If you are translator who provides work to clients, either directly or through an agency, you will no doubt have had your work sent for review by the client. In the fullness of time the reviewed work is returned to you, normally with changes everywhere. (If "track changes" has been turned on in Microsoft word it can make a delightful coloured picture!).
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The first time you received a reviewed document back you will have been somewhat shattered to see all these changes made to what you considered to be a good, well researched and accurate translation. Your immediate thoughts would have been – how could I have got it all so wrong. Don’t worry it is highly probable you were not wrong. Bear in mind the following points:
1. A reviewer is usually a dealer working for your client company in the country for which the translation is destined, but can also be another translator who works for your client company or in very occasional cases a friend of someone in the client company who happens to speak the target language. If the reviewer is a dealer he/she may well have very specific local terms for some of the company’s specialised technical jargon – from this you can learn. However, in general dealers do not have a high level of education and their knowledge of their own language is often highly suspect e.g. in French, they would know nothing about using the subjunctive form of a verb after certain prepositions and their spelling errors are horrendous. This often results in the translator's work being corrected incorrectly.
If the reviewer is another translator, he/she will be determined to show that their work is better so will go out of their way to make heaps of unnecessary changes.
And if the reviewer is a friend of someone in the client company, the chances are they have no technical knowledge on the product concerned so should never have been asked to review it.
2. Different people write in different ways. You can give six people a concept to put into words and you will end up with six different versions which will all correctly convey the concept. It is a matter of opinion as to which version would be the best. The same applies to translation, a reviewer will often try to change the style of writing, depending on his own personal preference; this does not mean your translation was incorrect.
3. There are times when the reviewer does not have sufficient knowledge of the source language and changes a translation because he has misunderstood the original text. There are also times when a reviewer rewrites the translation because he is knowledgeable on the subject matter and considers the source document to be wrong or unclear.
So the question arises – how should a translator deal with a reviewed document?
Frequently the client company automatically considers that the reviewer is 100% correct and that the translator has made a poor quality translation. This can be very damaging to a translator’s reputation and their ability to gain on-going work with the company concerned. It is therefore most important to point out to the client where and how the review is not a reflection of poor quality translation if this is, in fact, the case.
First go through the reviewed translation and identify the changes. If you are lucky enough to receive a document with the changes indicated, this is straightforward. If the changes have not been indicated you will need to generate a compare document so you can see the changes. Once the changes have been identified you will be able to see whether they consist of changes to technical terms, stylistic changes, misunderstanding of the original source document by the reviewer, rewriting based on a reviewer’s in-depth knowledge of the product or whether they are in fact genuine corrections.
Next write a report for the client with your comments on the changes made. With changes to technical terms, add these to your glossary, and note for the client that they are specialised jargon which you will re-use in future work from them. With stylistic changes, take a few examples and clearly explain to the client why they are purely stylistic and a matter of personal preference. With misunderstandings of the original document by the reviewer, take a few examples and provide a back-translation of the reviewer’s version so the client can clearly understand what has happened. Do the same thing for cases where the reviewer has "re-written" the original document based on his knowledge of the product. And if the reviewer’s corrections are genuine valid corrections of your work, make a note for the future and be humble enough to admit to the client that you have made mistakes.
Writing a report for the client may take quite a while but it is a worthwhile exercise because not only are you justifying the quality of your work, you are politely pointing out to the client that the reviewer should not necessarily be considered as always being correct. If you work direct with the client company you will be able to follow-up the report with your contact person in the company. If you are working through an agency try your best to ensure that your report does actually get sent to the client. This however frequently will not happen as many agencies are literally clearing houses and are not inclined to pass on reports such as this to their client for fear of upsetting them and losing their business.
To summarise, in my opinion reviewers are unfortunately necessary and translators can learn from corrections made to specialised terminology. However, it is important that clients realise that their reviewers are not always correct, that a translator is often more knowledgeable than the reviewer about grammar, style and certain terms. Many companies will not accept that a translator could be correct and will insist on using the reviewer’s version – that is their decision and whether we like it or not, we all know the old adage “the client is always right”. There are a few companies who will respect a translator’s opinion and will even go as far as letting the translator contact the reviewer – either directly or via the company – to sort out any differences of opinion that may have arisen. This can be an invaluable contact for the future as you will be able to contact the reviewer again and ask their opinion on terms.
One last word of warning, translators can frequently adjust their style and terms to that of a reviewer, this is great when your work is always reviewed by the same reviewer. Nevertheless, you can have major problems if the work is sent to a different reviewer who more than likely will have yet other ideas and change everything all over again. It is basically a no win situation.