At what point does translating stop and proofreading begin?
Thread poster: Helena Chavarria

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:59
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 18, 2012

I don't know if this post is really appropriate, but I don't know who to ask.

A month ago an acquaintance of mine asked me if I would translate an 89,000-word novel for a friend of his/hers. The acquaintance told me that the writer had initially wanted him/her to do the translation but this would be impossible due to lack of time, although at the request of the writer, he/she would check/proofread my translation. Anyway, I took a look at the book, we agreed on a price and I began to translate. The writer is over 70 years old and prefers to pay me/us per 600-word chapter, which suits me fine. Unfortunately, I have now discovered that the writer is unaware that my acquaintance is also getting paid. Admittedly this doesn't worry me too much, though I feel rather sad that the writer thinks I am recieving more money than is true.

Up until now, everything has gone very well. I translated chapters 1, 2 and 3 and both the writer/acqaintance(amateur proofreader) told me they were pleased with how the translation was going.

My acquaintance will be out of the country until May, so yesterday I was presented to the writer of the book because for the next few months I will be responsible for delivering each chapter to the writer.

Anyway, I met my acquaintance at the appointed time and place and I was greeted with "I don't like chapter 4. It doesn't flow. I want you to rewrite it". When I mentioned the original version doesn't flow either, I was told to ignore that fact and change the style into normal English.

Ok, that's fine. I can take criticism but I'm not 100% sure if I agree with what I have to do, or if indeed, I can do it. I have a degree in English Philology (2008) and my acquaintance has a degree in Modern History from Oxford University (round about 1975). I'm not implying I know more about writing English than my acquaintance does, but surely I know at least as much.

My husband was with me at yesterday's meeting and although he doesn't speak English, he's quite good at reading body language - as anyone who has learnt a foreign language will understand! He told me that he feels it was my acquaintance trying to assert his/her superiority before catching his/her plane tomorrow.

Should I try and rewrite something I consider meets the required standards, or is it up to the proofreader to try and make it flow?

I apologise to anyone who considers this post unnecessary - I just need a professional opinion.


 

Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 09:59
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
Hi Helena Feb 18, 2012

Sorry, I must be missing something, but anyway: who on earth is your acquaintance that s/he finds it possible to say: "I don't like chapter 4. It doesn't flow. I want you to rewrite it". And what does the author say? Does the author like your translation? Does he know English well enough? The author's opinion is more important, imho.

Also I don't understand this: "at the request of the writer, he/she would check/proofread my translation" but "the writer is unaware that my acquaintance is also getting paid".

Could you please clarify a bit?

Natalia


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:59
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
More information about the proofreader Feb 18, 2012

Natalie, thanks for your answer.

I didn't want to provide information that might not be considered essential, as I'm only concerned with whether or not I have to rewrite the chapter. By the way, I'll refer to my acquaintance as "she", just to make writing easier.

This person, she, used to have three schools of English, which she sold about ten years ago. The writer spent some time working in Britain and when he returned to Spain, he attended classes in one of the schools. Apparently the friendship started at that time, nearly thirty years ago.

1. My acquaintance told me that the writer would only see the chapters once they had been reviewed.

2. Because the writer is a friend of my acquaintance, it would never occur to him that he was paying for what he thinks is a favour done for an old friend.

3. As I said earlier, I hadn't met the writer until yesterday, when he told me he was very pleased, "muy contento", with my work. He admitted that although his style is not easy to understand, I was doing an excellent job. He even showed me more books he wants me to translate when I've finished this one! But that will be another story...

4. My job is to translate a chapter, send it to the "friend" who will proofread it and then send it back to me. I will then print off a copy and also put a copy of the chapter onto the writer's computer, and sign a receipt for the money. I have to look after the "friend's" money until she gets back to Spain.

I hope I've managed to clear things up a bit. However, as I say, I'm only concerned about who has to do the rewriting.



[Edited at 2012-02-19 00:03 GMT]


 

Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 09:59
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
Thanks, Helena Feb 18, 2012

I asked absolutely not just out of pure interest. Maybe you are unaware, but all this is essential for your question about re-writing.

Here is what I would suggest.

First of all, if your friend is still available, ask her to provide exact explanations what is wrong, in her opinion.

Then leave this chapter for a few days or even a week or two and return to it later on. Re-read your translation calmly, as if the translation was not yours. Maybe you would understand that the text should be changed. However, if you would feel that you were right and grasped the author's style correctly and no re-writing would be needed, than maybe it would be a good idea to ask the author himself. In any case, the author's opinion should be deciding (i.e. if the re-writing is needed at all).




[Edited at 2012-02-18 21:50 GMT]


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:59
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, Natalie Feb 18, 2012

She has never been my friend, and I doubt she ever will be. We share the same nationality and mother tongue, and that's about all we have in common!

Actually, I'm doing what you suggested. I've waited 24 hours before posting my query and I haven't even looked at the chapter, or the book for that matter.

The writer is an elderly gentleman, who dedicates his later years living in a secluded manner, looking after his wife, and writing. I only want to provide him with something that would cheer him up. In order to continue with the other 30 chapters, I need to recover my confidence in my ability, which, unfortunately, is rather low at the moment.

If I have to do the rest of the translation thinking I might be told to rewrite it all, I'm afraid it will interfere with my flow of thought.

I agree with you that it's the writer who has the last word but I don't fancy going against what I agreed to do. Especially at the very beginning!

Whenever I've been asked to proofread a text, I've had to change a few words or punctuation marks or I've had to practically rewrite the whole text. It has never occurred to me to send it back saying, "tell the translator to rewrite the whole lot". Well, it might have occurred to me but, as you can imagine, I would never go that far.

It's just that I really don't know exactly how much work a proofreader is supposed to do. I'm obviously willing to collaborate, but I don't fancy translating the same book twice.


 

Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 09:59
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
But, Helen... Feb 18, 2012

You have mentioned that

i)"both the writer/acquaintance(amateur proofreader) told me they were pleased with how the translation was going" (re chapters 1, 2 and 3),

and that

ii) the writer told you that he was very pleased, "muy contento", with your work, and admitted that although his style is not easy to understand, you were doing an excellent job and he would like you to translate more of his books.

Isn't this the proof that there are no real reasons to be upset?

Moreover, please note that 24 hours is a period too short to get back to the text in question! Just get back to work and translate further. Return to chapter 4 when you have at least one more chapter ready.


 

Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 09:59
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
By the way Feb 18, 2012

The proofreader should proofread only. I assume that the book is fiction? In this case the proofreader should only check for typos etc. However, if your acquaintance has agreed to be the editor, she should provide edits herself.

 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:59
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, I suppose you can call her the editor, too. Feb 18, 2012

Yesterday the writer told me that because Spanish publishing companies are only interested in future best-sellers written by well-known writers, he is creating his own publishing company. He has plans to publish 500 copies of the book I'm translating.

This means the whole writing process will be carried out by the three of us but my acquaintance will be responsible for producing the final draft.

Natalie, thanks for your kind words. I'm afraid I don't take much notice when someone gives me a pat on the back, but I admit that unexpected criticism does come as a bit of a shock. Usually, I'm the first person to criticise my work. And surely you can imagine how I felt yesterday when I saw the chapter lying on the table with no more than three corrections - we tend to differ on the use of commas and relative pronouns - only to be told something like, "I have started to correct the chapter but I don't like it. I want you to rewrite it". No "please", or "would you mind" or anything like that. And the chapter had taken me eight hours to translate! I admit, I didn't say anything yesterday, because I just didn't know what to say!

I suppose translators have to be sensitive to other people's thoughts and it's just a case of "switching off" from time to time, and coming up to the surface to breathe!


 

Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 09:59
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
Who knows... Feb 19, 2012

Maybe she had a toothache, or got mad while preparing for her trip, or who knows whatever else has happenedicon_smile.gif

If she is going away, and, as you say, for the next few months you will be responsible for delivering each chapter to the writer - great! Deliver him chapter 4 and ask for his opinion.

In any case, there are definitely no reasons to worry at this stage.

Bye for now, it is getting late here.
Natalia


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:59
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good night Feb 19, 2012

to you, tooicon_smile.gif

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
A deal breaker Feb 19, 2012

Helena Chavarria wrote:

The acquaintance told me that ... he/she would check/proofread my translation.



From what you say, your "acquaintance" has broken their original promise by asking you to do the rewrite, unless of course they simply (and you) consider proofing as having a look, saying "don't like it" and throwing it back at you. It sounds to me like you were doing them a favour by taking on the job in the first place.

My own particular reaction in this situation would most likely be quite aggressive.

Anecdotally, I'd like to add that in my experience about 70% of private school owners in Spain are... (am not allowed to swear here, but wish I could) ... let's call it "exploiters" (at least where I've worked, some of them notoriously so) and not generally the kind of person you want to do business with if you can help it. I certainly don't.

[Edited at 2012-02-19 10:07 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-02-19 10:08 GMT]


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 15:59
Chinese to English
Give the benefit of the doubt? Feb 19, 2012

I agree with Neil and Natalie, and I think your acquaintance has been rude and unhelpful. But in the interest of keeping everyone happy on what sounds like a nice project, could you pause, and try to cast what she said in the best possible light?
She is not a professional, and she has been thrust into a new role. Lets imagine she found something she didn't like in your chapter four - rightly or wrongly - but didn't know how to articulate it. So she reacted badly and made this blanket criticism. Your best bet would be, as Natalie says, to put it away for a couple of days, get on with the next thing, then have another look. You'll either find something and fix it, or find no problems, and then you can say to her with confidence, this chapter is ok, please tell me specifically what you think is wrong.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:59
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Pats on the back are as important as negative criticism Feb 19, 2012

Helena Chavarria wrote:

...
Natalie, thanks for your kind words. I'm afraid I don't take much notice when someone gives me a pat on the back, but I admit that unexpected criticism does come as a bit of a shock.
...

I suppose translators have to be sensitive to other people's thoughts and it's just a case of "switching off" from time to time, and coming up to the surface to breathe!


Absolutely.

A pat on the back is a sign that you are really doing well here, so this is what you are aiming at. Or: keep this passage for future reference - this is what really works!

It is a mistake to think compliments are not important - they are like the compass needle that shows you the direction you want to go, at least for that reader or target group.

It is just as important to know when you get ten out of ten as to know when you are just scraping through, and where there really is room for improvement. Then you can concentrate on what you do well, and keeping up your standards there.

Luckily we are all different, so someone else will probably be good at the things you find difficult.


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:59
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I've taken good note of your comments Feb 19, 2012

neilmac wrote:

unless of course they simply (and you) consider proofing as having a look, saying "don't like it" and throwing it back at you. It sounds to me like you were doing them a favour by taking on the job in the first place.

My own particular reaction in this situation would most likely be quite aggressive.



To be honest, I've never been asked to "proofread" as such; I've always been asked in Spanish. I'm sent a text and I do my best to make sure it reads well - I would never occur to me to just send it back without doing anything. Mind you, I never have the chance to communicate with the translator.

Maybe I am doing them a favour, but I'm afraid professional challenges like this don't come along my way every day.

I am definitely not an aggressive person but everyone has their moments, which is my reason for posting in the first place. I just wanted to know if I had any say in the matter, or if I had to meekly accept the other person's rudeness and spend hours redoing something that I had previously considered to be a good/decent/acceptable piece of work. How many of us submit a translation thinking it does not meet the standards? None of us!

"It is just as important to know when you get ten out of ten as to know when you are just scraping through, and where there really is room for improvement."

Christine, I far prefer constructive criticism. Pats on backs are great but some people consider translation to be an art and, as such, it's practically impossible to please everybody. I'm sorry, but when someone praises my work, I can only think about the people who wouldn't agree.

Anyway, thank you all for your input. You've all been very helpful. At the moment I'm working on something completely different, so I've had a perfect excuse for forgetting about the book, which I had started to treat as the marmalade that went on top of the bread and butter. Bread and butter is what you need to live on and marmalade makes living a bit more enjoyable.




[Edited at 2012-02-19 18:25 GMT]


 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

At what point does translating stop and proofreading begin?

Advanced search







memoQ translator pro
Kilgray's memoQ is the world's fastest developing integrated localization & translation environment rendering you more productive and efficient.

With our advanced file filters, unlimited language and advanced file support, memoQ translator pro has been designed for translators and reviewers who work on their own, with other translators or in team-based translation projects.

More info »
SDL Trados Studio 2019 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2019 has evolved to bring translators a brand new experience. Designed with user experience at its core, Studio 2019 transforms how new users get up and running, helps experienced users make the most of the powerful features, ensures new

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search