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Help! I'm turning into a nightmare proofreader!
Thread poster: Christine Andersen

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:46
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Jan 25, 2011

I always try to be kind to people whose texts I proofread.

Honestly! I have benefited so much myself from having my own texts patiently reviewed and corrected. I resolved that I would pass on the debt, as I could never repay it, and try to help others the same way.

I have learnt so much from proofreading good texts that I know I can misunderstand the source too, and I try to approach the job with due humility.

* * *
I have checked two small texts this week, and really mangled them, at any rate if you go by the amount of red in the 'track changes'. I ought to apologise deeply to the translators, but can't bring myself to it.

Danish syntax does not always work in English.
There were direct misunderstandings of the source, and the translation did not make sense...
Why don't they flag the sentence and ask someone? Or simply use a dictionary - there are such things as homonyms...

I find myself using dictionaries more and more as I get more experienced, not less and less! When I check someone else's use of a word or expression, Google and the dictionary seem to agree with me these days, not the 'other translator' ...

I must be getting arrogant!

But there are certain things that don't go out of fashion...

Is it just an unlucky week? Or where have all the good translators gone?!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:46
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Bad luck, Christine! Jan 25, 2011

Christine Andersen wrote:
I always try to be kind to people whose texts I proofread.


I know exactly what you mean, but if a text is rubbish then it's your job to make that clear. It may be painful for the translator, especially if you're doing it for an agency or direct client rather than for them personally, but I doubt that it will come as much of a surprise.

If you really are limiting yourself to error correction then the translator must have been in way over his/her head. I imagine it's the type of thing I see so much of: a native speaker of the source language, who may or may not be a professional translator, who has a really high level of spoken English. The type who regularly gets complimented on their standard of English when they're speaking but who writes according to the structures of the source language.

Before everyone starts yelling, I am quite happy with the idea of native-equivalent translators. The impressive writing style of some non-native speakers of English makes me ashamed of my attempts in French. Here on ProZ there are translators who don't even class English as a working language and yet their English forum posts are impeccable.

But should someone who is happy with a profile declaring "I translate in English since 5 years"(hypothetical example) really be translating into English?

Anyway, I hope you get some really good texts to proofread soon. They are out there, believe me!


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:46
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
You are doing these translators a favor... Jan 25, 2011

...by sending them the message that they really ought not to be translating into English.

And if such woeful efforts as you describe are somehow acceptable for the projects in question, then it really doesn't make sense for you or anybody else to proofread them.

Your example points to a more general problem: that of unqualified non-native translators (and there are many of these who work into English specifically) compromising the value of translation services and translation as a profession.

[Edited at 2011-01-25 15:55 GMT]


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Alexander Onishko  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:46
Member (2007)
Russian to English
+ ...
maybe... Jan 25, 2011

Christine Andersen wrote:

I always try to be kind to people whose texts I proofread.

Honestly! I have benefited so much myself from having my own texts patiently reviewed and corrected. I resolved that I would pass on the debt, as I could never repay it, and try to help others the same way.

I have learnt so much from proofreading good texts that I know I can misunderstand the source too, and I try to approach the job with due humility.

* * *
I have checked two small texts this week, and really mangled them, at any rate if you go by the amount of red in the 'track changes'. I ought to apologise deeply to the translators, but can't bring myself to it.

Danish syntax does not always work in English.
There were direct misunderstandings of the source, and the translation did not make sense...
Why don't they flag the sentence and ask someone? Or simply use a dictionary - there are such things as homonyms...

I find myself using dictionaries more and more as I get more experienced, not less and less! When I check someone else's use of a word or expression, Google and the dictionary seem to agree with me these days, not the 'other translator' ...

I must be getting arrogant!

But there are certain things that don't go out of fashion...

Is it just an unlucky week? Or where have all the good translators gone?!



Maybe it was a translation by Google translate? Try to copy the original text there and compare the result with those texts


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Rodion Shein  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 16:46
Member
English to Russian
+ ...
Same story Jan 25, 2011

Christine, you've just told my story

It seems to me, translation quality degraded after the recent crisis (though, I believe that the crisis is just a pretext).

I can see two main reasons:
— Large LSPs prefer low rates to high quality. They try to "optimize" their costs by using "clouds", SaaS, and other tricks;
— On the other hand, people who have at least slightest knowledge of a foreign language try to get some extra money by doing translations: "It's sooo easy: just open Word and type".

As a result, they meet each other. The outcome of such cooperation is described in your post.

As for your other question: "all the good translators" manage to find other clients who prefer high quality to low rates.


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Daniel Pestana  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:46
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Tell me about it Jan 25, 2011

I had the same problem this weekend with one legal document. When I finished proofreading it, everything was red from the "track changes" feature. I had to translate everything from scratch. Thank god for translation memories. With a tight deadline to proofread, I found myself translating everything. There were several orthographic errors like:

Supplemental agreement = acordo suplementá ?????!!!??????

And an huge amount of misunderstood segments, not to mention syntax and style errors. What the hell was this translator thinking? Even the Google Translator does a better job.

I never talked about other colleagues' translations (I never had to), but, I saw myself forced to report it. Why? Well, for the stress of translating 1500 words in two hours, when he/she had the whole weekend to do it (and couldn't meet the deadline). We all do our best, and we all make mistakes, but this one was way out of all known quality standards.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:46
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone! Jan 25, 2011

Parts of the second text were actually good, but there were some tough sentences, where the person seemed to have given up. (It was for an agency who is sending it as a first job to a new client... so they wanted it to make a good impression!)

It was just patchy, but surely it is obvious that in a marketing text you need not keep slavishly to every word of the source?

I'm sure there are, mercifully, lots of good translators out there too. And you're right, Sheila, some of the well-trained non-natives have learnt about a lot of the pitfalls and how to avoid them. I have no problem with them.

Luckily I have translation jobs of my own the rest of the week - and no time to proofread

So - rant over, now to make sure no proofreader kan find more than the proverbial one typo per thousand words in what I deliver!


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Patricia Posadas  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:46
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
translation quality and time spent on it Jan 25, 2011

Hi,

Proofreading is in general an enriching experience, I have learned a lot form that activity, it has allowed me to see how others solved problems I had also run into, for instance. However sometimes you do come across unacceptable quality texts... if they need retranslation I say so to my customer...

What I can't explain to myself is how some 'professional' translators with linguistic degrees and at least 3 years experience, or else with over 7 years full-time experience as a translator send "translation tests" with over 5 mistakes in a passage that is under 300 words. In general only 2 out of 5 tests I proofread for some customers and for my own needs are free from objective mistakes...

What are they delivering to their customers when doing their regular job?

Apart from those who are not qualified or talented enough I think the key difference lies in the time you take to proofread your work... some seem to save the file after translating the last word in the document and just send it as is... and we all know that even the simplest passage can be improved after a second reading, ideally after you took some distance from it...

It is true that translators often work under time pressure either because rates are so low that we need to translate a lot of words a day to make our living or because customers are always in such a hurry, etc. and I think this makes some translators become translating machines, just doing a bit better than Google... despite their qualifications and skills.


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Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:46
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
Hi Christine Jan 25, 2011

Same here.

I have spent a few last days in "proofreading" a 120-page "translation" of a complicated medical text from English into Russian. The proofreading resulted in replacing about 70% of the text which turned out to be a complete garbage %-(

Natalia


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:46
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Beware of "proofreading" jobs Jan 25, 2011

The posts by Christine and others in this thread should serve as a warning to all that "proofreading" jobs are often disguised "rewriting/retranslation/disaster relief" jobs, and should be assessed and charged as such....

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Mette Melchior  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 15:46
English to Danish
+ ...
Same picture in translations which are done into the first language Jan 25, 2011

Christine Andersen wrote:

Danish syntax does not always work in English.


Sjeila Wilson wrote:

I imagine it's the type of thing I see so much of: a native speaker of the source language, who may or may not be a professional translator, who has a really high level of spoken English. The type who regularly gets complimented on their standard of English when they're speaking but who writes according to the structures of the source language.


I often come across similar problems when proofreading translations done by native speakers of the target language so it is not only a matter of direction.

I believe it is a general problem for most translators that you sometimes translate the source text too closely, which might result in awkward sounding wordings, strange syntax, inappropriate terminology, etc.

But of course, some translators are better at dealing with this challenge than others...

[Edited at 2011-01-25 20:20 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:46
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Guilty! Jan 25, 2011

Mette Melchior wrote:
I believe it is a general problem for most translators that you sometimes translate the source text too closely, which might result in awkward sounding wordings, strange syntax, inappropriate terminology, etc.


I've been there, too! Some things I've translated when tired, under the weather or stressed have turned out to read like translations from French. But they've only been "awkward" and that's a way from downright wrong.

But of course, some translators are better at dealing with this challenge than others...


I daresay there are some lucky and/or clever translators who never produce this type of poorly translated text in the first place.

For the rest of us, it means always re-reading our work with a critical eye and making sure it isn't delivered until it reads naturally. That's part of the job, isn't it? It's what the customer is paying for: a polished result.


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:46
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Comma usage Jan 26, 2011

Christine Andersen wrote:

Danish syntax does not always work in English.



Ditto for Danish comma usage. 'All patients, who are terminal, are to have their plugs pulled' does not mean the same as 'All patients who are terminal are to have their plugs pulled'.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:46
English to German
+ ...
An observation that I have made during the years Jan 26, 2011

Unfortunately proofreaders often are considered second-rate translators who are too inept to ever receive any "real" jobs. Usually by the "real" translators who won't even bother to read their stuff over before delivery, and who consider the proofreader some kind of cleaning woman whose job it is to pick up after them. Also I once had a PM on the phone who said - I am not kidding - "Oh, don't worry, he is only a proofreader!". Needless to say that I stopped working with this agency.

It should be the other way around. The proofreader should be the link in the chain that turns your text fom good to perfect. I have no idea why in the book industry the editor is some kind of a godfather, whereas the editor in the translation industry is supposed to be some human spell check application.


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Werner Maurer  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
proofreaders Jan 26, 2011

I wish some other synonym would come into widespread use for what is commonly known in translation as proofreading. In the single-language world, proofreading means galley proofing and nothing else: checking for errors in spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation and what have you. In our profession, it should mean the same thing: looking over the target text with no access whatsoever to the source text - everything BUT verifying the actual translation, except when a syntactical correction would change the meaning, which would then need to be ascertained by seeing the source text. In Canada, the terms revision/revisers are used - a borrowing from the French reviser/reviseurs - but these terms appear to be less well known in the translation world at large for some reason.

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