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Do you proofread texts in your reverse language pair?
Thread poster: Sarah McDowell

Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:18
Russian to English
+ ...
Jun 8, 2013

I wanted to get some other translators' opinions about proofreading in your reverse language pair. I am a native speaker of English so I have always only proofread texts which had been translated into English. But recently I received a request to proofread a Russian text which has been translated from English. I am not sure if I would be the best person to accomplish this task. I can certainly see if they missed something in the English text or if they translated something wrong but I am afraid there may be some small nuances of the Russian text which I may not be aware of.

What is your opinion on on this kind of work? By the way, it is a linguistic review of sorts. The client has asked me to not only proofread their work but also to point out their mistakes and what they need to do to change them. In my opinion, this work would be best completed by a native speaker of the target language who also knows English very well. However, I would like to know what other editors and translators think about this.

Thanks,

Sarah


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:18
Hebrew to English
I agree with you Jun 8, 2013

I think you said it best when you said:

In my opinion, this work would be best completed by a native speaker of the target language who also knows English very well.


The operative word being "best". I'm sure it could be done by a non-native speaker with the requisite proficiency, but best practice would be as you say - a native Russian speaker with an excellent knowledge of English.

The subtleties and nuances of any language shouldn't be underestimated...

I'd say listen to your gut and stick to your principles.


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Mark Benson  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
No way! Jun 8, 2013

Never.

And also, there's a difference between proofreading and editing. Not that I see how it would matter in this discussion. Both are out of the question as far as I'm concerned.

I don't see the case anyone could ever make in favour of going ahead with it, but I might be about to find out.

Just forget about it!


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:18
English to Polish
+ ...
It depends on the situation Jun 8, 2013

Sarah, it depends. You need to be confident or somehow still deliver equally good results, either through your perfect command of Russian or your experience and careful diligence in matters of language. Which is to say that you need either reliable intuition or reliable analytical skill with the rules. A lot depends on what exactly your client asks you to do and to what standard.

Proofreading is not editing, so you don't need to worry about nuances of style or achieving naturalcy (which few native translators actually achieve, but a non-native translator suffers from prejudice here), or even the choice of the optimal grammatical or syntactical structure for the situation, but you should still have perfect punctuation and inflection. Inflection in particular is something I'd worry about in the case of a native speaker of English trying to proofread a text in a Slavic language. If you had Latin at school, or German, or if you acquired a high-level command of Russian at a young age, then you might be able to get the conjugations and declinations right, but otherwise it might be a bit of a problem. Speaking of which, does your client really expect you to guarantee flawless literary expression in Russian or is the goal of your assignment rather to identify any mistranslations only?

Off-topic but:

Ty Kendall wrote:

The subtleties and nuances of any language shouldn't be underestimated...


Yup. Including the source language. This is why I'm not a fan of the modern L1 rule, which claims that it's bad practice to have native speakers of the source language translate, while it's pukkah to rely solely on a native speaker of the target language who doesn't have native comprehension (and will natively express something else than the source phrase actually meant). This is actually in addition to the debate as to whether non-native speakers can achieve the requisite proficiency at all. Just to be clear, Ty, I'm taking shots at the L1 rule, not at you.

[Edited at 2013-06-08 22:21 GMT]


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Agnes Lenkey  Identity Verified
German to Spanish
+ ...
No, never Jun 8, 2013

I am fully with Mark on this, no, I never proofread an English text, for example. I was approached with these kind of requests and always rejected (and will reject). I feel that I am not the best person to deal with this job, so I reject. If I have to translate for example from German into English and I know which are my faults and flaws, I accept the job if I am sure to have all the resources at hand in order to deliver high quality work (meaning that I use the services of another proofreader). But when they ask proofreading directly, this is one of the last links in the chain, so I cannot find further help – this means I have to reject, necessarily.

Off-topic:

I fully agree with you, Łukasz. Supposedly (for what I read and hear everywhere) I am not allowed to translate into Spanish, because I am not a native – I “only” live and work and continuously study the Spanish language since I arrived to Spain in 2001 (thanks to the lottery of life). But I think I really do a good job, for sure sometimes even better than translating into German. During my master studies I am getting highest grades (10) for my German into Spanish translations, and not getting that high with my translations into German. So I think rules are only rules, it depends. In some occasions I receive German legal and financial documents to translate into Spanish, and I can tell you one thing for sure: some of these documents are so complicated and specialized, that you need a very, VERY high level of comprehension of the source language in order to correctly understand and exactly convey the meaning. Sometimes I even wondered that it must not be easy for the local law firm to find translators here who have such a high level in both languages. For sure there are some, and I know some, but there are not so many, as Majorca is a small island.


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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:18
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your replies everyone Jun 9, 2013

Thank you for your replies. Actually, I wasn't seriously considering accepting this job. I was planning on referring the client to a colleague of mine. I just thought that this would be a good opportunity to get some other peoples' opinions regarding this matter.

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
Speaking of which, does your client really expect you to guarantee flawless literary expression in Russian or is the goal of your assignment rather to identify any mistranslations only?


Thanks for your question, Łukasz. I believe the client is seeking the latter. I just re-read their request and they are asking me to check the text and explain any errors that they have made.

Sarah


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:18
English to Polish
+ ...
Sounds like comprehension and equivalence were of top importance there Jun 9, 2013

Sarah McDowell wrote:

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
Speaking of which, does your client really expect you to guarantee flawless literary expression in Russian or is the goal of your assignment rather to identify any mistranslations only?


Thanks for your question, Łukasz. I believe the client is seeking the latter. I just re-read their request and they are asking me to check the text and explain any errors that they have made.

Sarah


That sounds like a classic for-information/fidelity scenario, Sarah. There are still linguists in this world who value native comprehension more highly than native expression. Linguists, or people who deal with translations. Is your client Russian actually? I would expect such an attitude to be more common there than in the English-speaking translation world.

Agnes Lenkey wrote:

I fully agree with you, Łukasz. Supposedly (for what I read and hear everywhere) I am not allowed to translate into Spanish, because I am not a native – I “only” live and work and continuously study the Spanish language since I arrived to Spain in 2001 (thanks to the lottery of life). But I think I really do a good job, for sure sometimes even better than translating into German. During my master studies I am getting highest grades (10) for my German into Spanish translations, and not getting that high with my translations into German. So I think rules are only rules, it depends. In some occasions I receive German legal and financial documents to translate into Spanish, and I can tell you one thing for sure: some of these documents are so complicated and specialized, that you need a very, VERY high level of comprehension of the source language in order to correctly understand and exactly convey the meaning. Sometimes I even wondered that it must not be easy for the local law firm to find translators here who have such a high level in both languages. For sure there are some, and I know some, but there are not so many, as Majorca is a small island.


That sounds a bit like my own PL>EN adventure, Agnes, of which I'll try to write more on Monday. It's half past 3 a.m. here and this is a touchy subject.

[Edited at 2013-06-09 01:24 GMT]


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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:18
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes Jun 9, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

That sounds like a classic for-information/fidelity scenario. There are still linguists in this world who value native comprehension more highly than native expression. Linguists or people who deal with translations. Is your client Russian actually?


Yes, the client is a native speaker of Russian. When they first contacted me I thought that they had made a mistake in their e-mail because they said it was a Russian text. I thought that they would be sending me an English translation of a Russian text. But no, it is in fact a Russian text. It does not seem to be overly difficult but I still think that this would be better if done by a native speaker of Russian. However, I think that they sought me out specifically because I am a native speaker of English. The client also said that they would be sending English texts that were translated from Russian at a later date. So I would be interested in reviewing those ones.

[Edited at 2013-06-09 01:11 GMT]


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Mark Benson  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
Do you know what they want - exactly? Jun 9, 2013

Sarah McDowell wrote:

Yes, the client is a native speaker of Russian. When they first contacted me I thought that they had made a mistake in their e-mail because they said it was a Russian text. I thought that they would be sending me an English translation of a Russian text. But no, it is in fact a Russian text. It does not seem to be overly difficult but I still think that this would be better if done by a native speaker of Russian. However, I think that they sought me out specifically because I am a native speaker of English. The client also said that they would be sending English texts that were translated from Russian at a later date. So I would be interested in reviewing those ones.

[Edited at 2013-06-09 01:11 GMT]


Then you've asked if they made a mistake and sent you the wrong file? Have you asked why they don't let a Russian native speaker look at the text? And you've let them know that your native language is English?

You should ask them why they want you to do it and give them some context to give a proper answer to.

I've never heard of anything like this and I keep failing to understand why they would make such a request. It's as if a client would ask me to edit an English or Dutch text, which couldn't be worse practice in my opinion. Unless it's for some experiment or something similar...

If it's something less than serious you will do yourself a favour by forgetting about those English projects.

[Edited at 2013-06-09 01:33 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-06-09 02:38 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:18
English to Polish
+ ...
Ha! Jun 9, 2013

Sarah McDowell wrote:

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

That sounds like a classic for-information/fidelity scenario. There are still linguists in this world who value native comprehension more highly than native expression. Linguists or people who deal with translations. Is your client Russian actually?


Yes, the client is a native speaker of Russian. When they first contacted me I thought that they had made a mistake in their e-mail because they said it was a Russian text. I thought that they would be sending me an English translation of a Russian text. But no, it is in fact a Russian text. It does not seem to be overly difficult but I still think that this would be better if done by a native speaker of Russian. However, I think that they sought me out specifically because I am a native speaker of English. The client also said that they would be sending English texts that were translated from Russian at a later date. So I would be interested in reviewing those ones.

[Edited at 2013-06-09 01:11 GMT]


Et omnia clara sunt. I have no real way of knowing, but given how closely related they are to us Poles that doesn't surprise me much. The L1 rule doesn't really work in Poland, and we do value comprehension of the source like that. It would normally be a little surprising if they asked a non-native (source-wise) translator of Russian to correct one of themselves, but definitely not if you had previously given them some reason to believe that your command of Russian is perfect, and they know that you are a professional linguist, which the original translator might not have been (just guessing here), so you might have had an easier time fixing the grammar and syntax, and if you, say, had got an idiom or a fixed collocation wrong or written something contextually odd to a native eye, they'd likely have picked up on that and brainstormed with you without feelings of disappointment. Again, this is all guesswork on my part, totally based on hunches.

Also, if they want to make sure they haven't mistranslated something from English due to insufficient comprehension of your own language, I'd totally help them with that. Just perhaps make it clear with them that you might not be the best localiser when it comes to more colloquial, idiomatic registers (unless you are).

One more thing. Polish version of 'proofing' is 'korekta' (корректура, I guess). When it refers to journalism, academic writing or a similar field, it has more or less the same meaning as proofing. But when used in a translation context, it has more to do with verifying the translation, and identifying and correcting any mistranslations, than it does with making the grammar, syntax and punctuation flawless. Especially when it's X>PL being proofread by a fellow but hopefully more senior translator. I'd expect Russians to have a more or less similar perspective on this.

[Edited at 2013-06-09 01:56 GMT]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:18
English to German
+ ...
Proofreading vs. editing - no Pulitzer Prize at stake Jun 9, 2013

My clients ask for proofreading of the source text on a regular basis. Maybe they got tired of my persistent pointing out of typos and/or grammatical flaws, so they decided to actually pay me for this service. Why not? Non-native speakers living in the country of their source language are known to be so afraid of making mistakes that their merciless way of proofreading will make the Spanish Inquisition look like a bunch of kinder-gardeners. Despite the fact that certain native speakers would prefer to not even allow a non-native speaker to go grocery shopping without being accompanied by a certified interpreter.



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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:18
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Relax everyone Jun 9, 2013

Hello Mark. I'll answer your questions about this.

Then you've asked if they made a mistake and sent you the wrong file?


No, I haven't asked them this. I know that they haven't made a mistake. To ask them this would be to insult the client's intelligence level.

Have you asked why they don't let a Russian native speaker look at the text?


No, I have not asked them yet. Don't you think it would be strange to send a client an e-mail saying "Why do you want ME to do it?" after the first time they contact you? I don't want to ask this because it kind of is an insult to the client and to myself.

And you've let them know that your native language is English?


Same thing. This much is obvious from my first and last name. To state the obvious would be to insult the client's intelligence level. In fact, they specifically contacted me because I am a native speaker of English. The client lives in Moscow so has access to a multitude of Russian native speakers. Apparently they wrote to me because I am an English native speaker.

I did not expect everyone here to get all up in arms about this. Please keep in mind that I did not initiate the request. It was the client who initiated it when they wrote to me. I am just thinking of how to best respond to it. I am in no way trying to "steal" the jobs from the native speakers.










[Edited at 2013-06-09 06:51 GMT]


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Yurizx  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:18
English to Russian
+ ...
perfection is just a goal. Jun 9, 2013

Nicole Schnell wrote:

My clients ask for proofreading of the source text on a regular basis. Maybe they got tired of my persistent pointing out of typos and/or grammatical flaws, so they decided to actually pay me for this service. Why not? Non-native speakers living in the country of their source language are known to be so afraid of making mistakes that their merciless way of proofreading will make the Spanish Inquisition look like a bunch of kinder-gardeners. Despite the fact that certain native speakers would prefer to not even allow a non-native speaker to go grocery shopping without being accompanied by a certified interpreter.


agree.
quite often we forget the purpose of what we're doing, and strive for the Perfection. an illusive dream.


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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:18
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your comments Łukasz Jun 9, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
the original translator might not have been (just guessing here)


Thanks for your commetns Łukasz. Actually, the client is the original translator. The client is the person who did the translation. They want me to check it and point out any mistakes that they may have made.

It is my understanding that they are someone who is studying translation but still in school.

Thanks everyone for your comments! I will most likely refer them to a colleague who is a native speaker of Russian.

[Edited at 2013-06-09 07:06 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-06-09 07:06 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-06-09 07:07 GMT]


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:18
Hebrew to English
It's ok, I didn't think you were taking shots... Jun 9, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
Yup. Including the source language. This is why I'm not a fan of the modern L1 rule, which claims that it's bad practice to have native speakers of the source language translate, while it's pukkah to rely solely on a native speaker of the target language who doesn't have native comprehension (and will natively express something else than the source phrase actually meant). This is actually in addition to the debate as to whether non-native speakers can achieve the requisite proficiency at all. Just to be clear, Ty, I'm taking shots at the L1 rule, not at you.

[Edited at 2013-06-08 22:21 GMT]


I somewhat agree. I don't think it's bad practice to have non-native speakers of the target language translate, but it's not necessarily preferable practice either. I just think that ceteris paribus/with all else being equal it's probably better to use a native speaker of the target language, depending on circumstances. (that statement is pretty hedged, I think it leaves more than enough room for the plethora of exceptions).


Proofreading is not editing, so you don't need to worry about nuances of style or achieving naturalcy (which few native translators actually achieve, but a non-native translator suffers from prejudice here), or even the choice of the optimal grammatical or syntactical structure for the situation, but you should still have perfect punctuation and inflection. Inflection in particular is something I'd worry about in the case of a native speaker of English trying to proofread a text in a Slavic language. If you had Latin at school, or German, or if you acquired a high-level command of Russian at a young age, then you might be able to get the conjugations and declinations right, but otherwise it might be a bit of a problem. Speaking of which, does your client really expect you to guarantee flawless literary expression in Russian or is the goal of your assignment rather to identify any mistranslations only?


This might be where we start to drift..... I think perfect grammar is part of the equation, but it's not the whole picture. Where a native speaker often has the upper hand is knowing if/when to flout a grammatical "rule" and to what extent it can/should be flouted. This is not to say a NNS cannot do this, but by and large, those who have learned a language hugging a grammar syllabus are reluctant to "throw out the rule book" so to speak.

For example, as a NS, I would say that your coining of "naturalcy" is a neologism too far ... I would have gone to "naturalness" if I wanted the noun, but I think "authenticity" works better. (Sorry, I'm not taking shots at you this time )


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