Proofreading "experts"
Thread poster: nmfurla (X)

nmfurla (X)
Local time: 04:53
Italian to English
Jul 8, 2011

Recently I've disovered that an agency client of mine has been having my translations "proofread" by a non-native speaker with no legal experience whatsoever - just many years' experience in translations. This proofreader has been making "corrections" and pointing out errors in my translations. Since they were so confident that my knowledge was somewhat lacking and that my work was sloppy, they went so far (I suspect as the last straw) to send me the "revised and corrected" text.
Guess what? The majority of the "corrections" were incorrect whilst others were merely a matter of personal style. Evidently this person was unaware that legal English can be highly formal and isn't merely standardised terms. Oihvey!
Needless to say I feeling quite peeved at this whole thing and having a hard time letting go.
Thanks for letting me sound off!

[Edited at 2011-07-08 15:56 GMT]


Alexander Onishko  Identity Verified
Member (2007)
Russian to English
+ ...
* Jul 8, 2011

maybe a couple of examples?


Wojciech Zakrzewski (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:53
Polish to English
+ ...
Scammers Jul 9, 2011

It is a common prictice these days unfortunately because so called proofers just scam translation agencies and us directly (or this is some conspiracy between them) by changing the word order or putting the other ones which is the matter of style rather and has nothing to do with translation accurecy (I call it jokingly journalism). Then the proofer shows it to the project manager saying: look boss how many mistakes I have picked out (he/she doesn't know of course target language anyway). Then you get a message that your translation was poor or a crap and he/she proposes to you genorously a half of your agreed fee and this is how this business going now. Do not get me wrong dear translators, I used to be young myself and it was a beautiful period of my life but recently has grown so many agencies which are the ones by name only, having no experience and means that is the appropriate software and to make things worse requiring from a translator to edit in programmes of which I hear the first time (CAD ones mostly) that are usually not designed for editing the text at all (pasting, converting). I wonder sometims when they will demand from me a jumbo jet driving licence to do my job, I guess it's just a matter of time. Anyway dear translation community, I do not give a damn shit what the so called proofer will do with my text because he/she can make it over countless of times in more official or even humorous way. All I know is that my translation is good bacause I do not take a job of which I have not enough knowledge. In fact dear colleagues in trade what I am concerned most as a translator is the content of the given text, not its form which is the problem for those who call themselves agencies or companies, having enough means (which are very expensive software mostly) and army of people to do it. I am just a single translator, not a programmer having all basic software to do my job as best as I can.

All the best
...and good luck


nmfurla (X)
Local time: 04:53
Italian to English
A good example Jul 9, 2011

Alexander Onishko wrote:

maybe a couple of examples?

One correction, for example, referred to wording of a provision which the translator - not having any legal training - changed into a word-for-word translation that made little sense from a legal point of view and thus making it ambiguous in terms of interpretation. What I had written originally was clear and easy to ready for both a native and non-native speaker. However, as the proofreader had to "show off" his/her abilities, my wording was "revised" to basically mirror the original Italian version.

I could never take it upon myself to revise text on a subject in which I have little or no experience. If I had no choice, at the very least I would seek the assistance of a true expert on the subject before tampering with it!


Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 04:53
German to Serbian
+ ...
Agency standards Jul 9, 2011

Agencies don''t have any valid procedures for selection and testing of their proofreaders. Often times they just pick them through public job boards with only selection criteria being the rate.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:53
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The only thing you can do in a situation like that is keep your own standards up Jul 9, 2011

When you get a 'corrected' or ruined translation like that, you can go thorugh a couple of pages and add notes explaining why your version was correct and the proofreader's wrong. (Cite legislation, grammar rules etc. as necessary.)
Send this to the agency and ask for comments.

Where no-one at the agency can read the language(s), ask them to refer to the end client or someone else who CAN. It takes time, but it may be worth it.

If the agency does not pay well or will not cooperate, then the only thing to do is to drop them.

Luckily there are agencies who cooperate with clients and are concerned with quality. Of course they are trying to make money - they have to live too. But they offer a real service and deliver quality, because then satisfied clients will come back.

It is not worth wasting time on the others. You are only keeping them alive and helping them to press prices and compete unfairly against better agencies.

Alternatively, find direct clients and skip the agencies altogether.
I know this is easier said than done - I work with agencies myself, but if you find a direct client, then you also skip these problems because you are dealing with people who know the terminology and the target group. You can work with them directly to tailor the text to their needs.

Some agencies allow you to do this occasionally, and
@ Lingua 5B - Some agencies do actually make sure their proofreaders are qualified for the job in hand too.

There are thousands of different agencies. Keep looking for the good ones, and make sure your own standards match what the best agencies and clients are looking for.

Best of luck!



Valerie35 (X)
Local time: 04:53
German to English
Frequent Jul 9, 2011

Lots of proofreaders are awful.

Here's an example that happened to me:

Some international treaties are written with validity in two or more languages. If sections are quoted from a treaty, you really have to dig up the corresponding treaty in the target language and take the text from it verbatim.

I've had proofreaders mark up this text with lots of red ink and comments like "awkward, stilted language".

Most proofreaders are not lawyers, but that does not stop them at all from proofreading legal text. They have no idea what they are talking about.

And then there are general screw-ups: A non-native speaker in one department of a company (the final customer) "revised" the translation. The translation was THEN passed along to a proofreader, who said it was awful. The translation came back to me, marked up and with lots of shaming language for me. One department apparently didn't know what the other was doing.

Some of the corrections actually came back to exactly the language I had used in the original translation. Luckily I was able to prove that the translation had been modified.

Some translation agencies don't care about any of this. The proofreader is the authority, and the translator is just the translator.


Mark Hamlen  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:53
French to English
+ ...
I've had this experience Jul 9, 2011

I did a "test" for an agency that was an excerpt from a judgment without any context. I did it, but commented to the agency that they'd chosen a very unfair way to test when I couldn't see what the document was referring to. The result came back that my translation was "very poor." With comments relating to things I couldn't have known about the document and with stylistic differences stated as being "wrong." Needless to say I have not worked for that agency. And I hesitate to take dishonest tests.


Laurie Price  Identity Verified
Spanish to English
+ ...
May I? Jul 9, 2011

I'm sure no one here intends to actually 'bash' proofreaders, but ...

I've worked for many years as an editor/proofreader/copy editor across a broad variety of industries --legal, newspapers, financial, monthly magazines, book ms's, arts texts, etc. -- many more years than as a SP>EN translator, and my general experience has been that I am asked to proof translations that have been made by non-native English speakers. That's been the norm rather than the exception, and a very necessary task.

This is not at all to say that anyone here is wrong or crying "wolf" -- Not at all! In fact, I'm often amazed by the readiness with which some people refer to themselves as proofreaders or editors. From what I can see, in these cases, it's like the old story of anyone with a pen (or once upon a time, with a typewriter) saying that they're a writer. Not so!

My first "real" job as a proofreader was with a large CA (USA) law firm. Previous to that, I'd received the occasional job consisting of informative text that'd been written by someone with an idea or two or three, but not much knowledge of the workings of English. (And yes, I had to take a fairly comprehensive proofreading test before being hired by the law firm.)

In retrospect, those 'occasional' jobs were not proofreading jobs -- they were copy editing jobs. I didn't know the difference until I worked for that law firm, where I learned all about training my eyes to catch errors in numbers (millions vs. billions), spacing, formatting, proper handling of citation formats and the correct way to mark texts using proofreader's symbols, among other skills.

More often than not, when I receive proofreading work, it's a combination of the two (proofreading and copy editing), and sometimes those jobs require substantive line editing as well.
This is the domain of someone whose eyes have been trained to catch everything from an extra space in the text to making the entire text consistent in appearance and someone who knows how to research (for correct terminology, brand name appearance (is it all lowercase or ...?) and who can justify their changes by citing style books, grammar rules and much more.

This is not to say that I haven't made style changes -- I certainly have, and I'd admit that the number of those changes is probably somewhere up in the millions. But I always include a comment to explain why I made that style change or to suggest that they make that change, usually offering several alternatives -- and I add the expression "OK?" -- to indicate that this is my call and not something absolutely necessary.

I just had to add my three cents.


Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:53
English to Arabic
+ ...
Arbitration Jul 9, 2011

I agree with Christine. I've been in similar situations, and I've found the most effective way to deal with them is to prepare a document - a table, consisting of the following columns:
Original text - My translation - Changed by proofreader to - Comment

Then pick some of the most telling examples. The comment field is to explain why the proofreader's "correction" is not acceptable and your version is better.
If the agency is a serious one, they should send your comments to a third, trusted translator/proofreader, along with the source, target and proofread texts. I've also been in that situation where I was approached to solve a dispute, so I know for a fact that it's done.


nmfurla (X)
Local time: 04:53
Italian to English
A matter of professionalism Jul 10, 2011

It is reassuring to know that whilst there may be many professed experts there is an even greater number of true professionals whose actions and conduct have undoubtedly contributed to the establishment of high quality levels within the translation marketplace.

Many thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions.


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