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Proofreading a very "liberal" translation: advice needed
Thread poster: Wendy Cummings

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:37
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sep 4, 2015

Dear all,

I have been asked to translate a medical booklet on pruritus (itching) but I have come across an issue that I have not experienced before and would appreciate some advice.

On the one hand, the translation contains several grammatical and stylistic errors, which I am correcting as standard. On the other hand, the translation is incredibly free, and in many instances contains additional information. I suspect that the additional information is correct, however:
1) it is not in the source text
2) in some cases, I do not know whether it is correct, and therefore additional research would be required in order to verify the factual accuracy of the translation.

Here are some examples (the added elements have been underlined, for the assistance of non-french speakers):

ST: Cela explique pourquoi les antihistaminiques ont un effet limité dans le cas du prurit lié à la dermatite atopique
TT: This explains why oral antihistamines have a limited effect on pruritus in atopic dermatitis
Comment: I don't know if this is specific to oral antihistamines

ST: Le récepteur PAR-2 représente donc une molécule intéressante pour le développement de nouveaux traitements pour les peaux atopiques.
TT: Therefore, the PAR-2 receptor is an interesting target molecule for the development of novel drugs effective against anti-histamine-resistant like that in atopic dermatitis.
Comment: ignoring the dodgy English, this is again an addition

ST: Histamine et récepteur H4
TT: Histamine, H4 and H1 Receptors
Comment: This is a heading of a section, which does indeed talk about all three elements.

ST: Schématisation des interactions neuronales entre la peau et la moelle épinière pour les voies de la douleur et des démangeaisons
TT: Schematic drawing of the neuronal interactions between dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons and spinal neurons in the itch and pain pathways
Comment: the ST makes no mention of the dorsal root ganglia, but DOES mention the skin (which is also shown in the diagram in question)

I flagged this up briefly to the agency, who said just to correct the English and not remove the additions. However, as I progress through the text I am feeling less and less at ease. Without knowing the factual accuracy of the translation (which may have been done by a very knowledgeable translator in this field) I am unable to perform my full duties as proofreader.

Does anyone have any advice? Does this go beyond the remit of proofreading? Should I just have faith that the translator knows what s/he is talking about?

Many thanks.


 

TechStyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:37
Subject knowledge Sep 4, 2015

Do you have any information about the translator's knowledge? The first insertion would worry me - is there anything in the later text which refers to oral antihistamines as opposed to topical ones?

The last one, though, suggests the English version came from someone who knows a lot more neurophysiology than they do English (possibly the author of the original French text?). The last bit is right, by the way: dorsal root ganglia are indeed part of the nociceptive process.

My take? The medical content is fine (for medical information, they'll make very sure of that - probably by getting a medical expert in the field to do the initial translation), they just need help with the English. As long as you've made it clear that you're proof reading the English not the information itself (and it seems you have made that clear to the agency) you should be fine.


 

Mike Roebuck  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:37
German to English
+ ...
Translation styles Sep 4, 2015

Some translators translate literally and some translate descriptively.

I proofread a decriptive translators's work once and that included additions that weren't in the source text. I left them alone, assuming that he knew what he was talking about.

The client rejected the proofread translation, because he was looking for a literal translation and not an embellished one, so I had to proofread and correct it again.

Since then I've always been wary of descriptive translations which include text that isn't in the source text and tend to remove it when proofreading, on principle, but YMMV.


 

Terry Richards
France
Local time: 15:37
French to English
+ ...
Flag it with a comment Sep 4, 2015

Leave the extra text unchanged but add a comment for each occurrence.

That way, you have performed your duties and the agency/end customer can do what they like with it.


 

Elizabeth Joy Pitt de Morales  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:37
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Insert comments Sep 4, 2015

I'd correct for grammar and style, then mark anything not in the original with a comment saying "not in original text", just as I would insert (minor) missing text and then mark it with a comment saying "original text missing from translation".

This way, you inform the client of the differences between the source and target texts while allowing him the option to retain or remove them.


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:37
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Proofreading vs. Editing Sep 4, 2015

Correcting the mistakes made by the translator is proofreading. If the job requires research on your end, then this is editing. If you proofread a text, you only need the translation, nothing else. This means that you wouldn't even know anything about additional information in the target text.icon_eek.gif

If you are interested in this job, you should inform the client that this is actually an editing job. Although both are (or should be) charged per hour, as you've mentioned, the job at hand requires a lot more time to complete properlyx, meaning, it will cost your client more than just a proofreading assignment.icon_smile.gif


 

Madeleine Chevassus  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:37
Member (2010)
English to French
Proofreading questions as well. Sep 4, 2015

I had to proofread a 12,000 words IT marketing text.
I proposed a hourly rate.

The PM wanted me to do that for yesterday (: and that I both deliver target text and initial translatons with bookmarks. and unfortunately I didn't receive the PO.

However I proofred, not so many orthographic mistakes and the text was supposed to be a marketing document, the text style was not acceptable. Many professional terms were mistranslated.

I corrected the style of about half of the document and showed this sample to the PM.
He appreciated my corrections.

Then he invented a new rule: the maximum number of hours, approximately half of what was necessary for the whole document.

I had two options:

1) stop immediately. I was afraid of not being paid at all;

or 2) finish "with style"
and be sure to be paid at least half of the due price.

I finally chose sol 2, and to invoice only half of the due price to have a chance to be a little paid.
I sent my invoice, and then received a PO, stating (now) the maximum number of hours by written.

Another part of the game was to guess whether the company / the project was Argentina based or France based.

This was a very bad experience for me.

How do you solve the problem of estimating the # of hours of the proofreading when you quote, not when you've done the job?

Thanks for your suggestions

Have a nice week-end Madeleine


 

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:37
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@james Sep 4, 2015

James Sutherland wrote:

Do you have any information about the translator's knowledge? The first insertion would worry me - is there anything in the later text which refers to oral antihistamines as opposed to topical ones?

The last one, though, suggests the English version came from someone who knows a lot more neurophysiology than they do English (possibly the author of the original French text?). The last bit is right, by the way: dorsal root ganglia are indeed part of the nociceptive process.

My take? The medical content is fine (for medical information, they'll make very sure of that - probably by getting a medical expert in the field to do the initial translation), they just need help with the English. As long as you've made it clear that you're proof reading the English not the information itself (and it seems you have made that clear to the agency) you should be fine.


I know nothing about the translator, but my suspicion is that it's either the original author or a friend of.

Whilst I have no particular reason to doubt the medical accuracy, I feel at unease not being able/having the time to make sure.

I think my only option will be as you say, to do what I can but make it clear that there are limits on what I've been able to do.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:37
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Why do you even need to put a comment? Sep 4, 2015

Elizabeth Joy Pitt de Morales wrote:

I'd correct for grammar and style, then mark anything not in the original with a comment saying "not in original text", just as I would insert (minor) missing text and then mark it with a comment saying "original text missing from translation".

This way, you inform the client of the differences between the source and target texts while allowing him the option to retain or remove them.


Isn't it your job to delete any information that is not found in the source text and add information that is missing in the target language text? When you delete or add anything the client will be able to see it with Track changes markings. Why do you even need to put a comment?


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:37
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Unedited fuzzy matches, perhaps? Sep 4, 2015

Wendy Leech wrote:
On the one hand, the translation contains several grammatical and stylistic errors, which I am correcting as standard. On the other hand, the translation is incredibly free, and in many instances contains additional information.


In the examples you mention, my inclination would be to assume that those are unedited fuzzy matches, i.e. that the translator got from a TM and neglected to fix properly.

I hear what you're saying about additional information, and having to research it, but if I'm the translator and I want to add additional information, I usually leave a comment to explain why, because I know that two proofreaders will come after me, and delete my carefully crafted addition unless I protect it with a comment. If I were to get a translation such as yours (to proofread), without any comments from the translator, then I would aggressively fix it back. What you can also do is to write comments whenever these additions occur and you suspect it's actually not an unedited fuzzy match but a deliberate alteration by the translator.


 

TechStyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:37
Bad clients, bad English Sep 4, 2015

@Madeleine: That's a tough one. I suppose you might get a better "feel" for it in time, but presumably if the English had been better to begin with, you would have had an easier and faster job of it? Perhaps a fixed price would have been better, if they were amenable to it?

Quick tip on the technical side, by the way: rather than sending the corrected text, I think I would have sent a picture of the text as a PDF. (For example, if I were using Adobe software, I would 'outline' the text before sending.) On screen, it will look exactly the same to the recipient, so they can't complain (or indeed tell there is anything odd, unless they try to rip you off by using that file rather than paying you!) - but they can't edit it or cut and paste it anywhere, just read it. A minor safeguard, but it might help a bit in cases like that.

Then, of course, make sure not to take any work from them unless it's that or rattling a tin cup on the street for money!


@Wendy: I know it's a nasty feeling, but having confirmed you are only checking the English, try not to worry about it. I rather suspect it's fine anyway, but if it isn't, nobody will blame you for it.

This reminded me of my mother's tale some years ago (she used to be a German-English translator) helping in someone's university exam (the candidate had injured his hand, I think, so couldn't write for himself). Being an exam, of course, not everything he said was right - but she had to write it all down verbatim, errors and all, being very careful not to show whenever he made a mistake. Put on your best poker face!


 

Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:37
French to English
Subject of thread Sep 4, 2015

jyuan_us wrote:

Isn't it your job to delete any information that is not found in the source text


That is essentially the crux of the question this thread, given the specific nature of the extra information in this case , i.e. it seems highly relevant, added by someone who knows the field, and is almost certainly of benefit to the reader.

In other words, is your point above some kind of golden rule to be blindly followed 100% of the time regardless of the circumstances, or are their cases where that "rule" might not apply, and if so, is this one such? FWIW, I think it probably is.

In this case, I'd highlight it as "not in the source" but leave it.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I'd do as the agency suggests: just correct the English Sep 4, 2015

Wendy Leech wrote:
I flagged this up briefly to the agency, who said just to correct the English and not remove the additions.

It sounds to me as though you should tell the agency that you'll perform monolingual proofreading on this file. Inform them that you're 'throwing away' the source text; you won't be referring to it at all. You'll simply be reading the target text, correcting any typos, spelling and punctuation errors, and tidying it up so that it's grammatical and flows well. Tell the agency that any text that you find to be ambiguous or too difficult to understand - because the English is flawed - will simply be flagged as such. You won't attempt to revise it through research or reference to the source. Of course, with your knowledge of medical matters, you'll also be able to flag anything that's grammatically OK but doesn't seem right - you just wouldn't have enough information available to enable you to actually 'correct' it.

It's the job I do very frequently: monolingual English revision of texts written or translated by non-native writers. Many of the ones I deal with don't have a 'source text' at all as the writer uses English as their working language and is fully conversant with the jargon while not having perfect command of the language in general. Although I wouldn't feel qualified to translate a French medical text, or check that its translation is 100% accurate, I do feel qualified to check any text for natural English - if, and only if, the terminology isn't in question - whatever the field. Of course, I dare say I'm not alone in being unable to function as a mind-readericon_smile.gif so the English has to be pretty good. I've had clients in the fields of modern art, genetics, religion, quantum mechanics etc. who've all been very happy. The subject area of that last one was particularly incomprehensible to me, but I can't say I really understood everything in the recent PhD paper on paratexts in translation eithericon_eek.gif. Thankfully, I can safely leave the understanding to the client. In this case, it seems that you can do the same, Wendy.


 

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:37
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Charlie has understood the point Sep 4, 2015

I would have been more than happy to proofread the English as a document in its own right; the issue comes when I am told to cross-check it against the source.

Charlie Bavington wrote:

In this case, I'd highlight it as "not in the source" but leave it.


My only issue with that is the number of instances. And, this being a per-word rate job and not an hourly job (I know - not the ideal situation!), I feel that a blanket comment/waiver when I deliver the job may be sufficient. Then, if the client wants more information, I can negotiate an extension whereby I flag up every occurrence.


 

Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:37
French to English
For speed Sep 4, 2015

Wendy Leech wrote:

I would have been more than happy to proofread the English as a document in its own right; the issue comes when I am told to cross-check it against the source.

Charlie Bavington wrote:

In this case, I'd highlight it as "not in the source" but leave it.


My only issue with that is the number of instances. And, this being a per-word rate job and not an hourly job (I know - not the ideal situation!), I feel that a blanket comment/waiver when I deliver the job may be sufficient. Then, if the client wants more information, I can negotiate an extension whereby I flag up every occurrence.


Ah, I see, well, perhaps a short-cut might be in order, if adding a comment box every time is likely to take ages. Maybe just highlight the extra in green or whatever colour you like (!), don't add a comment per occurrence in the document, but just say "target text highlighted in green means text not in source" in the covering letter. That assumes it's a Word document - I appreciate the situation might be different and impractical otherwise. And if you'll end up highlighting almost every sentence, then yes, a blanket comment might have to suffice, if you feel highlighting ends up hindering not helping.


 
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