Verifying a proofread version of your own work
Thread poster: JoBee
JoBee  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 13:27
Japanese to English
Mar 7, 2014

I recently completed a ~1,500-word job for an agency, and I was rather happy with how it turned out. Less than a day after submission, however, I received an email saying it had been 'checked' (edited? proofread?) and that I was to verify the amendments over the weekend.

I opened it up to find a sea of red text, with the vast majority (95%+) featuring things such as changing "a bit more" to "slightly more." I would estimate that the corrections numbered in the hundreds, and of those, exactly 2 addressed actual typographical errors that I had made. Several other amendments, though, actually introduced errors or fundamentally changed the meaning from the original text (such as "in the ancient past" being changed to "since long ago").

I was offered no compensation for verifying/correcting these changes, so I fixed the 2 errors in my original document and sent them that with apologies for my oversight. I also informed them that the other changes were made according to the checker's preference and that the agency were free to make the final judgment call. (I didn't inform them of the new errors, as locating and explaining them would take considerable time.)

Does fixing a checker's newly introduced terminology fall within my responsibility (and payment) as a translator? Should it in any circumstances? I am happy to respond to questions about my translation, but checking someone else's word choices for free seems excessive to me.

How do you guys feel?

[Edited at 2014-03-07 02:22 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-03-07 02:50 GMT]


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Eirik Birkeland  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 06:27
Member (Jun 2017)
English to Norwegian (Bokmal)
+ ...
Sounds stressful Mar 7, 2014

I was once given the same kind of task. If this is an important client, and they rarely ask you to do this sort of thing, perhaps just offer it as a 'service'? Perhaps you should have discussed in detail the extent of your duties beforehand. In this case, perhaps you could have tried to charge them hourly pay for 'post translation editing'? Or, is this indeed part of the translation? Perhaps refer to the PO and ask the client to specify 'extra duties' in detail if they expect you to do more than a simple translation -> delivery job.

I have been paid for post-checking my own work, but that was due to a change in client preferences where some phrases on a website needed to be reverted to the source language. I was given 1 hour's pay even though I spent 2-3 hours scrutinizing the document in question... Time spent in that case was also due to my inexperience at the time though.

I think I would have informed the agency rather directly of the mistakes introduced by the client post-translation unambiguously using several exclamation marks. When I was in a similar situation myself, I wanted to build a great relationship with the agency in question, so I didn't give the scope of my work much thought at the time, though as regular work increases I will definitely be more inquisitive and questioning of any extra work regularly given to me that exceeds the scope specified in the PO. I think in general it's good business sense to give extra services if they only add a few minutes to the original work. Though even a few minutes here and there add up, so you might ask for a higher overall rate in exchange for providing these extra services that you are providing? That seems like a simpler solution than demanding the agency pay you for every time you spend say 10 minutes checking a translation.

In this case, I'm surprised the client would go so far as to introduce mistakes... Perhaps you should have pointed that out to the agency, and offered to post-edit the client's post-translation? Or maybe he'd get offended, refuse to acknowledge his mistakes, and stop using your agency? Well it was sent back to you for review after all. If the client just has no idea what he's doing, perhaps the agency has a way of solving this. All this should be stuff for the agency to consider though.

I regret that I can't provide any good answers to your questions. I look forward to seeing other replies as these things have been concerns of my own as well.


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JoBee  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 13:27
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Lots of good points, Eirik. Thank you! Mar 7, 2014

My policies do vary to some extent depending upon the agency.

When I start out with a client/agency, I always err on the side of putting in extra work. At this point I've worked with all of my regular agencies for years, and for the ones that are generally understanding and accommodating, I make an effort to return that kindness whenever possible.

In this case, it's an agency that gives me decent work, but has asked for free DTP/formatting/adjustments on multiple occasions. On this occasion as well, the PM admitted right off the bat that she hadn't made any mention of this additional task at the beginning--but asked me to do it for free in the same breath.
(To clarify, I am more than happy to address specific questions about my translation. I consider that to be a portion of my responsibility as a translator.)

Just recently, after verifying the formatting/layout of a project three times for free, I explained to the same agency (the same PM, in fact) that I'm not able to offer complimentary services that go beyond the original request, but that I would be more than willing to discuss additions if they were handled separately. At that point I was told, "We'll try, but you might not be happy with our payment." I replied that I would evaluate whether I could take on any additional work by considering the content and the payment offered.

I did consider identifying the mistaken parts of the corrections this time, but I'm really torn here. I don't feel right doing more complimentary work out of kindness after having to specifically address the issue in the past.

Then again, if taking another couple of hours to double-check corrections is something most translators consider par for the course, I may have to give it some more thought.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:27
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@JoBee Mar 7, 2014

JoBee wrote:
I fixed the 2 errors in my original document and sent them that with apologies for my oversight. I also informed them that the other changes were made according to the checker's preference and that the agency were free to make the final judgment call. I didn't inform them of the new errors, as locating and explaining them would take considerable time.


I think you had the responsibility to tell the client that some of the checker's edits introduced errors. In fact, if it weren't too much trouble, you could have given them two or three short examples. By fixing your errors only, and saying that the other edits are "preferential", you create the impression that the other edits are all acceptable.

If I had been in your shoes, and I was faced with a "sea of red", I would probably not have re-checked the document at all, and would simply have told the client that all of the edits on the first page are preferential, and that there are too many edits for me to evaluate (for free).

Does fixing a checker's newly introduced terminology fall within my responsibility (and payment) as a translator?


Some clients believe that the translation service (and rate) includes a round-trip of the documents. For many clients, I would actually check the edits, if there aren't too many of them and if it doesn't appear as if the checker was an idiot.


[Edited at 2014-03-07 07:39 GMT]


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:27
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Generally a good idea Mar 7, 2014

Jobee,

I think that it is generally a good method to have the translator have the last word. Some of my best clients send me the proofread versions of my translations and ask me to accept or reject any changes the proofreader may have suggested (usually, their number is very small). I'm usually happy to do that, as it is an opportunity for me to learn and improve.

However (and that's a big however): This only works if the proofreader is competent, which, in your case, he or she obviously isn't.

If I'd been you, I'd have pointed out to your client that the proofreader isn't up to the task. I'd certainly have pointed out (and re-corrected) the errors that the proofreader has introduced, but I wouldn't have taken care of all the preferential changes.

HTH,
Erik


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:27
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I did much the same as you Mar 7, 2014

It's only happened once; normally the client queries the odd word if anything at all. I never even knew that this one was having my work checked until I received the "sea of red". I identified one typo, one jargon term that I hadn't used, and a few changes that I considered improvements to perfectly acceptable text, so I accepted those. I sent it back with apologies for my couple of errors. I also told them of a couple of the worst errors introduced by the proofreader. I said I wasn't prepared to accept the preferential changes, and I certainly wasn't going to correct the errors for free. I advised them that if they refused all other changes in the text, their client should be perfectly happy. I said that I now considered the work correctly delivered.

The agency thanked me for my reply, paid me, and sent me more work. I think most of the time the agency just needs fairness and competence from us. If they demand more then they aren't being fair themselves.


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JoBee  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 13:27
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your advice, all. I explained the matter to the agency. Mar 7, 2014

Thank you very much, Sheila, Erik, and Samuel, for your take on this.

Hearing Sheila's words was very relieving to me.

I truly love what I do and don't mind spending 9-10 hours a day immersed in it, but it means that my schedule is always very tight. The concept that any proofreader can submit whatever terms he/she prefers and that I'd be expected to offer additional time to correct those terms--for free--was very hard for me to swallow.

Reflecting on what Samuel said, it's true that I may have implied that the proofreader's corrections were all simply a matter of preference. I had actually intended to say that he/she had added them based on his/her preference. (Whether he/she did so accurately or not is anyone's guess.)

Just to clear things up, I contacted the agency again and informed them that my corrected document (with the 2 errors fixed) was fine as-is, but if they did prefer to use the proofreader's text, it would require additional verification, which I would be happy to do for an additional fee. I made sure to offer a couple examples of problematic corrections to support the point, too.

I believe that a good proofreader is absolutely essential, but in this case, I strongly suspect that the agency offers a "translation + proofreading" service, in which beyond their usual in-house checking by the (largely non-English speaking) coordinators, they send the translated text out to another professional translator--for an additional fee to the end client, of course.

I've accepted such jobs before, and I hate to admit it, but to justify being paid for checking, I felt pressure to make significant corrections. Judging by the fact that most of these changes were along the lines of "as well" being changed into "also" and "since ancient times" being changed into "from time immemorial," I feel this proofreader may have been in much the same position.

[Edited at 2014-03-07 09:18 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 06:27
French to English
Agree with everyone Mar 7, 2014

and especially Sheila (as usual).

There is no need to give an English lesson especially for free.

I was once asked to justify why I had omitted the word "have" in a sentence like "I painted the door yesterday". After fuming inwardly for a fraction of a second too long, I explained that I stopped teaching when I realised that I had never managed to get a French person to understand this grammar rule and that I was starting to get aggressive with my students (those who know me in person usually burst into fits of laughter if I tell them this, because it's hard to imagine me being aggressive).

You certainly need to acknowledge and apologise for any typos. Acknowledging improvements to text that was already fit for purpose proves that you are open to suggestions and not raising your hackles needlessly.

Simply mentioning that some errors were introduced along with the other completely subjective changes is enough for the agency to wonder just how good their proofreader is.

It occurs to me that if you haven't previously had this happen with this agency, it may be that someone wants to know just how justified the sea of red was, thinking that the proofreader is spending too much time on translations that are good-to-go?


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:27
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I do it all the time Mar 7, 2014

It's a matter of the approach the translation agency takes toward proofreading.


Some agencies/PMs get a kick out of pitting translator and proofreader against each other. They want them to compete on who is better, so next time the winner will be granted the privilege of choosing between translation and proofreading. Of course, job-hungry translators will prefer translation, as it takes more time and yields more income.

Translator and proofreader don't know each other in this setup. These agencies/PMs think that each one will do their best to win. Some think that if the proofreader does a "good" job, they may make some extra profit from applying penalties to the translator's pay, even if grounded on merely cosmetic changes, and some of these for the worse.



A frequent client of mine does it in four steps, T-P-T-P, in all-round teamwork. We exchange files via e-mail (cc: PM in all stages), and communicate directly via Skype whenever necessary. We either were or became friends, and occasionally team up together to work for other clients too.

The first time I did it, I launched the "paint me red!" campaign: I'd (track-)change anything I thought WE could improve. At first, the PM - who didn't speak the target language - was horrified at the quantity of changes. Soon he realized how quickly and efficiently our cooperation drove that job to an outstanding level of quality.

For some unstated reason, my usual team mates prefer to have me translating, if we were to flip a coin on that. However we all consider each other equally competent, in spite of our different backgrounds. If an unusually large job requires quick turnaround, we'll split it, and each will play a different role in each part of it. Now and then we swap roles too, depending on each one's availability.

Sometimes I translate a phrase or expression the best way I can, knowing that it's not good enough. My reviewing partner doesn't like it either, can't find a visibly better solution, so s/he adds 2-4 suggestions. When I see all them together, it often triggers a better solution in me, which sometimes is further improved by that team mate.

We never bother to think who did what. All of us feel sure that the other would also have found the best solution, if only we had the time to brainstorm about it. The goal is to deliver our best. This is teamwork!


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Victoria Britten  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:27
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
Very envious Mar 7, 2014

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
We never bother to think who did what. All of us feel sure that the other would also have found the best solution, if only we had the time to brainstorm about it. The goal is to deliver our best. This is teamwork!


That would be my ideal setup! Now to find an agency that works like that...


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 06:27
English to Polish
+ ...
Cosmetics, incompetent changes Mar 7, 2014

I discuss cosmetics in more detail and free of charge where they are relevant, otherwise I rather make the irrelevance clear. I don't think translators are paid enough to spend time discussing incompetent changes in more detail free of charge, so I try to deal with them summarily, but, to be honest, I get worked up whenever they are referred to me. It shouldn't be happening.

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Texte Style
Local time: 06:27
French to English
cosmetics Mar 8, 2014

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

I discuss cosmetics in more detail and free of charge where they are relevant, otherwise I rather make the irrelevance clear. I don't think translators are paid enough to spend time discussing incompetent changes in more detail free of charge, so I try to deal with them summarily, but, to be honest, I get worked up whenever they are referred to me. It shouldn't be happening.


I believe you do mainly legal work in which case, cosmetic changes are indeed unnecessary so long as the text is as clear as the source and the meaning is correct. Here the OP didn't mention what type of text it was.

If it was a software manual, then my guess is that it was mostly unnecessary.

But then it may have been a marketing text or an article to be published, in which case cosmetics can take on the utmost importance.

As I have said before, when I do this kind of text I usually bill a flat rate for it, factoring in the possibility that somebody may get back to me with a sea of suggestions. (This is more likely the end customer rather than the agency - young interns who think they know better than me usually get pretty short shrift!)

If I don't get any feedback or requests for changes, then I consider that I was spot-on and deserve the money. If I do get suggested changes, I thank them for their input and give each one careful consideration, commenting on the style, effect the word has on me, why I chose this word and not the one suggested, pointing out literary devices such as alliteration or rhyming, cultural allusions etc.

Very often the client just comes back with "OK we'll go with your suggestions". They realise I do put a lot of thought into my work and trust me from then on.

Sometimes we get a rare old argument going on the merits of this or that term and I really love that, especially considering that I'm being paid to explore really fascinating issues.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:27
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Set up your network Mar 8, 2014

Victoria Britten wrote:

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
We never bother to think who did what. All of us feel sure that the other would also have found the best solution, if only we had the time to brainstorm about it. The goal is to deliver our best. This is teamwork!


That would be my ideal setup! Now to find an agency that works like that...


It is more frequent to find agencies requiring a turn-key translation AND third-party proofreading bundle. Others may ask you to recommend a proofreader.

Get to know (and to become known by) fellow translators whose output quality you consider about equivalent to yours, and who would consider your output equivalent to theirs. No problem if you have diverse backgrounds, sometimes this may be a plus.

The acid test is in checking if... after a job and roles had been assigned to you two, for any reason the roles and their associated compensation were suddenly reversed. If neither of you would have any complaint whatsoever about the reversal, that's a working team!

No need for a numerous team. If you have 2-3 people like this in your 'intimate network', plus eventually some 2-3 additional 'spares', that's enough.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:27
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Keeping the client happy is good long-term policy Mar 8, 2014

Texte Style wrote:
...
But then it may have been a marketing text or an article to be published, in which case cosmetics can take on the utmost importance.

...

If I don't get any feedback or requests for changes, then I consider that I was spot-on and deserve the money. If I do get suggested changes, I thank them for their input and give each one careful consideration, commenting on the style, effect the word has on me, why I chose this word and not the one suggested, pointing out literary devices such as alliteration or rhyming, cultural allusions etc.

Very often the client just comes back with "OK we'll go with your suggestions". They realise I do put a lot of thought into my work and trust me from then on.

Sometimes we get a rare old argument going on the merits of this or that term and I really love that, especially considering that I'm being paid to explore really fascinating issues.


I have just been through an exercise like that.

The time is often well spent in the long term. It should not be necessary to take a discussion every time, but I learned from a colleague when I worked in-house that if you can convince the client you are right and why, they will think twice before going elsewhere, and if they do have any queries, they can confidently ask you again.

He was brilliant at insisting tactfully on the correct translation for legal and technical issues, or if it was more 'cosmetic', finding something clients were happy with, so that they did not lose face.

Satisfied clients who come back, whose set-up and terminology you can get to know and store in your TM and termbase for next time, are the ones you earn most from. So let them know somehow that their texts are in good hands.


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