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Proofreader reworded my translation
Thread poster: Ryan Green

Ryan Green  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:58
Member (2012)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Feb 27, 2010

This post is more of a vent. I want to see if anyone else ever had this issue. I just finished a translation which I felt I did very well. The company who hired me sent me an email the next day with my document after the proofreader had finished with it. This person basically reworded a lot of my translations, and not for the better, even adding the word "the" in strange places where it didn't belong. The problem is, they think that I gave them a bad translation. Is this a common thing? I quite new to translation so maybe I should just come to expect it.....

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Samuel Hunt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:58
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
Yes, it happens to everyone Feb 27, 2010

Every translator I know has vented about this at one point or another. It seems as though many proofreaders do not apply the "only change things if there is a demonstrable need to do so" principle when going about their work. But whether the proofreader in question simply wants to change things to make it look like he/she did some actual work or really is just out to trash your work is a matter of speculation. It might even be the case that the proofreader thought every change was totally justified.


Whatever the case, it often ends up with a sticky situation - either unpaid editing work on your part for undoing unnecessary changes or the burden of trying to convince the client that the proofreader's changes were unjustified.

But on the positive side of things, I've found that my regular clients usually know what the deal is, as they are able to assess the translation and proofread version objectively.


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dkalinic
Local time: 07:58
Croatian to German
+ ...
Happens to me every once in a while Feb 27, 2010

rgreen wrote:

This post is more of a vent. I want to see if anyone else ever had this issue. I just finished a translation which I felt I did very well. The company who hired me sent me an email the next day with my document after the proofreader had finished with it. This person basically reworded a lot of my translations, and not for the better, even adding the word "the" in strange places where it didn't belong. The problem is, they think that I gave them a bad translation. Is this a common thing? I quite new to translation so maybe I should just come to expect it.....


It happens to me every once in a while because some of my clients employ proofreaders who aren't native speakers of Croatian. After the proofreader finishes his/her job, the result is a melee of Bosnian and Serbian.

Regards,
Davor


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:58
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
It happens Feb 27, 2010

rgreen wrote:
This person basically reworded a lot of my translations, and not for the better, even adding the word "the" in strange places where it didn't belong. The problem is, they think that I gave them a bad translation.


As a translator, I've never had the problem so can't comment on how common it might be.

As a proofreader, I can sympathise to an extent with the proofreader as well as with you - it is actually quite difficult to know where to draw the line between correcting errors and imposing your own style on translations that you believe could be a bit better.

On the other hand, as a language trainer in France I can say that the use (or, more precisely, the non-use) of the definite article can be a dead giveaway of a non-native speaker of English. So it looks as though your translation might have been proofread by a non-native - that wouldn't make any native speaker happy, would it?

I imagine you'll have no problem proving to the client that English doesn't use the definite article when talking of generalities (eg: cats eat fish, we all know that; the cat next door is eating the fish I bought for supper). My advice would be to acknowledge any real mistakes (you're only human, after all), highlight some examples of proofreader errors and others that are mere stylistic changes, then forget it and concentrate on not making the real mistakes again.


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:58
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Infuriating Feb 27, 2010

Yes, I've had this happen, usually when the proofreader is not a native English speaker/writer. And the worst of it is that you end up wasting your time having to explain why you're right and they're wrong. I actually stopped working for a company who did this to me more than once.

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Mohamed Mehenoun  Identity Verified
Algeria
Local time: 07:58
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
It happens all the time Feb 27, 2010

Just send an excel table giving all the bad changes he/she did...

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Trinh Do  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2007)
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
Proofreading issue Feb 28, 2010

Most of the time, the proofreader wants to prove his/her smartness and may even want to take over the translation job. As a proofreader myself, I normally check for grammatical errors (like subject-verb agreement), sentence structure to make sure it sounds flowing and change it slightly without changing the meaning, spelling. But I never change the wording the translator as this is rather subjective and it varies from client to client.

Of course, some people can have a mean bone!


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Sumit1970  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 12:28
English to Bengali
+ ...
There is an another part of the story Feb 28, 2010

On the other side, once I had to proof read a translated text. Where the translator did it so casually that in so many places he ignored main contents of the source text. I seemed as if he/she only stared at a glance at the source text and went on to translate the same on his/her own. I even found that a para of the translation was left alone without. In a place client wished the translation of a particular sentence to be within a certain limit of words but the 'translation' of the sentence was no less than three times longer than that number! Actually it is my worst of experience.

Rgreen, pls don't misunderstand me but this also is a true story of mine. You may not be a bad translator though a new person in this field. Only thing is that one need to be serious about his/her responsibility. Mistakes do happen and that's the reason why proofreaders also exists in this planet. Of course, there are bad proofreaders, bad translators and bad composers as well. One have to bear with them if your client is an novice it the subject matter, let thy 'God' mercy him. One can't help it.


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Kantian
Local time: 04:58
Portuguese to English
Ingles pra Brasilerio ler Feb 28, 2010

Hi rgreen,

I just logged in (to search for a term or ask a question) when I bumped into this thread. I could not help make but some comments. I am not a translator, though I find it fascinating. I like English but more importantly I think I managed to understand the language rationale, how its structure works (even though there is a long way before I can call myself a translator.I'll get there!). I also have a good basis on Portuguese grammar, which I am legally entitled to teach. These points facilitate my understanding of both languages and how I should reason when speaking both of them. But I have been frustrated recently. As much as I have tried to help others with my English, they still prefer what we call here Ingles pra Brasileiro ler ( e entender) [English for Brazilians read and understand] I am no professional, but love to help others by doing a good translation, but it is quite frustrating to see my efforts being dismissed for a more Brazilian-styled English. Maybe this is a reason why... It is accepted only what can be understood according to the rationale of a people, the way the mind structure is prepared to perceive foreign structures such as of a language. For the sake of an example: In Portuguese, you can start sentences without a clearly identified subject. It might be even non-existent, or not defined. Then, I receive abstracts that with sentences starting this way: "Were used 20 animals" (we can start sentences just like that but only in Portuguese)...or what I am just reading and what brought me here: "in at most xxx seconds, such and such thing can occur..." Note that I already received the work in English (probably was already paid for) and I am at pains trying to fix some things that seem to be screaming at me... I made already quite a number of changes... While I understand your venting, I might be suddenly in the same position of those proofreaders.It is a delicate situation for very different reasons.

[Editada em 2010-02-28 22:46 GMT]


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David Eunice  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 15:58
Japanese to English
Unprofessional copyediting Feb 28, 2010

Sumit1970 wrote:

On the other side, once I had to proof read a translated text. Where the translator did it so casually that in so many places he ignored main contents of the source text.


This may be a problem, if it is, the problem
is with the agency that hired the translator.

An agency brings together buyers and vendors of
translation services and it is up to the agency to
find an appropriate translator (for the rate being paid)
and to assure the quality of the work.

The negative auction bidding system works against
getting good quality.

Very few people who check translation are properly
trained in copyediting. What you often get are well-meaning
amateurs who engage the text with their modicum of
ESL competence and try to improve it.

In Japan they call it kaizen.

Here, there are plenty of ignorant, untrusting,
and even contemptuous buyers who use the occasional
bad experience of translation as an excuse to fuel
their fantasy that they are more than merely adequate
communicators in spoken English.

In my translation process, I translate both for readability
and for the checking process. We have to always bear
the competence of the checker in mind.

IOW, we translate for the QA process. The buyer is going
to check the quality of the translation and they are not
likely to have anyone who understands translation or
who even gives a thought to whether or not the text
in the translated document fulfill the purpose of the document.

To answer rgreen: I've been translating for 19 years
and sometimes I get annoyed at the idiotic things that
are done to my highly finished and eminently readable
translations. More fool me for not translating to minimal
expectations and the skill of the checker!

The ideal is to get direct clients who trust you and what you are doing.


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:58
Dutch to English
+ ...
Same here Feb 28, 2010

Amy Duncan wrote:

Yes, I've had this happen, usually when the proofreader is not a native English speaker/writer. And the worst of it is that you end up wasting your time having to explain why you're right and they're wrong. I actually stopped working for a company who did this to me more than once.


I have done this too. It just took too long to explain why the corrections were wrong or a stylistic issue.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:58
French to German
+ ...
My point of view Feb 28, 2010

rgreen wrote: Is this a common thing? I quite new to translation so maybe I should just come to expect it.....

I have done some proofreading since I started out as a translator and also had my translations proofread by others. From my point of view, rewordings are a part of it as long as the proofreader is able to document and/or to explain their changes within the context of the translation job. Period.
All the rest is self-profiling directed at the agency or PM. And I'd rather decline a PR assignment than doing a full retranslation of an MT-like "translation output" - it simply is not worth the time spent on it.

[Edited at 2010-02-28 10:10 GMT]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:58
Flemish to English
+ ...
Overzealous Feb 28, 2010

Amy Duncan wrote:

Yes, I've had this happen, usually when the proofreader is not a native English speaker/writer. And the worst of it is that you end up wasting your time having to explain why you're right and they're wrong. I actually stopped working for a company who did this to me more than once.


Yes, I've had this happen, usually when the proofreader is not a native English speaker/writer, who has not studied his or her English grammar and is unaware of the general rules of hyphenation, commas/semicolons, captial letter and others.
If you are aware of grammar, syntax and style and used the proper sources, you can defend yourself easily against the overzealous proofreader, native or not.
A proofreader must be able to motivate her changes and explain what is wrong and why, or I don't accept them. In my case, an overzealous proofreader changed the translation of "Forestois" (inhabitant of the Brussels commune of Forest) into "inhabitant of the wood". I got blamed for this by the pm.
Another example: Member-States is/was translated in official E.U.-publications into "Lid-Staten", but the proofreader changed it into "Lidstaten"(which is grammatically correct, but not used in official publications).



[Edited at 2010-02-28 11:42 GMT]


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Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:58
Finnish to English
Agree with almost all these comments Feb 28, 2010

I have written and talked fairly extensively on this topic, and this kind of thing happens to nearly all of us from time to time.

There is no way you should accept a pay cut unless the reviser can show evidence of the grounds for the changes, as follows:

grammatical
lexical
stylistic
domain-related
layout
typos
and, most importantly, relating to accuracy

Fight back

spencer


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:58
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Three sides of a dispute Feb 28, 2010

Every dispute has three sides: one from each side, and the truth.

I'm not in a position to challenge - nor to vouch for - your translation skills, rgreen. So chances for you or the reviewer being right are split 50/50.

One of my regular clients is an agency that does every job with two translators in relay, 1-2-1-2. Once they paired me up with a new translator, who would do role 1. I got the translation for the first review (step 2), and IMO it was a complete disaster. I changed maybe 80% or more of the text. On the third step, that translator didn't question/challenge one single iota there, just said it was OK. The PM got really angry. How can one's work be changed almost completely, and the "perp" think it's OK?

I don't translate medical texts. Though I can tell heads from toes, I can't clearly describe (nor understand) what's in-between using proper words. Last time a client lured me into translating medicine (it was a very technical video - for dubbing - on some gruesome and complex surgical procedure), I knew I had it coming. In the process, after I had painstakingly "done" 20% of it, I found a suitable medical video translator, and handed over the job. The doc confirmed my suspicions: I had got it ALL wrong! (I never accepted translating medical stuff ever since, in spite of this same client's insistence, saying that s

So, does such pervasive changes to a translator mean a "bad" translator did it? Not necessarily, a good translator too far away from their comfort zone may do it. A really bad translator doesn't have a comfort zone: just plain chutzpah or ignorance on their actual competence.

Therefore, your case lacks information for judgment. It would be advisable that your client secured a third - unbiased - opinion. If they are translating into a language they don't know, quite likely they are exporting to/importing from a country where that language is spoken, and may have some people there. Perhaps it's not a matter of asking a third translator (potentially interested in landing their next translation gig), but someone there with provenly good writing skills (an executive secretary?) to say which text reads better.


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