How to put up with some proofreaders?
Thread poster: Susana González Tuya

Susana González Tuya
Spain
Local time: 19:47
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
May 25, 2012

Hello,
I have recently experience the upsetting feeling of receiving the proofread files of two of my translations and not understanding what got into the proofreaders head.

The first one was proofread by a native Spanish speaker who is an employee of the final client and all the changes they made were because this person likes to follow the structure of the source text. Needless to explain the dangers of this but as the person “proofreading” the file is not a professional translator I just wrote back to the agency and explained what the nature of the changes was.

However, later this month I had a similar experience with a different agency. In this case, the proofreader just decided to change the word order of many of the sentences. My text was not wrong, his options were not wrong but how do you explain this to a PM that does not even have a basic knowledge of the target language?


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Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 18:47
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
Familiar May 25, 2012

I know the feeling, it's quite upsetting. In January this yera, after a successful and fruitful collaboration with an agency for EU translations, I just quit that relationship. In my case, it was an editing issue, for a proofreader often wouldn't understand the source language.
So it would depend purely on the editor: some of them would make minor changes and indeed, it sounded better like that. But there were some that would put your translation in red, with such arguments :"Your choice is correct, but the editor likes this word better". ???? And also it would happen that I'd translate how it is in the original, and EU Parliament members do make mistakes, but the editor insists that no, it should be "like this". The most annoying thing in all that was that the translator had to accept and approve the editor's supposedly corrections and bear full responsibility for such modified translation.
In the beginning, I tried to talk with the PM and explain that my job is to translate how it is and not how it should be, and also that I take inconditional responsibility for my translations but the proofreader/editor should take responsibility for their job. Moreover, "corrections" now and then would come with grammar mistakes, leaving alone the distorted meaning. Yet in the beginning of this year the time spent for explanations why it was translated so and couldn't have been done differently, pointing out obvious mistakes of some editors became unsupportable. So I thanked them and told goodbye. Now I continue working with other agencies where nothing similar has ever happened. On the contrary, agencies come to check with me, now and then, if other translators did their job well.
It was curious to see a translation edited by 2 different editors: half of translation would be clean, and the other half would be fully "corrected" - it's easy to track it.
So, I don't really have a good answer here, it's all about human factor, afterall, and it happens that whatever you do just doesn't work. Proofreaders have somehow to justify their payment, no matter what Just give your reasoning, and that's it.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 01:47
Chinese to English
What's the problem? May 25, 2012

Your texts will be edited. Live with it. We are part of a text production line, and there is no need to be precious about what we produce.

By the law of averages, half the people who work on your texts will be good editors, half of them bad. None of this matters in the slightest to you.

Unless... unless the agency/client are using "number of edits" as a kind of metric to see if you're a good translator. If they are, then you have to argue your case, sometimes. But not every time. You can ask the agency how often they review your "quality", and come review time, explain to them that one particular proofreader was making changes for the sake of it.

But if no-one is telling you explicitly that edits=you're a bad translator, then stop worrying about it. In fact, use what you're given to learn about what the client wants.


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Susana González Tuya
Spain
Local time: 19:47
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Explanations... May 25, 2012

That is exactly the issue. I don´t understand why I have to justify my decisions when the editor/proofreader does not justify theirs.

I have done proofreading and editing jobs and although sometimes I found that a sentence "sounded better" in a diferent way but I do not think this is a proper justification and what "sounds better" it does not to others.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:47
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Don't underestimate agency people's intelligence May 25, 2012

Susana González Tuya wrote:
Later this month I had a similar experience with a different agency. ... My text was not wrong, [the proofreader's] options were not wrong, but how do you explain this to a PM that does not even have a basic knowledge of the target language?


The agency PM might not understand the language, but may well be aware of the existence of preferentiality in this world. If you were asked to comment on the edits, then my suggestion is to comment only on the ones that are really bad (or ones that fix real errors made by you), and say to the agency "the rest of the changes are preferential, and I don't object to the changes".

Only if you will be penalised for every edit, then you should become defensive. I get this with agencies that use a system of translation quality grading in which every edit that is not specifically indicated as preferential is regarded as a strike against the translator. In such a case my only option is to defend my translation rigorously, and admit defeat only if I can find no way to shoot down the proofreader's edit or justify my translation, even if in reality I have no objection to the changes.

Do not worry that clients will think poorly of you just because there are many edits or even because the proofreader had negative comments about the translation.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:47
Spanish to English
+ ...
Rings a bell May 25, 2012

Sometimes you need to grow a thicker skin. To me, every translation I do is my "baby" and I get miffed if someone makes what I consider unnecessary changes to my drafts.
The example of the translation edited by 2 proofers, one who censored a lot of points and the other who didn't, illustrates what I call the "I'm an editor, therefore I must edit" syndrome - where the person feels that they have to criticise and change things or else they aren't doing their job.
However, sometimes constructive criticism can help you assess your own skills, so I tend to ignore it ¡f they just change "However" to "Nevertheless" or vice versa ( I once had a Spanish native editor change "contamination" to "pollution" where I had used both terms interspersed to cut down the amount of repetition) and try to take on board any worthwhile comments.
At the end of the day, if you're working for a publisher or similar, you need to accept the house rules and try not to take it TOO personally.


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Susana González Tuya
Spain
Local time: 19:47
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
surprise May 25, 2012

Rather than taking it too personally, I was suprised and not very sure what to write back to the PM when they ask me to check and accept the changes.

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Stefan Blommaert  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 18:47
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Sometimes a very thin line May 25, 2012

I think we all have had similar experiences. Word orders changed to equivalent alternatives, synonyms used, different ways of saying exactly the same thing. And of course the eternal "corrections" that, in fact, are not corrections at all but proofs that the proofreader didn't grasp the subject/technical field of the text.

Such proofreaders definitely exist and when this now happens when I work for my steady clients, a simple "Hello, thank you for the "corrections". I have taken note of them". The PMs then know enough.

Only in a very small number of cases did the proofreader overdo it to such an extent that I took it personally and wrote back a couple of pages with references and examples, just to prove that he or she would have done well to take a basic course in the language that he or she claimed to be his or her native tongue.

In other cases, I do briefly argue my case and will keep doing that for the simple reason that I do not know what happens with my translation afterwards. At least I will have done what I gathered had to be done.

I can immediately spot now when a proofreader has done a good job. And they do exist! I myself, however, do not like to proofread because I find it extremely hard and time-consuming work to correct a text and bear in mind the sometimes very thin line between correcting and overdoing it.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 01:47
Chinese to English
No, I don't accept these changes May 26, 2012

The above sentence is very useful. I don't really understand why it's hard to use. Like Stefan, I've had positive experiences, where the proofreader has spotted my mistakes and tidied up the text. Then I check and say yes, thank you. I've had irrelevant edits; I accept them, but write in an email to the PM that they were pointless. And I've had "incorrections" where the proofreader hadn't understood the text and couldn't speak English. And I say no. Once I deliver a text, it's not my problem any more. I don't mind looking at what a proofreader has done, but if they've messed it up, it's not my responsibility. That problem is up to the PM to sort out.

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Maja Źróbecka, MITI  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:47
English to Polish
+ ...
Overzealous proofreaders May 26, 2012

In my opinion, good and professional proofreaders are hard to find. One university tutor who works as an editor for various publishing houses in Poland, said that the golden rule of this profession says "don't correct good for better", and I often assume this approach. If the translation is faithful and reads well, I never try to improve it. This is not what the job is about but few proofreaders realise this. I do not see any justification for changes such as changing the word order or using a synonym. If the text has an excessive number of such edits, it only proves the proofreader does not know the job.

As for how to put up with it? Exactly as colleagues already mentioned: if you can learn something from it - great. Otherwise, there is no point getting worked up about it. And if the PM questions the quality of your job, use your arguments to defend your case. And only then.

I always try to ask myself a simple question "am I correcting "good" for "better"? If the answers is "yes", I think twice before I change anything. Also, I always provide a brief comment on how I found the translation which all of my PMs appreciate.

My two cents.

Maja


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malika2012  Identity Verified
Poland
Arabic to French
+ ...
Golden advice May 27, 2012

I love what you have said Maya and i think it can help a lot in the future."Don't correct the good for the better" is an advice that we can use in proof-reading tasks.

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