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Poll: Do you think that reviewers should be asked to sign a professional code of ethics?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 13:01
SITE STAFF
Apr 28, 2016

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you think that reviewers should be asked to sign a professional code of ethics?".

This poll was originally submitted by Alexander Schleber. View the poll results »



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Alexander Schleber  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 22:01
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Yes, but keep it simple Apr 28, 2016

I believe that such a code of ethics would be especially good, for reminding reviewers of a few "simple" rules that they should follow, in doing their work.

An example: "tracking" in Word (the most frequently used tool, I think) makes no differentiation between "editorial preferences" and "real errors". That means a reviewer can make a translator look like an uneducated would-be translator, simply by giving his editorial preferences free play. Good reviewers avoid editorial preferences. If the original translation is not an error, but their changes are "a real improvement", then that is/should be marked as such.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 21:01
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No Apr 28, 2016

Why? I am both a translator (85%) and a reviewer (15%). Why should I sign a professional code of ethics as a reviewer when I’m not asked the same as a translator? Reviewers are not the enemy, and there are reviewers and reviewers as there are translators and translators…

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:01
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Apr 28, 2016

First, define "reviewer". Then tell me whose work is being reviewed. As a translator, I'm not always happy about my work being reviewed by any Tom Dick and Harry, but in principle a professional code of ethics could be a good thing. On the other hand, I'm not sure if it should be compulsory or 'official'.

Basically, I'm far too busy this week to respond to questions like this with anything other than abrupt, off- the-top-of-my-head outbursts. If I ever have the time to go away and have a proper think about it, I'll come back and let you know.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:01
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
They should already have signed one Apr 28, 2016

Reviewers should be professional people who know what they are doing.

If they are already members of their professional association, either as translators or as subject specialists (Medics, lawyers, engineers, whoever knows about the particular subject area), then many will already have signed a code of conduct and know what ethics are about. That will take care of confidentiality and most quality issues.

I don't think a code of conduct will help solve the problem of monster reviewers who change everything and haven't a clue. It will just make them think they are important if they don't already!

It is far more important to start with a translator who is qualified for the job in hand - linguistically and in the subject field, and to find a reviewer who really understands what reviewing is about. Preferably someone who also understands the terminology and the professional jargon, but at least someone who appreciates it for what it is, and knows when to leave those peculiar expressions well alone.

Then clients and agencies also need to understand what translation is about.
Increasingly, they also need to know the difference between intelligent translation and getting a machine to substitute one set of words for another on a statistical basis!

Ethics are a different matter altogether. I am afraid that if amateur reviewers think they are saving the world from disaster, then they get really stubborn, and will have a field day if they can quote ethics at you as well...


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Ethics???? Apr 28, 2016

Surely what they need is TRAINING.

My work is only occasionally reviewed these days but my impression from past experience is that overediting is only human and needs to be actively trained out of people.

When we had employees I found it very hard to let even the smallest things go, so I do try to be understanding.

But I almost always fail. The slightest change will have me stomping around the office growling and swearing before eventually settling into a good old sulk.

I'd hate to be a journalist and have everything I ever do torn apart and rewritten.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 18:01
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A lesson Apr 28, 2016

My late uncle Richard was a very special man. No point nor room here to give him all the praise he would deserve. Just one lesson.

He ran a firm that sold and provided service for industrial woodworking machinery. At his funeral, the founder/owner of the company that designed and built those machines told me, [i]Your uncle was a very special man. We worked together for over 30 years without any signed agreement, and never had any issue that we weren't able to resolve quickly between us. Meanwhile I have 22 other dealers, a long and verbose agreement signed with each of them. Nevertheless, my lawyers and theirs keep struggling in and out of court with each other every single day![i]

So my take is that reviewers, translators, PMs, agencies, end-clients, everybody should HAVE and UPHOLD a strong professional code of ethics. Signing it is a mere formality.


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The Misha
Local time: 16:01
Russian to English
+ ...
Required? By whom? Apr 28, 2016

And what if they don't - run them out of town? Methink, ethics should come from inside. It's what your mother should have taught you. If she didn't, no amount of paper you sign will replace that.

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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:01
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Completely agree with Chris S Apr 28, 2016

Chris S wrote:

Surely what they need is TRAINING.



I have only had good experience with one particular reviewer I can recall, all of the rest changed things that were correct to begin with (based on an end client's express preferences, for example) to something that was either wrong or purely preferential (exchanging one word with a synonym). This resulted in a colossal waste of my time, changing things back to what I had done before that reflected what the client wanted to begin with. I can't tell you what a frothing rage I was in each time it happened because it was a completely unnecessary time-consuming exercise, and it was a habitual occurrence with one particular agency, where I was the go-to translator for a couple of their clients. I finally refused to do any work for them requiring a reviewer unless I could get the one excellent one they had to review all of my work. At some point I just stopped working with them entirely because it was too much of a hassle and bad for my blood pressure. Now I basically only work with a small number of agencies that have in-house proofreaders/reviewers who know how to do their job, and I don't have to go back and correct their "corrections". Mind-numbing. Therefore it is indeed training, or guidelines at the very least, that is necessary in most cases, not ethics agreements.

Edited to correct a typo.

[Edited at 2016-04-28 12:16 GMT]


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Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:01
Member (2008)
English to Italian
no Apr 28, 2016

It would be basically useless.
Ifa reviewer takes the opportunity to destroy a translation just because "he would have written it differently", whatever he/she signs is useless

If a revier makes sure that corrections and suggestions are well exposed, clear and not offensive.. well the professional code of ethics is useless.

AT the end of the day.. it does not depend on what is signed but on how the job is carried out.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:01
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Other Apr 28, 2016

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

So my take is that reviewers, translators, PMs, agencies, end-clients, everybody should HAVE and UPHOLD a strong professional code of ethics. Signing it is a mere formality.


Exactly. As we say: paper is very patient. Just because someone signs something doesn't mean they also practice it. If that was the case, then I'm all for signing such a code of ethics...everybody and in every industry.


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sailingshoes
Local time: 22:01
Spanish to English
Starting point Apr 28, 2016

It seems the discussion is based on the assumption that reviewing is implicit criticism of the translator. It should aim just to produce a good final product.

I don't do a whole lot of reviewing (or rather revision, seeing as that's normally what's requested). But if I make a significant number of changes in a text I consider to be well translated, I always say why and praise the work done.

The level at which quality control should be exercised is the agency level. If agency staff are unable to assess the quality of work in any other way than based on the number of changes tracked, they're incompetent. And this kind of incompetence will not be compensated by ethical codes.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 18:01
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It depends on the approach Apr 28, 2016

sailingshoes wrote:

It seems the discussion is based on the assumption that reviewing is implicit criticism of the translator. It should aim just to produce a good final product.


I get my translations reviewed every time for one specific agency I've been working for almost 10 years now. It's basically a team of three, some occasional guys now and then. Depending on availability, we swap roles, but for some reason my team mates prefer to review, and have me translating.

We are friends, and have extreme respect for each other's professional ability. After all this time, there is nothing left for us to prove to that agency.

Yet I started it years ago, with what I call "paint me red!". I don't refrain from making any changes if I think that WE can make it better. While the reviewer is expected to fix every typo or error, if there is a chance to improve, WE should do it.

The first time the PM saw a "paint me red!" thing, he had cold feet. After a while he saw the point. In no time we can get it as close to perfection as it should be. Now and then a reviewer merely doesn't like the way some phrase or expression came out. Then s/he gives 2-3 suggestions, and throws the ball back to my court. Quite often these suggestions trigger the ideal one, something that both of us are happy with.

We don't make changes to prove that we are better than the other; it's simply a fast track to get the best out of true teamwork.


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Helen Hagon  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:01
Member (2011)
Russian to English
+ ...
No more than any other profession. Apr 28, 2016

But perhaps that's the problem. Reviewing isn't seen as a profession - it's often assumed that anyone can do it as long as they can read.

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R-i-c-h-a-r-d  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 18:01
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
No Apr 28, 2016

I take being offered revision work as a compliment. A compliment of my skills, by the agency, that I'm competent enough to review the work of another professional. Why would I need to sign a 'code of ethics' when the agency has already given me the moral/unspoken thumbs up? Isn't that for the service provider to decide?

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