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Editing Vs. rewriting
Thread poster: Pablo Roufogalis
Pablo Roufogalis
Colombia
Local time: 03:18
English to Spanish
Feb 27, 2005

Hello to all.

I do very little editing work but the few dozen times I have done it I have found myseld doing almost a rewrite of the translator's work.

At the end it is a lot of work for a fraction of my usual fee.

Where do you draw the line?

Should the second translator say: "Yes, the style is lousy but grammatically correct and I am just an editor"? Sounds to me as "I just work heah".

I think that the final document after editing must be perfect and if I were the end customer I would not accept less than that, after paying for four eyes and the agency's internal resources.

Many thanks in advance for your comments.


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:18
German to English
+ ...
Perfection is in the eye of the beholder... Feb 27, 2005

Pablo Roufogalis wrote:
Hello to all.


Hi!

Pablo Roufogalis wrote:
I do very little editing work but the few dozen times I have done it I have found myseld doing almost a rewrite of the translator's work.
(...)
I think that the final document after editing must be perfect(...).


Please do not take this the wrong way, but - aside from my aforementioned comment that "perfection is in the eye of the beholder" - how can someone, who professes not to edit very often, honestly profess to know what "perfection" is (though "a few dozen" makes you more than a total beginner - IMHO)?

Pablo Roufogalis wrote:
At the end it is a lot of work for a fraction of my usual fee.


I would then suggest that you change your fee schedule to more accurately take into account the work that you put into it, e.g. an hourly rate seems like it could work for your situation; then it wouldn't matter how many mistakes you 'have' to correct - the more mistakes, the longer you have to work, the more you get paid - that seems fair to me.

Pablo Roufogalis wrote:
Where do you draw the line?


See my previous comment.

Pablo Roufogalis wrote:
Should the second translator say: "Yes, the style is lousy but grammatically correct and I am just an editor"? Sounds to me as "I just work heah".


It might help to contact the contractor as soon as you realize that the style is "lousy," and ask whether your assignment includes editing the style, or whether you are only to amend the grammatical mistakes. The contractor will appreciate your professionalism (you won't end up charging for something you were not intended to do) and will most likely have you go ahead and edit the style as well (more work = more $).

As far as "lousy" is concerned, I totally understand where you are coming from, but style is so subjective that I think we need to practice constraint when judging someone else's style, i.e. a "lousy" style is probably just "less fitting in this context," and your "perfect" style may be "more fitting for the intended audience," for example.

Pablo Roufogalis wrote:
I think that the final document after editing must be perfect and if I were the end customer I would not accept less than that, after paying for four eyes and the agency's internal resources.


I think that the customer is not often able to really judge whether the final document is perfect, or not. For this reason, I think that the translator/editor is ethically obligated to work to the best of their ability. Please also confer with my above mentioned comments on "perfection."

Pablo Roufogalis wrote:
Many thanks in advance for your comments.


Your welcome!

[Edited at 2005-02-27 19:54]


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Beth Dennison  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:18
Chinese to English
+ ...
Editing should not be rewriting Feb 27, 2005

Hello Pablo.

I have done a fair bit of editing over the past few months and certainly share your frustration.

Some texts I have been given to edit have been of a very high quality, and I have literally just had to read through to check for any minor mistakes/inconsistencies that may have crept in.

However, all too often I have been sent texts which have basically needed to be rewritten. This is time-consuming work and, I feel, often harder than translating from scratch. I feel that such texts should be retranslated, not edited, but agencies I have worked for have not shared my view.

My advice would be to charge a good hourly rate for editing, so that you do not lose out financially from taking on such work.


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Klaus Herrmann  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:18
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Respect your colleagues' work Feb 27, 2005

When it comes to editing, I am extremely carefull to distinguish personal preferences and fact-based need for rephrasing which leads to true improvement. Typically, there is more than one valid approach to any given translation, sentence or word. Unless I consider the style of a translation to be completely inadequate, which I would have to mention to my client prior to making extensive changes, I do not change the style of a translation. Every colleagues' work deserves respect, even if it does not fit my taste. One can always learn - recently I was reviewing a translation into German which did not contain a single Denglish or even adopted English word. So there were a couple of terms where I felt the -established- English technical term should have been kept. On the other hand, the German translation was perfectly clear and didn't sound convoluted. So, I did not like it, but had I changed it, it would have been a shame and a lousy inconsistency...

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Giuliana Buscaglione  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 09:18
Member (2001)
German to Italian
+ ...
Trying not to be too "subjective" Feb 27, 2005

Hi Pablo,

I fully agree with Klaus here. Whenever I feel that a translation has to be re-written (major changes), I contact my PM or client, as this would mean that the translation is not acceptable. No matter whether I am paid per hour or source word.

Each translator has his/her style and "approach", sometimes his/her terminology. If the client hasn't set a special terminology or "rules", I don't change anything. No matter, if I am used to a different terminology. I only make sure that there is consistency throughout the text. (I have a totally different approach, if the client has set very strict rules as to terminology, word order, style, etc., but these are very special cases, i.e. when a text is updated yearly and has to be added to the previous edition.. so I don't consider it as a relevant example)

After all, my job as editor is only to check whether there are typos, omissions, mistakes or better translations for technical terms.

The question I always ask myself is whether my correction is really necessary and makes a difference for the final reader.

I translated recently a manual and then I was given previously translated general parts for editing. Being my part the unpublished one, I have adapted mine to the style of the previous translator and changed a couple of technical terms I had used, in order to make sure there was consistency throughout the text.

I can't say that I liked the style in a couple of passages, but who knows, perhaps the final reader, the user of the manual, will like it. Style is so subjective. Someone said something along the lines of "Give a text to forty translators and you'll have 40 versions of the same"

Giuliana



[Edited at 2005-02-27 19:51]


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Pablo Roufogalis
Colombia
Local time: 03:18
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
The line Feb 27, 2005

> After all, my job as editor is only to check whether there are typos, omissions, mistakes or better translations for technical terms.

Hello Giuliana and thanks to you and all for your replies.

Is that the line?

Do you strongly believe that's a far and commonly accepted assessment of what it is expected of an editor?

Does anyone else concur?

I'd love to draw the line at that, even if I will have a strong, perhaps irresistible impulse to do the extra effort.


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:18
Member (2011)
Multiplelanguages
+ ...
a few comments on editing/rewriting and translating Feb 27, 2005

This thread has been very interesting because it hits on a few points that all translators have to deal with. I recall one translation agency's motto being something like: "translations better than the original text".

When I worked as the authoring and translation software trainer at Caterpillar, not only did I train the translators on the back-end side of the documention cycle, but I also worked significantly on the front-end side. This included completely rewriting tons and tons of legacy materials into a controlled writing style (accompanied by a custom-built controlled language authoring checker) and training re-authors and authors to do the same.

It also involved creating custom grammar review courses to help the authors understand the basics and the advanced aspects of grammar to be able to even use the authoring tool.

And it meant working with authoring dept editors and translation editors on terminology standardization and authoring/translation style issues for the authoring checker and the machine translation and Translation memory tools that we were implementing.

A few things that I've learned over the years are the following:

* much documentation material that is translated is written only with source language speakers in mind, and the need to translate it is often determined as an "after-thought". Few organizations actually plan the entire translation focus of documents into their documentation approach and cycle.

* "garbage in" is the norm, not the exception.

* playing an editing role can lead to the "red pen syndrome" whereby those who have the role feel like they need to show the added-value of that role with lots of corrections. Yet, this can also often lead to "overkill" corrections in the editing process. Thus, the nit-picking aspects of stylistic correction which can just be a preference issue rather than a technical one. So "style can be subjective" as stated by others in this thread.

* nothing is perfectly written nor perfectly translated. As stated by others in this thread, "perfection is in the eyes of the beholder" and "40 translators will create 40 different translations". A translation is the product of an end-user audience/reader in mind, and can be judged as to the "appropriate" relevancy to that audience.

* overall stylistic standardization might not be necessary for the translated document. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Some documents are meant to be read in their entirety in a single sitting (such as marketing brochures), others meant to be consulted regularly for a short or determined period of time during a series of sequential sittings (mobile phone user guide, software installation manual, etc), others meant to be read as individual independent "stories" in short sessions for special purposes over a long period of time (such a machine operation or service manual), others meant to be read with overall coherency and understanding in mind (such as novels and other types of similar books), etc. Not all such documents are meant to be read (source language and target languages) in the same way. This can affect the approach to writing it, and also translating it.

* lots of documents finally destined to be translated should be rewritten with translation in mind to make them translatable into several languages, but such upfront authoring effort is very difficult to get the organizations to buy into.

* there are certainly other points that I don't have off the top of my head.

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/


[Edited at 2005-02-28 21:26]


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Robin Salmon  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 18:18
German to English
+ ...
Determine why the translation is so bad Feb 27, 2005

I find that some translation agencies seem to pay a non-native speaker of the target language in their own country to do a translation and then get a native speaker from the Internet to edit it. I can determine that this is the case if am given a translation to edit, which contains few idiomatic expressions such as any native speaker would use.

Of course, this can work out cheap for the agency, when the editor more or less does the translation for 20% to 30% of his/her normal translation fee.

In the past, I have had to spend hours working for very little, editing work by non-native speakers.

Now, if an agency asks me to do editing or proofreading, I reply that I only do it if the original translation is by a native speaker of the target language.

Robin Salmon



Pablo Roufogalis wrote:

Hello to all.

I do very little editing work but the few dozen times I have done it I have found myseld doing almost a rewrite of the translator's work.

At the end it is a lot of work for a fraction of my usual fee.

Where do you draw the line?

Should the second translator say: "Yes, the style is lousy but grammatically correct and I am just an editor"? Sounds to me as "I just work heah".

I think that the final document after editing must be perfect and if I were the end customer I would not accept less than that, after paying for four eyes and the agency's internal resources.

Many thanks in advance for your comments.


[Edited at 2005-02-27 23:30]


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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 10:18
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Hi Jeff Feb 27, 2005

Thank you for excellent input!

Uldis.

(BTW, I have first hand knowledge of procedures you implemented in Caterpillar- already for few years we do all their things into Latvian. It was DV 3 up to now, but the change to DV X is in process now).

Uldis

Jeff Allen wrote:
A few things that I've learned over the years are the following:


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Pablo Roufogalis
Colombia
Local time: 03:18
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
Perfect Feb 28, 2005

The use of the word "perfect"was infortunate, more so as my motto is that "all translations are perfectible". I hate reviewing old jobs because I always find something that could have been better.



[Edited at 2005-02-28 12:00]


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Monika Coulson  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:18
Member (2001)
English to Albanian
+ ...
My view Feb 28, 2005

First, I would like to thank all the posters of this thread for their great input.

When I see something that I might not like in a translation, I always ask myself two questions before I make any corrections:

1. Is it wrong?
2. Will it confuse the reader?

If both of the above answers are NO, then I do not change it, but move on.

Monika


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:18
Member
English to Turkish
The most irresistible Feb 28, 2005

In a publishers' office I frequented there was this poster on the wall: a handwritten sentence on a white background, which ran as 'neither power, nor sex, nor greed of any kind... no human urge can be more irresistible than changing another one's copy'... then, a strike through the word 'changing' and an addition next to it as 'correcting', which in turn was changed to 'improving'... 'editing'... and so on...


In short, I tend to agree with all the colleagues above in favor of an editor's professional discipline to resist the irresistible, and would like to elaborate* Monika's input with a mention of "accuracy in terms of terminology and register".





* Should I have said 'detail' or maybe 'expand' or... ?

[Edited at 2005-02-28 08:34]


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 09:18
French to English
I think "editing" depends on the type of text and the reader Feb 28, 2005

I translate a lot of marketing blurbs for various products and services. I've found a niche where my customers (agency and direct) understand that these blurbs usually need to be adapted rather than just translated, which is great, because it gives me the freedom to rework the text so that I end up with something that "sells" in English, even if it is not a direct translation of the source text.

Over the past few months, I have been asked to "edit" the work of other translators by two agencies (again, marketing blurbs) because the work was found to be unsatisfactory by the end customer. No mistakes per se, just really poor writing in English that did not do the product/service justice.

Sometimes I think that agencies will use the word "edit" hoping to get you at 3 or 4 cents per word, when in fact, what they are asking for is a complete rewrite (for which I charge the full translation rate). In my case it is clear, because if a customer comes to me for these services, it is because the "style" of a previous translation didn't fit.

I know that the situation for technical work (manuals, etc.) is different, and I agree with the previous comments. If it isn't objectivly "wrong" and if it doesn't hurt the clarity of the text, then don't touch it. We all do things differently and should think twice before taking the red pen to a colleague's work.

I think the important thing is finding out what your customer really needs (are you just doing routine QC or are you helping an agency save a huge contract with a customer who was extremely dissatisfied with a previous translation?) and adapt your working methods ***and your rates*** to ensure you can provide what they are looking for.

Have a great day (for those just starting work)!

Sara

[Edited at 2005-02-28 08:06]

[Edited at 2005-02-28 13:27]


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Beth Dennison  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:18
Chinese to English
+ ...
Editing vs "cheap translation" Feb 28, 2005

[quote]robtrans wrote:

I find that some translation agencies seem to pay a non-native speaker of the target language in their own country to do a translation and then get a native speaker from the Internet to edit it. I can determine that this is the case if am given a translation to edit, which contains few idiomatic expressions such as any native speaker would use.

Of course, this can work out cheap for the agency, when the editor more or less does the translation for 20% to 30% of his/her normal translation fee.

In the past, I have had to spend hours working for very little, editing work by non-native speakers.

Now, if an agency asks me to do editing or proofreading, I reply that I only do it if the original translation is by a native speaker of the target language.

Robin Salmon



My experience is similar to Robin's. I prefer to edit texts which have been translated by native speakers of the target language, but I am generally asked to edit translations by non-native speakers. More often than not, I end up having to practically retranslate the texts as there are so many problems with grammar and terminology. As I mentioned in my previous post, I charge a good hourly rate so as not to lose out financially.


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