read it through and if I saw something that sounded funny, check it against the original. When there was more time we checked the translation against the original, but all very quickly. We very rarely questioned the translator's choice of terminology. If the boss was around we could check words with him, he was a lawyer and economist, but don't believe he was too picky, synonymes, synonymes...he would say. The agency was the expert, the end client played no role in the translations. If they made any comment, the owner phoned them up to tell them that they were synonymes, boy did he shout! End customers were not entitled to use their own terms, glossaries were never provided.

Then I worked for a low-volume agency and there everything was fully checked for meaning, clearly the Spainish owner couldn't really comment on any stylistic issues. She didn't know any specialised terminology either. The end customer would provide a glossary either before or after the job. Then great attention was given to the appearance of the document, all punctuation was checked, spaces etc. This is really what every translator should do at the end of a translation.

BTW, for bibliographies, you find the book title on the internet if you can then you leave the page no. as it is in the original version, even the picky agency did this, and so did the publisher!

That's my experience, so my conclusion would be that it very much depends on the agency, the extent of the agnent's knowledge, and the role of the end client.


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Just a comment Jan 30, 2008

I just wanted to comment on the remark made above about hiring a lawyer from the target text country to find equivalant laws. Ideally in legal translating, you should know the law of your country to a reasonable extent and how it works, and if you haven't formally studied law in the other country you should use the internet etc. to find out about it, as you will know roughly what you are looking for. If the exact term of art exists in both countries than I use the English term of art, or if the situation fall within the scope of that term of art then I do the same. If however the term is a term of art in Spanish civil law then I give the term a direct translation, so the English lawyer, if that is the end customer, knows that he does not have a definition for that term. In this case, naturally, the English lawyer must liaise with a Spanish lawyer in order to understand the term, but this is outside the scope of a translator, as the lawyer will already know. I also maintain the names of Spanish institutions, eg. I don't put High Court for Tribunal Supremo but Supreme Court. I also personally prefer to maintain law for ley instead of act, but few agree with me.

A legal translation will always be a compromise. It is said that an English lawyer is not capable of truly understanding a Scottish legal document, so naturally they will approach a translation of a civil law document with great caution. So, no worries.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:57
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Re-translating the b****y thing Jan 30, 2008

In my experience, re-translating the whole bl**dy document sometimes.
Cynically,
Jenny.


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Right you are Jan 30, 2008

Of course if it is outsourced to be proofread, the standard really is your own, which may well involve, retranslating the thing if you are not careful as Jenny points out. For this reason, I don't offer "proofreading" services of any shape or form.

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