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Having your work proofread when working in-house
Thread poster: Gerard Barry

David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:32
French to English
Maybe Oct 1

You could have a point, although we don't know your colleague. You'll know if these character traits are true or not. Assuming he/she is senior to you in the company, the internal procedure for making your case could be complicated. If you are equals, I see no reason why you can't just challenge the person directly. My guess is that he/she is focused on proving his/her worth to the company and probably doesn't much care about your opinion.

 

Gerard Barry
Germany
Local time: 00:32
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
He's just a colleague Oct 1

@David Hayes: Hi David. The guy is just a colleague, not my boss. He has been in the company for longer and does have a few years more experience than I do, but I still don't feel that justifies the teacher-like attitude. Other colleagues have been there longer and/or have more professional experience as a whole yet aren't remotely as condescending. I actually have brought the matter up with him and with our boss, but alas there hasn't been that much change in his behaviour.

 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:32
Member (2018)
French to English
. Oct 1

Gerard Barry wrote:
My problem relates mainly to one particular colleague, who rarely leaves a single sentence untouched. My other colleagues could read the same translation and make only minimal changes. Don't you think that says something about the colleague in question? That maybe he's arrogant, pedantic, nerdy, etc.?

And besides, who wants to spend an entire working life having their work corrected like that of a schoolchild? I'm getting older and really don't want to work like this for the rest of my life. Moreover, I am really amazed sometimes at this "humble" attitude so many translators have.


Yes, if others wouldn't make nearly as many corrections to your work, this particular colleague may well be pedantic or have an inflated opinion of their proofreading abilities. Is he a new hire or has he been around for ages? If he has more experience than you, and knows the clients better than you, his corrections may well still be worth the time it takes to make them. The boss very probably keeps a close eye on productivity: if this proofreader is making lots of changes, they are probably taking more time to proofread files than their colleagues, and the boss wouldn't be OK with that unless he is perhaps responsible for certain sensitive accounts where clients might be very hung up on specific terminology and maybe even always want him to have either translated or proofread the translation.

If this is indeed the case, I would suggest you take a good long look at the corrections and make notes of this person's preferences, in the form of a glossary. Or perhaps ask them what you might be able to do to bring your work up to his high standards?

Even if proof-readers don't tear your work apart, clients still can, so it's important to be able to take criticism and learn to push back diplomatically when necessary (i.e. when the client is plain wrong and would end up with egg on their face if you let their "corrections" stand).

If the level of correction is truly unjustified, you might want to mention it to your boss? It's best to have an example of what you're complaining about at the ready, perhaps highlighted in different colours to classify each correction as "over-the-top subjective", "minor mistake that's worth correcting since we've spotted it" "major error that could result in egg on client's face or WWIII" etc. If the predominant colour is the "over-the-top subjective" one, that would be very telling for the boss (who probably doesn't want to spend hours quibbling over every apostrophe or synonym). You could also ask one of the lighter-touch proof-readers to also proofread a text that the overzealous proof-reader rewrote, and show the boss the difference. (Only do that if you're sure the lighter-touch proof-reader won't get into trouble for being slapdash).

As to the "humble attitude"... nobody likes people who brag or behave like they're the bees knees. The greatest experts on anything are usually the ones most likely to answer a question with "I don't know", because along with everything else they've learned, they have often acquired a very keen sense for all that they have yet to learn.


P.L.F.Persio
Becca Resnik
Teresa Borges
 

David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:32
French to English
From what you've said... Oct 1

I agree with you and would probably react in the same way. After all, you presumably had to pass tests and interviews to get your job in the first place. Is the in-house procedure being followed to the letter? Does your company want your colleague to spend ages re-writing your work? And does anyone check the changes to see if they are justified? Have you received negative feedback from clients and so the company is now going overboard to placate them? How long has all this been going on? How lon... See more
I agree with you and would probably react in the same way. After all, you presumably had to pass tests and interviews to get your job in the first place. Is the in-house procedure being followed to the letter? Does your company want your colleague to spend ages re-writing your work? And does anyone check the changes to see if they are justified? Have you received negative feedback from clients and so the company is now going overboard to placate them? How long has all this been going on? How long have you been there? There's a lot we don't know about this story, but my hunch in that your colleague is trying to make a name for himself in the company.

[Edited at 2020-10-02 07:14 GMT]
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Becca Resnik
 

MollyRose  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:32
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Talk to your colleague Oct 1

... about specific changes that he has made that you don´t agree with. Tell him why you don´t agree with (or understand the reason for) the change, using references (dictionary, style guide, websites dealing with the subject, etc.) to back up your statements. If they are not errors and you cannot find references, you can also ask him why he thinks the change needs to be made. Try to come to an agreement on each one: yes, this needs (or would be better) to be the way he said/I translated/somet... See more
... about specific changes that he has made that you don´t agree with. Tell him why you don´t agree with (or understand the reason for) the change, using references (dictionary, style guide, websites dealing with the subject, etc.) to back up your statements. If they are not errors and you cannot find references, you can also ask him why he thinks the change needs to be made. Try to come to an agreement on each one: yes, this needs (or would be better) to be the way he said/I translated/something different from what we both said, or either way is fine. You can discuss what kind of things should be marked. He probably doesn´t see all his marks as corrections, but some as suggestions or improvements (for clarification, to sound more natural, to adhere to conventional style manuals, etc.).

If you discuss some things privately with him, with respect, I think you can achieve peace between the two of you. Learn from him and incorporate that into your translations. There might be different schools of thought on a matter, such as whether the period goes inside or outside of the quotation mark. It may be a matter of which country you are translating for as to which way to write certain things. When several countries are your target audience and they do it both ways, if you have one preference and he has a different one, allow each other that and don´t change theirs or argue over it.

If you keep on approaching him like this instead of fussing, you will both grow. He will see that you are not resisting him but are striving for an excellent translation--as he presumably is, too. Even if you don´t think his motives are right, give him the benefit of the doubt; you don't really know what is going on inside his head. Eventually you will probably find that he makes fewer changes to your translations.

There is a big difference between self respect and pride. The latter can get you into trouble, especially when it escalates to arrogance. Being humble is not the same as having low self-esteem, but acknowledging that you are not perfect and you have room to grow, just like everybody else in the world.
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Becca Resnik
Kay Denney
Teresa Borges
 

Gerard Barry
Germany
Local time: 00:32
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your responses. Oct 1

@Kay, David, Molly: Thanks for your responses. I have actually already done some of the things you suggested, such as talking to the colleague in question, talking to my boss, etc. But it hasn't made that much of a difference. When all is said and done, my gut feeling remains that the guy is a pedantic, arrogant know-it-all. If you knew him, you'd possibly agree with me. In a way, whether he's right or wrong in his corrections is irrelevant: it's his attitude that bothers me. Who wants to read p... See more
@Kay, David, Molly: Thanks for your responses. I have actually already done some of the things you suggested, such as talking to the colleague in question, talking to my boss, etc. But it hasn't made that much of a difference. When all is said and done, my gut feeling remains that the guy is a pedantic, arrogant know-it-all. If you knew him, you'd possibly agree with me. In a way, whether he's right or wrong in his corrections is irrelevant: it's his attitude that bothers me. Who wants to read patronising remarks like this in a proofread translation?: "Unfortunately you've made this mistake before so please remember it for the next time." And this from a guy who used to sit just feet away from me in the same office (before corona, that is)! I think it's important when working with people to treat them as equals and to just be friendly. Acting in any way superior to people who are on the same level as you is completely inappropriate. And life is too short for small-minded nitpicking.Collapse


 

Sadek_A  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:32
English to Arabic
+ ...
A word of advice Oct 1

If said proofreader senses any timidness in your approach to this problem, they will go even further to reaffirm your place as a benchable, secondary member of the team. People like that don't respect timidness, but rather see it as a window of opportunity for further abuse.

Mark your own territory or find a new one; the latter of which can ultimately expose intents of said proofreader before the company's eyes and deservedly complicate the company's situation due to their unprofess
... See more
If said proofreader senses any timidness in your approach to this problem, they will go even further to reaffirm your place as a benchable, secondary member of the team. People like that don't respect timidness, but rather see it as a window of opportunity for further abuse.

Mark your own territory or find a new one; the latter of which can ultimately expose intents of said proofreader before the company's eyes and deservedly complicate the company's situation due to their unprofessional inaction.
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David Hayes
 

Sadek_A  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:32
English to Arabic
+ ...
"Unfortunately you've made this mistake before so please remember it for the next time." Oct 1

Actually, if you've both agreed before that it was an actual mistake, and - still - it got repeated, then said remark is warranted and not patronising.

Repeated mistakes on translator's part are repeated efforts on proofreader's part.

Eliminating all agreed-upon mistakes from translations gives you a firmer ground.


Kay Denney
Teresa Borges
 

David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:32
French to English
Tedious Oct 2

I am starting to form an idea of what your colleague might be like. But it also sounds like this could be an issue with the company. If such behaviour among equals is allowed to perpetuate, it seems that your company has zero interest in human well-being. I have long believed that a positive working environment is the best way to improve standards of work in any job. Patronising remarks (whether justified or not) will serve only to maintain the established pecking order. It might be an idea to s... See more
I am starting to form an idea of what your colleague might be like. But it also sounds like this could be an issue with the company. If such behaviour among equals is allowed to perpetuate, it seems that your company has zero interest in human well-being. I have long believed that a positive working environment is the best way to improve standards of work in any job. Patronising remarks (whether justified or not) will serve only to maintain the established pecking order. It might be an idea to start looking for a new job!Collapse


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:32
Member (2018)
French to English
. Oct 2

MollyRose wrote:

If you keep on approaching him like this instead of fussing, you will both grow. He will see that you are not resisting him but are striving for an excellent translation--as he presumably is, too. Even if you don´t think his motives are right, give him the benefit of the doubt; you don't really know what is going on inside his head. Eventually you will probably find that he makes fewer changes to your translations.

There is a big difference between self respect and pride. The latter can get you into trouble, especially when it escalates to arrogance. Being humble is not the same as having low self-esteem, but acknowledging that you are not perfect and you have room to grow, just like everybody else in the world.

Reasserting that you're both on the same page, striving towards excellence, is a good strategy. If the colleague is on an ego trip, that will help deflate the ego balloon a little, by shaming him into better behaviour.

Sadek_A wrote:
"Unfortunately you've made this mistake before so please remember it for the next time."

Actually, if you've both agreed before that it was an actual mistake, and - still - it got repeated, then said remark is warranted and not patronising.

Repeated mistakes on translator's part are repeated efforts on proofreader's part.

Eliminating all agreed-upon mistakes from translations gives you a firmer ground.


Indeed. Of course, you may not have agreed that it was a mistake in which case you would need respectfully to discuss the ins and outs of it, finding reputable sources to back up your claims (you could maybe draw up a list of such sources for reference when you disagree on anything). Once you've reached a decision you must then stick to it. NB: diplomacy is required. Sometimes you might have to let your colleague "win" an argument.
Once, I introduced a pun into a press release about a new nightclub. My colleague with a legal background said I shouldn't do that unless there was a pun in the source text, which there wasn't. I argued that it fit in well with the general style of the text. I ended up letting her have her way, because I had to pick up my kids from school. But then at the last minute I rebelled and put the pun back in just before delivering to the client. The client wrote back gushing about the great pun and said he'd re-written the source to do the same. My colleague was not happy to see that I'd changed my translation back, but nobody had ever said who was to have the final word in the event of a disagreement, and the client was delighted, so she couldn't exactly criticise.
When I found colleagues (especially interns) repeating mistakes, it was always disconcerting. With one, I'll call her Sally, a particular mistake simply became known as "doing a Sally", and we were able to laugh about it and we both paid extra attention to make sure we caught those mistakes. With the one who was unable to spell receive and believe, I will admit to losing patience. To err is human, but the concept of "I like to make the same mistake several times just to make sure" should not apply in the workplace.


P.L.F.Persio
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:32
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Gerard Oct 2

Gerard Barry wrote:
The guy is just a colleague, not my boss. He has been in the company for longer...


Unfortunately, having been in the company for longer means that (from his perspective and possibly also the perspective of your boss and other colleagues) he is your senior and your teacher and that he has the responsibility to shape your work to fit the history of the company. If you feel differently, that's okay, but just be aware of this pecking order thing.

Who wants to read patronising remarks like this in a proofread translation?: "Unfortunately you've made this mistake before so please remember it for the next time."


I agree that this is a rude comment and not helpful. I would be upset about it, too.

I think it's important when working with people to treat them as equals and to just be friendly. Acting in any way superior to people who are on the same level as you is completely inappropriate.


It's nice when that happens, but not all people are friendly, and not all people are willing to admit their faults. Don't lose respect for him just because he is incapable of seeing that what he does is disrepectful to you.

Gerard Barry wrote:
One particular colleague rarely leaves a single sentence untouched. My other colleagues could read the same translation and make only minimal changes. Don't you think that says something about the colleague in question?


There can be many explanations.

It may simply be that this colleague is a bad proofreader. Good proofreaders can distinguish their own style from the other translator's style, and know how to fix just what needs to be fixed. Some weaker proofreaders are so unsure of themselves that they take the easy way out: they change everything that is different from how they would have written it. Your colleague may be such a proofreader.

You say that he's been with the company longer than you: this might mean that he has reached a certain level of comfort in his work and is now trying to deal with the fact that there is an upstart who threatens his relaxation. He is unwilling to change, and he feels threatened by your way of translating, so he expects you to change.

I'm not suggesting that you resist the change, though. And I can tell you from my own experience that it can sometimes take very long to learn something that is obvious to another person. We all know the frustration of working with a translator who have been told something again and again and still he "does not listen", but sometimes it is not because the translator is stupid, but simply because he simply doesn't remember well or struggles to learn.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
@ Samuel Murray: Great post, IMO.


Thanks, but... I've edited it.

[Edited at 2020-10-02 09:55 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:32
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Office politics -- the bugbear of so many employees Oct 2

@ Samuel Murray: (Still) a great post, IMO.

Gerard Barry wrote:
The guy is a pedantic, arrogant know-it-all.


Who wants to read patronising remarks like this in a proofread translation?: "Unfortunately you've made this mistake before so please remember it for the next time."


Office politics: one reason why I've never once contemplated going back to being a salaried employee since 1993. Going self-employed was probably the most sensible decision I've ever made.

[Edited at 2020-10-02 10:57 GMT]


Becca Resnik
 

Sadek_A  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:32
English to Arabic
+ ...
It all goes back to the need for clear rules by the organization Oct 2

I had my share of bad colleagues, both proofreading me and proofread by me. A bad colleague is nothing funny nor amusing, it's rather an every workday hassle.

An organization is like a family, with management as parents; parents aren't supposed to sit idly by watching their kids (employees) trying to poke each other's eyes out. When something like that happens, the only urgent thing to follow is to have a talk with the kids, set clear rules on what is allowed (spotting, discussing,
... See more
I had my share of bad colleagues, both proofreading me and proofread by me. A bad colleague is nothing funny nor amusing, it's rather an every workday hassle.

An organization is like a family, with management as parents; parents aren't supposed to sit idly by watching their kids (employees) trying to poke each other's eyes out. When something like that happens, the only urgent thing to follow is to have a talk with the kids, set clear rules on what is allowed (spotting, discussing, agreeing on and correcting actual mistakes) and what is not (proofreader faking mistakes/translator denying or repeating actual mistakes).

Still, a clear definition of "mistake" must be regulated within the family:

For translation: (1)incomplete/(2)disordered/(3)improvised (text and/or meaning), (4)destructured (forms of speech)

For proofreading: (1)faked (none of the 4 above), (2)uncorrected (not doing one's job nor helping the translator), (3)improvised (for not having read the source text in the first place; a monolingual heist, if you wish).

Both parties must be given a chance to tell their story, and agreements must be reached.

The organization failing to do all of that makes it a hopeless, dysfunctional family.
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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Like all good codes... Oct 2

it just self-destructed

[Edited at 2020-10-02 10:04 GMT]


 

Gerard Barry
Germany
Local time: 00:32
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
I don't understand impatience in proofreading Oct 2

Again, thanks everyone for your comments. I'm a little bit disappointed though how some of you exhibit the same attitude my colleague has regarding (repeated) mistakes, i.e. one of impatience. I don't understand this. We're only human and are bound to make (sometimes the same) mistakes over and over again. When translating a long, difficult text, it's really not that surprising if an "old mistake" will slip into the translation. And isn't it the proofreader's job to spot these mistakes anyway? O... See more
Again, thanks everyone for your comments. I'm a little bit disappointed though how some of you exhibit the same attitude my colleague has regarding (repeated) mistakes, i.e. one of impatience. I don't understand this. We're only human and are bound to make (sometimes the same) mistakes over and over again. When translating a long, difficult text, it's really not that surprising if an "old mistake" will slip into the translation. And isn't it the proofreader's job to spot these mistakes anyway? Otherwise, what would be the point of proofreading at all? Moreover, in translation and language in general, it's not always crystal clear what's a mistake and what isn't. I don't think many translators would do well working in other fields, such as teaching, where patience is required in spades!Collapse


 
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