What if your proofreader/editor is not a native speaker?
Thread poster: Mia Liou

Mia Liou  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:14
Member (2011)
English to Chinese
Apr 26, 2018

Dear linguists,

Recently I received a quality complaint. Two days later a client of mine reached me to seek my opinion about a quality complaint they received. I reviewed the translation in question but it looks pretty good. Turned out these 2 instances has the same model. Our ZHTW translation was proofread my ZHCN speakers.

Today, when I received a request to update the glossary to use ZHCN terminology in ZHTW documents that will be read in TW market, I think I need some opinions to clear my head and decide what I should respond to this already existed trend.

From my experience working in LSPs, we don't use non-native speakers on all TEP stages. So I'm pretty confused about how would this happen. In one hand, my duty is to provide a understandable content to the designed audiences, apart from my responsibility to protect the authenticity and integrity of my language. But in other hand, the paying customer have the right to choose their preferred way to display their image.

I work for larger LSPs. And those requests usually came from the end clients. So I understand that my clients' hands are tied as well. Does anyone have similar experience? Is "suck it, use those foreign wording because they are paying" an acceptable attitude for a translator? I'm really struggling.


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:14
Chinese to English
It's worth trying a bit of customer education Apr 27, 2018

It's time-consuming, but it's worth writing one email briefly and clearly explaining the situation. You can send it to the LSP and ask them to forward it to the customer. Just saying:

Dear customer,

I'm not sure if you're aware, but Taiwanese Chinese and mainland Chinese are rather different. They use different writing systems, but the languages are also different in a number of areas. These differences are larger than between American and British English. For example, the words for software are different in the two countries. If you want effective localisation in Taiwan, I recommend that you use a purely Taiwanese translation process...

They might not want it - it's an extra expense for them. And then you'll have to decide if it's worth it for you to keep working on the project. But sending the email might create a bit of clarity about what they want, at least.


David Lin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:14
Member (2013)
English to Chinese
+ ...

consequence of adverse effects in communication Apr 28, 2018

The fact that many terms and sentence structures in ZHCN are not understandable or extremely awkward for ZHTW audience. It will not only be a matter of ineffective communication but also inaccuracy which could result in huge misunderstanding or even straight rejection of the message, regardless of image of text, by the target audience in Taiwan market. I think you should stress this point to end client via LSP.

It is also unprofessional to mix ZHCN with ZHTW because the latter audience will definitely consider ZHCN message so alien that will cause the end client lose its target audience almost instantly. If this is what they want, it's their choice. But if they insist, you should perhaps consider to excuse yourself from the project saying that this is an unprofessional conduct which is hardly acceptable by any responsible translators.

I've experienced ZHCN proofreader reviewing my ZHHK legal translation from English. I challenged all the wrong legal terms suggested by ZHCN that could not be applicable in the ZHHK context which is predominantly British tradition legal terms. On each objection I quoted from legal dictionaries. In the end the proofreader accepted my challenge. This of course was easier to handle, because it was legal translation. In marketing translation, it could be harder, but I managed to use examples available on the Internet to challenge awkward and inaccurate ZHCN reviews for ZHHK audiences.

So, I recommend you uphold your linguistic and marketing principles, not to mention professional principles.

Good luck!


Mia Liou  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:14
Member (2011)
English to Chinese
Very helpful Apr 30, 2018

Thank you for such valuable insight. Your opinions help a lot.

To Phil Hand,
I agree with the customer education approach. It has been my first step when encounter this kind of situation. (And you're so kind that even showed me a sample to do it.icon_biggrin.gif Thank you!!) Luckily for me, it went pretty well with LSPs. I think people in language industry would recognize the differences. However in recent instances, seems the editors/proofreaders came from the in-house language team of the end customer. For example, the Chinese office of some international cooperation. That's why I said I think they have the ultimate right to select the wording they prefer.

Your sample reminds me that I've never tried to discuss about "how to communicate with the end customers" with my LSP clients. I only told them my observation, and let them do the rest. I should at least try it.

To David Lin,
Thank you for your experience and recommendation. "Losing the target audience" is a good point that I haven't thought of. It's much more practical and effective than arguing on terminology or structure. I will include it into my next communication.

I used to walk away from projects with such request after the communication fails. But recently one of my LSP clients told me "we should make customer happy" so I started to rethink about my working attitude and wonder if I was being immature.icon_confused.gif

Maybe I knew what I should do but these days it happens very frequently so I got lost a little bit. I'm so happy to hear your precious words that get me back on track and help me do better on communication in the future.icon_smile.gif


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