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How to avoid careless mistakes?
Thread poster: swaninga
May 28, 2013

Dear members,

Maybe you can help me/give me some advice...

I have just started out as a translator and I usually get good feedback from my colleagues, but for one point:

-concordance errors/careless errors, e.g. mixed endings (sg./pl., German dative/genitive)

Of course, I do already use the Microsoft spell checker, but I am talking about the mistakes which Microsoft doesn't find.
I would really like to "crack down" on these errors, (if possible without slowing me down). Is there anything I can do? Have you ever had this problem and what was your solution?

Thank you very much in advance,

Carmen


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Charlotte Farrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:37
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
A couple of ideas May 28, 2013

This is something that we all do sometimes but there are a couple of things you can do.

If possible, wait a few hours between doing a translation and reading it over - you'll be more likely to catch mistakes like that as opposed to your brain telling you that mistakes aren't there as it knows what you meant to say. If that's not possible and you're not working with confidentiality agreements, you could ask someone to quickly look over your target text and they should pick up the majority of such mistakes. You could make an agreement with another translator whereby you quickly check each other's work before it's sent to the client.


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
One more tip May 28, 2013

One thing that I like to do (if the translation is short enough) is print the translation out and do my final proofing with the ol' pen and paper.

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Charlotte Farrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:37
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
I agree May 28, 2013

Triston Goodwin wrote:

One thing that I like to do (if the translation is short enough) is print the translation out and do my final proofing with the ol' pen and paper.


Another good idea. Generally looking at the text in a different form helps - printing is a good example. If you do a translation using a CAT tool, maybe try checking it in Word or something else like that as you're more likely to spot mistakes.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 02:07
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Listening often helps May 29, 2013

Listening to what you have translated often helps in catching unnatural turns of phrase and out right grammar errors.

You could read aloud (or mentally listen to) what you have translated and if it doesn't "sound" correct, look at it again more carefully, there is something wrong there.

And getting the correct feel of the language is a lifelong adventure. Never stop reading the best literature in your target language and often read aloud. Listen to educated speech in the target langauge (films, tv programmes, plays, radio) for the same purpose. You should devote at least two hours every day to these two activities.

Language competency is like wine, it matures with age.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:37
English to German
+ ...
Skip that Microsoft spell checker May 29, 2013

The colleagues already have provided excellent advice in their previous posts.

Here is my advice:

Forget about that spell checker. I don't even HAVE such a thing, yet my editors and proofreaders routinely have a very, very hard time finding anything.

Here is why I don't use this kind of crutch:
A spell checker makes your brains lazy and tricks you into a false sense of security in terms of translation quality and the process of quality assurance. Spell checkers are dumb.

Based on your original post, I presume that you are translating into German - the language where upper or lower case or a single comma can change the entire grammar and meaning, among many other issues. Omit this silly thingy and teach yourself the discipline to read your texts over like they were written by a different person. You will see, your grammar and your feel for correct language will improve as well. Translation is pure brainwork, i.e. intellectual activity, it is not based on some software.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
In an ideal world May 29, 2013

If you are translating into your native language, there shouldn't be any problem if you actually master the blesssed thing.
Otherwise... as my granny used to say, "Hell mend ye".


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:37
French to English
I have several strategies May 29, 2013

The main one is to allow enough time for a final read AFTER a break, ideally the next day. Sometimes I read it out loud to myself.

I usually do my final check on printed paper, it's amazing how many things I can catch this way, something about looking at the text from a different perspective really helps.

A friend of mine also uses text to speech software, hearing it out loud helps her to catch those silly mistakes.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:37
German to English
separate processes of editing and proofing May 29, 2013

For me, correcting on the computer with the text enlarged to 150-200% seems to work as well as correcting on paper (I almost never have problems with careless errors), but that may be a personal thing.

The main thing that I would suggest is separating the processes of editing (content and style) from that of proofreading (mechanics). Get everything absolutely finished and then go through it again, paying attention only to capitalization, punctuation, spelling, subject-verb agreement, spelling of proper nouns, etc.


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Neptunia
Local time: 22:37
Italian to English
here are my strategies May 29, 2013

I've always been a bit of a careless-mistake maker and yes, the best strategy is just to be more careful the first time around. Until then, though, when necessary these are things I do:
1. sleep on it and re-read first thing in the morning
2. print out text on paper
3. read aloud including saying punctuation marks
4. read with your finger moving from word to word (helps me in case of very boring material where I can't force myself to pay attention.) Also, to increase my mental focus I sometimes move to away from my desk (or couch) and sit at a cleared table on a hard chair with a bright light.
5. know where errors hide: I double and triple check foreign names especially if they are "foreign" to the source author. Numbers and dates also are worth double checking. Bibliographies always hide inconsistencies and errors like a city name translated in some cases and not others or really subtle things like a comma that is italicized when it shouldn't be.
6. use spellcheck with no shame. It helps catch things like typos and double words that I might look at over and over without seeing.
7. take comfort in the fact that you've probably gained a net reduction in errors even if you have introduced a new one or two.


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Texte Style
Local time: 22:37
French to English
time May 29, 2013

I agree with all of the above and would just like to point out that it is not reasonable to want to turn in a polished text without taking time over it.

You say "if possible without slowing me down", I'm afraid you're being blissfully optimistic.

You are only just starting out, you need more time than us oldies. We can crack off gems in no time because we have oodles of experience. We've already been there and done that, we know our faults and how to avoid them, we've already narrowed our choices down.

Of course you'll tell me that you simply don't have the time to implement all the suggestions: the client is in a hurry.

It's up to you to educate your clients. Tell them that translation is like bread: it needs time for the yeast to rise, preferably overnight in the fridge. Tell them that their bad time management does not justify you having to cut corners (more diplomatically than that of course). Tell them that out of cheap, quick and good they can only pick two. Tell them they might live to regret making you rush - it's amazing how they forget the pressure they put on you when their boss points out a stupid mistake that really puts egg on their face. Explain that if they have spent three weeks writing their copy, having it proofread twice by the lawyer for legal aspects, the techies for tech issues, the secretary for spelling, the boss to sign off, they can't expect you to produce a polished translation in three hours. Three days would be better.

Ideally, I do my draft on day one, then proof the text, checking for termino and polishing the style the next day, then on the third I do a final check where I hone every last detail, double-checking just to make sure.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:37
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Great advice May 29, 2013

to adapt where applicable.

Neptunia wrote:

I've always been a bit of a careless-mistake maker and yes, the best strategy is just to be more careful the first time around. Until then, though, when necessary these are things I do:
1. sleep on it and re-read first thing in the morning
2. print out text on paper
3. read aloud including saying punctuation marks
4. read with your finger moving from word to word (helps me in case of very boring material where I can't force myself to pay attention.) Also, to increase my mental focus I sometimes move to away from my desk (or couch) and sit at a cleared table on a hard chair with a bright light.
5. know where errors hide: I double and triple check foreign names especially if they are "foreign" to the source author. Numbers and dates also are worth double checking. Bibliographies always hide inconsistencies and errors like a city name translated in some cases and not others or really subtle things like a comma that is italicized when it shouldn't be.
6. use spellcheck with no shame. It helps catch things like typos and double words that I might look at over and over without seeing.
7. take comfort in the fact that you've probably gained a net reduction in errors even if you have introduced a new one or two.


On point 5: foreign names may sometimes be transcribed from another language and suffer the corresponding changes, while the name itself may have an equivalent in the target. Bibliographies may also present inconsistencies in language variant, some of which are reconcilable.


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IrimiConsulting  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 22:37
Member (2006)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Use whatever means available, but be aware of the limitations May 29, 2013

Always check the text manually, either directly after the translation or later on whichever suits your way of working and the type of text.

Spell checkers, numerical checkers and other aids have their limitations. Use whatever tool you have available, just be aware of the limitations and remember that they can never replace manual checking. I use a spell checker in pretty much every job I do. They are great for catching hard-to-spot mistakes such as double spaces and common misspellings. If the tool has a numeric checker I use it as well. Some tools have a consistency checker and that gets used as well, especially when a job involves several translators.

Nicole Schnell wrote:
Forget about that spell checker. I don't even HAVE such a thing, yet my editors and proofreaders routinely have a very, very hard time finding anything.

Here is why I don't use this kind of crutch:
A spell checker makes your brains lazy and tricks you into a false sense of security in terms of translation quality and the process of quality assurance. Spell checkers are dumb.

Nicole, you are often bashing all kinds of software tools here on ProZ, not only spell checkers but anything CAT as well. That may be valid for marketing, advertising and retail texts, which are your expert fields, but technical documentation is a completely different beast.

I -- and perhaps other translators too -- use software tools because they increase our capacity and/or the quality of our work. Spell checkers makes your brain lazy only if you let them; as long as they don't replace manual checking there are few reasons against using them or at least trying them out.

[Edited at 2013-05-29 10:00 GMT]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:37
English to German
+ ...
@IrimiConsulting May 29, 2013

IrimiConsulting wrote:
Nicole, you are often ranting on ProZ about how software tools are dumb and useless, not only spell checkers but anything CAT as well. It's getting tiresome.



Please refrain from such personal attacks.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:37
Member
English to French
Ah! May 29, 2013

Texte Style wrote:
...You say "if possible without slowing me down", I'm afraid you're being blissfully optimistic...

If polished translations are more expensive than just-about translations, it's because time is money.
Tell your customers that flawless translations cost much more, because you spend much more time on them.

Philippe


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