Poll: In my opinion, compared to that of the translator, the expertise or ability of the proofreader...
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 07:45
Dec 9, 2015

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "In my opinion, compared to that of the translator, the expertise or ability of the proofreader...".

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Laura Pascual  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:45
English to Spanish
+ ...
...should be different Dec 9, 2015

I think it's a common mistake believing that translators and proofreaders should have the same abilities. Translating is different from proofreading and, although many translators also proofread, just being a translator doesn't make you a good proofreader.

[Edited at 2015-12-09 08:26 GMT]


Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Other Dec 9, 2015

It depends on the ability of the translator

In an ideal world, the expert translator does a near-perfect job and the rookie translator checks it for the odd slip and learns from it

In reality, it seems that agencies are increasingly doing it the other way around to save money, at the expense of quality

I sound very old saying that


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:45
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
An old, tried-and-tested excellent method... Dec 9, 2015

Chris S wrote:

It depends on the ability of the translator

In an ideal world, the expert translator does a near-perfect job and the rookie translator checks it for the odd slip and learns from it

In reality, it seems that agencies are increasingly doing it the other way around to save money, at the expense of quality

I sound very old saying that

There is one thing the translator cannot do, and that is to read the translation without seeing the source text first.
In other words, read it as the target reader will. A competent rookie who knows the principles, but needs to have them fleshed out in practice, can benefit enormously from proofreading like that and help the translator too. There may be things that are obvious if you understand the source language, but not otherwise. Even expert translators occasionally miss these, but rookies are quite good at finding them! icon_smile.gif

The other scenario is a rookie having work proofread by an experienced translator who then gives feedback, which the rookie can learn from.
This doesn't save the agency money, as the experienced translator may spend a lot of time on it... but in the long run this is where the rookie becomes a translator.

It saves the agency trouble because it catches mistakes and prevents future ones before clients find them and can complain about them...


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:45
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Dec 9, 2015

*Proofreading* is a different skill entirely.

Now, if you're talking about reviewing and revising a translation, that is not proofreading, and it's a whole other story that goes on and on ...


Teresa Borges
Local time: 15:45
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other Dec 9, 2015

First of all, it depends on what is meant by proofreading: is it correcting grammar errors, spelling, use of capitals and the like? Or is it correcting and rephrasing the translation to improve the style? Either way, I’m with Laura and Muriel it requires a different skill entirely!


Diana Llorente  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
The translator is the one who gest to know the text better Dec 9, 2015

I'll speak from the point of view of technical translations, which is what I know.

I think that the translator has to be an expert and be an excellent translator in the subject he's dealing with, as he's the person who will really spend time with the text, looking for specific terminology, watching videos to understand a machine (if he needs to), etc.

The proofreader should then just make little improvements or suggestions. If he's also an expert in the subject, he may be able to comment on some terminology and give a second opinion. Or there maybe a non-technical proofreader proposing some non-technical suggestions (but leaving the terminology alone!).

As having two good translators who really know, let's say, nuclear physics, or organic chemistry, in the same agency may be unlikely and expensive, some agencies do one or the following two things: they either hire a specialist translator and have anyone else proofreading it, or they hire a cheaper/non specialised translator and expect the proofreader to redo the translation for half his normal translation rate.

In the first case, I don't have any problem at all with a non-specialist proofreader just checking typing mistakes that I may have missed, or proposing suggestions to how things are phrased, to me this is a valid option.

What it's not useful at all is to receive "corrections" to terminology from someone who doesn't understand what they're reading, because then, if I'm lucky enough to see the "corrections", I'll have to spend time rejecting the changes and explaining why that's wrong. (and it's a potential for mistakes if the text doesn't go back to the translator).

As for the second case, proofreading texts prepared by non technical translators normally means redoing the translation, which is not a very efficient process and the end result could be worse than translating from scratch. This is why I only proofread for agencies I know well, with good translators.

In both cases I think that it would have been cheaper, and the quality would have been better, if the agency would have spend the money from both rates in hiring a good translator and giving him a better deadline.

Unfortunately, there's even a worse case, where both translator and proofreader are nor very good. But the agency can say that they have 2 steps (or even 3, hey), what should "guarantee" quality.

In this case the "quality" procedure seems to be the objective in itself, rather than getting a quality translation (if you want a good shoe, go to a good shoemaker, don't spend your money on 3 random people to make your shoe checking each other's job!).

Or do final clients hire 3 cheap engineers to do one engineering job?, no, they hire a good one, and put some quality controls somewhere in the process.

In summary, hire a good specialist translator in the first place. From then you can decide (probably depending on the client's needs or budget) if you don't want to put any proofreader at all, if you want to put a good but non-technical proofreader proposing non-technical small improvements, or if you'll hire an expert technical translator providing a second opinion to the translator.


Ilan Rubin (X)  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 17:45
Russian to English
Don't need an expert Dec 9, 2015

If I am doing a technical translation (in my case, financial) the last thing I need is a proof-reader changing all the terminology, which I carefully research and where I am likely to know a great deal more than they do given that I was a finance professional for many years.

What I do appreciate is a proof-reader who has a good English style and can come up with sharper or more 'English' words sometimes, and who spots any typos. So it should be somebody who is well read, preferably who reads lots of literature.


Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 09:45
German to English
+ ...
has to be very good, and also experienced Dec 9, 2015

In "proofreading" I am assuming the usual review of a translation in all its aspects, rather than the precise meaning of the term.

The "proofreader" must have enough experience and knowledge to know what to leave alone. You are checking for things that matter. Meaning must be preserved without addition, omission, or alteration, and this can also include the "tone" of the text and its context. It should read plausibly. But that doesn't mean, when there are choices, that the "proofreader's" personal choices prevail - changes are made if there is an actual problem. And as somebody pointed out, the original translator may have spent a lot of time researching certain things and juggling them to get the right wording. Making changes should be done cautiously and only if absolutely necessary. And that requires both expertise and experience.

Then there is also the matter of specialization in a subject area.


Henry Schroeder  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:45
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Forget expertise with proofreaders Dec 9, 2015

Hope they actually compare the original and translation. There are a lot of non-proofreading proofreaders, even with track changes.


Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:45
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Proofreaders! Dec 10, 2015

Theoretically, the level of the proofreader should be at least the same as yours, otherwise how can they make corrections in the work you've done?

Truth #1: The vast majority of proofreaders will fill your work with red marks, replacing terms with synonyms and making undue (very undue) corrections, to justify their work. Most of the work I have delivered and was reviewed by a proofreader would have been delivered to the client 10 times better if no proofreader had touched it.

Truth #2: If this person was in the same level I am, both linguistically and in terms of knowledge of the fields, they would be translating, not proofreading.


Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:45
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
They have to be better than me Dec 10, 2015

I know of only one or maybe two people here in Japan with as much experience as I have in one certain field - Industrial Automation (I've been doing it for 22+ years years now) - who can do as equally a good job as I can. Definitely tooting my horn here icon_smile.gif

I can't see how anyone else with less experience can even begin to look at what I have translated. To find slight omissions or careless mistakes in numbers, cross-references and things like this, I guess.

But, then, I make up for deficiencies (poor grammar, omissions, superfluousness), inconsistencies (non-uniformity of terminology and phraseology) and contradictions (content is at variance with details mentioned in other chapters) in the source text to deliver a more 'complete' translation. I also send feedback during the course of a project, time provided, to clear up unclear points with the customer/end client with the result that the English translation will be more cohesive than the original Japanese.
A reviewer can never begin to understand the hard work that a translator goes through to deliver a tight translation. And, I am not going to start to explain in detail all the processes that run through my head and how I got this level after 30+ years - it'll take a month of Sundays and it'll probably fall on deaf ears, anyway.

So, how can a reviewer make any qualitative judgments about my work when they know less?
Unfortunately, I know from personal experience, that 'reviewers' have gone in and ruined a perfectly decent translation I have delivered. Their loss, nobody's gain! icon_frown.gificon_frown.gif

Small edit

[Edited at 2015-12-10 07:28 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-12-10 08:14 GMT]


Rebecca Garber  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:45
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
The skillsets are different Dec 11, 2015

I work for some agencies with excellent proofreaders. Working together, we can submit texts that make the clients happy.

I have tried doing professional proofreading, and I hate it. I keep seeing the original text, and I end up being very bad at the editing/proofreading.
OTOH, I will happily edit/proofread anything for family. However, those are a different set of texts.


Angela Losfeld
Local time: 16:45
French to English
+ ...
Fed up!!!! Jul 14, 2016

icon_evil.gificon_mad.gif I get really p%$&+@ off by UK proofreaders who go so far as to even change the words of my translations (in US English) to UK spellings (when there was no special instruction to do so in the first place) and this happens almost all the time.icon_mad.gificon_evil.gificon_mad.gif


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