Professional proof-reading
Thread poster: YBI

May 12, 2010

I am currently looking into proof-reading practices. Having worked for a number of translation agencies/departments, what occurred to me is that sometimes as opposed to hiring a professional proof-reader, that role is given to translators who haven't quite "made the grade", i.e. a translator who has received a client complaint and is "demoted". The translators themselves seem to perceive this in the same way, and not just because they might earn less. I was wondering if others also find that this practice is common, not just in the UK, but world wide, or does anyone know agencies that hire proof-reading professionals for their translations?

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Teresa Borges
Local time: 22:16
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I do know a few... May 12, 2010

... Belgian and Japanese agencies that hire professional proofreaders for their translations!

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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:16
Swedish to English
+ ...
Why would somebody be that stupid? May 12, 2010

cscott wrote:

what occurred to me is that sometimes as opposed to hiring a professional proof-reader, that role is given to translators who haven't quite "made the grade", i.e. a translator who has received a client complaint and is "demoted".

"Hey, we don't think you're able to translate this doc, but why don't you just proof it instead?"

Proofreading is the QA process. Would you have someone unable to install your gas boiler do the security check? Would you have a dental nurse give the final say-so on the quality of the orthodontic treatment your dentist has performed?

However, if we're taking about real/actual proofreading, i.e. proofing the end results without recourse to the original, I see no problem with using a competent monolingual target language copywriter. If by "proofreading" you actually mean revision, most agencies appear to do, nothing but the best translator will do.

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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
In my experience May 12, 2010

the agency does the proofreading/revision. They give it a once over, some more thoroughly than others. Otherwise they would have to pay a reviser too which would eat into their profit margin. So the people who revise my translations for instance, don't usually translate as well. They are project managers.

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GerSi  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:16
Member (2010)
German to Slovenian
+ ...
It happens everywhere May 12, 2010

In my experience it is all about the agency's policy and money.

Some agencies I am working with require a better translator to do the proofreading and some do as some of you already mentioned - they use the less competent translators, so they can pay them less but still keep them ready for "just in case more work comes up".

Therefore yes, I believe this happens no matter which language we are talking about.

I haven't heard of an agency which would hire someone just for proofreading. Usually translators do translations and proofread the work of their colleagues.

But in Slovenian agencies it is quite usual that translations are proofread by another translator as well as revised by a professional with a degree in Slovenian language. Therefore anything stupid a proofreader might do, a reviser can still correct "the damage".

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David Eunice  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:16
Japanese to English
What do you mean by proofreading? May 13, 2010

cscott wrote:
I am currently looking into proof-reading practices.

If you want to consider "proofreading" practices
it is best to think about what kind of tasks are involved
and what kind of outcomes are intended.

At school, a classmate's father was a professional
proofreader for Penguin books. He would start at the end of the
book and read backwards. He was not interested in the content.
His job was to check for problems in the coding of the
words and sentences.

For translation there are two basic categories of copy checking.

A monolingual copyeditor, however professional, is not capable
of comparison reading against the source text. All he/she can do
is flag suspected translation errors.

If the agency or buyer is confident that they have a fair translation,
then they may engage the services of a copyeditor or copywriter
to substantively improve the text.

But if the source/target correspondence has to be assured,
then you need people who can at least read and understand
the source. Such people may not make the grade as a translator
because they lack active writing skills in the target language.
The decision-making process is different in copyediting.
I would have thought that such persons can be trained to
become reasonable copyeditors.

I have known professional monolingual copyeditors who worked
at translation agencies in Japan. They all did it only for
the experience and have moved on to higher paying jobs in
publishing and corporate communications.

In the agencies I deal with, the checking mostly seems to be
done by non-native-speaking coordinators or by the native-speaking
agency owner (project manager?). They check for typos and rarely
closely check for source/target correspondence. As one owner put it,
"From the way the English is written, I have an intuition when the
translation is not right."

I would love to be working in a team that properly supported my
translation work. For any type of writing, four or more eyes is better
than two. So, I would say that your company is enlightened to allow
for proper checking. Its enlightened self-interest also benefits
employees who lacked competence in their previous duties.
Demotion is better than dole queue.

There are two great little books on copyediting, collections of short
articles, called Stet! and Stet! Again. You can find them used for about
a dollar each on Abebooks or new, and at higher cost, direct from
the publisher. In particular, you can see how professional copyeditors
use a time budget (basically related to how much they are getting
paid per page) to grade how much work they will do on any job.
One article mentioned five levels of copyediting.
Writing is seldom finished, a professional copyeditor's job is
to improve the finish.

[Scope for improvement during translation is a controversial subject... ]

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:16
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I think I have been at both ends of the scale! May 13, 2010

When I started working in house, still very new to translating, I was sometimes asked to cast a pair of native English eyes over the work of Danish translators working into English. One in particular became a real mentor and friend, but I have learnt a lot from all of them.

The texts were often legal, and my job was to read the target first, to find sections that sounded odd. That is the one thing the translator cannot do. Then I went through the text again to check for meaning and omissions. (Before the days of Trados, it was a risk for the very best!)

There was little to alter or correct, sometimes only a comma or typo or two in twenty pages, but the agency's policy was that a target native speaker checked everything. I was then asked to call the translator and tell him/her where I thought changes were necessary. This was the translator's safeguard, and a very instructive part for me.

Now some of my translations for that agency are still checked, but not all. (I only translate into English, so I am the native speaker!) Medical texts are proofread against the source, and others are spot checked. I still do a certain amount of proofreading of other people´s work, especially when they take on new translators.

What proofing involves depends on the type of text. Medical and legal work call primarily for accurate rendering of the source. If the sentences are not particularly elegant, both translator and proofreader may still have spent a lot of time turning them around and back to reach the least clumsy version that is not ambiguous.

Marketing, at the other end of the scale, has to sell a product and therefore sound good! It must not be misleading, but a tone that often works fine in Danish does not necessarily go down well in English, and that applies to any language pair.

Here that particular agency leaves it largely to the end client... (Everybody can English, no? ) But the situation may be different with other languages.

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Thanks very much to all of you for your replies. May 13, 2010

This has been very useful .

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