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Translator-proofreader relationship: Is anonymity the industry standard?
Thread poster: Lancashireman

Lancashireman  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:57
German to English
Dec 20, 2018

A regular client (agency) who does not himself work in English offered me a job which I turned down, mainly because of the volume. The end client has specified that the job should be proofed, and I have agreed to do this. The agency is keen to put the translator in direct contact with me. My natural inclination is that the process should be kept anonymous.
Which of these two different approaches is standard in the industry? Are there any obvious drawbacks that I should alert the agency to?


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 04:57
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
No Dec 20, 2018

It happens, and it happens often, but by no means is it an industry standard.

I work on an ongoing project for one of my earliest clients, and I've had the same reviewer for years now (an in-house person). Sometimes they communicate with me directly if there is something that they feel I should know. In other cases I don't communicate directly with the proofreader (or the translator, if I'm in a proofreading role), but we're in the same email loop and we have the option to communica
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It happens, and it happens often, but by no means is it an industry standard.

I work on an ongoing project for one of my earliest clients, and I've had the same reviewer for years now (an in-house person). Sometimes they communicate with me directly if there is something that they feel I should know. In other cases I don't communicate directly with the proofreader (or the translator, if I'm in a proofreading role), but we're in the same email loop and we have the option to communicate with each other if we choose to.

One obvious drawback is that you may be less willing to be scathing about the translator if you are in direct communication and not anonymous. I certainly have experienced this. I think it depends on the nature of the project and if the other party is someone you respect as competent.

[Edited at 2018-12-20 14:04 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-12-21 04:09 GMT]
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Christine Andersen
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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:57
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Confidentiality, not anonymity Dec 20, 2018

Lancashireman wrote:
The agency is keen to put the translator in direct contact with me. My natural inclination is that the process should be kept anonymous.


There is nothing to be gained by keeping the identity of the proofreader from the translator (or vice versa) and/or prohibiting contact between the two. In fact, contact and/or knowledge of the other party's identity usually results in an improved product. The only danger that I can think of is that if the translator is known to the proofreader as a good translator by reputation, that the proofreader may be inclined to proofread the text less diligently due to the expectation that the translation will be good anyway.

Some clients/agencies do consider it bad form for a language practitioner to contact other parties without the consent or knowledge of the project manager, but it is by no means a universal attitude.

Also, perhaps you are confusing anonymity with confidentiality.

Lincoln Hui wrote:
One obvious drawback is that you may be less willing to be scathing about the translator if you are in direct communication and not anonymous. I certainly have experienced this.


So have I. What sometimes happens in such a situation is that when the proofreader spots a particularly bad blunder by the translator, he might downplay the importance of the error when pointing it out to the client, and write a private message to the translator to reprimand him privately. This sort of collegiality is appreciated (though sadly, some colleagues lack circumspection).



[Edited at 2018-12-20 14:24 GMT]


Christine Andersen
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Lancashireman  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:57
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Me, confused? Dec 20, 2018

"perhaps you are confusing anonymity with confidentiality"
I've just checked these two very hard nouns in the dictionary, Samuel, and no I'm not.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:57
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Lancashireman Dec 20, 2018

Lancashireman wrote:
Samuel wrote:
Perhaps you are confusing anonymity with confidentiality.

I've just checked these two very hard nouns in the dictionary, Samuel, and no I'm not.

Okay, no problem.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:57
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
There are advantages both ways Dec 20, 2018

It will always depend on the type of text, the subject area, the skills and native languages of the people involved... There can be no fixed rule.

If you are going to be critical, and don't have time for a discussion, then anonymity is best. You proofread the text, and ideally the translator has a final say, but accepts your excellent suggestions, and an improved text is delivered to the client.

This forum is full of furious translators who, rightly or wrongly, feel th
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It will always depend on the type of text, the subject area, the skills and native languages of the people involved... There can be no fixed rule.

If you are going to be critical, and don't have time for a discussion, then anonymity is best. You proofread the text, and ideally the translator has a final say, but accepts your excellent suggestions, and an improved text is delivered to the client.

This forum is full of furious translators who, rightly or wrongly, feel their text has been ruined by an anonymous person who thinks they can proofread/review/edit… (Been there, done both myself!!)
As the proofreader/editor you have to take care only to make necessary changes. I find, when time is short, it is all too easy to "play safe", instead of checking whether the translator has carefully found something I didn't know about. That is when it is good to contact the translator, and get an explanation instead of assuming there is an error!

As the translator, you have to be able to accept a suggestion for improvement without taking it as a deadly insult. Accept that nobody's perfect, correct your typos and move on! You also have to have the self confidence to insist, when you HAVE sat for hours over two sentences, that your final choice is the best solution, and reject a change, but don't reject all changes as a matter of principle!

As a proofreader at the start of my career, I was the native speaker of English who had not seen the source text. I checked through translations by Danish colleagues who were subject specialists, and I then had to call them and discuss the changes I suggested. This was an extremely useful process for me, and as I learned more, I think the benefits began to go both ways. I had a very good arrangement like that with a Danish colleague living in the UK - we discussed all sorts of things besides direct proofreading. (She retired a few years ago.)

If it works well, a translator and reviser/editor relationship between colleagues who know each other can benefit both far more than an anonymous arrangement. Some alternate between the roles, depending on language pairs and subject fields.

But it is up to you to decide in each situation.
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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 21:57
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
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Standard? Dec 20, 2018

I have no idea what is the standard or even if there is one. A small number of my customers (direct clients and translation agencies) ask for a ready-to-print service, so these texts are reviewed in-house and we are obviously in direct contact. For most of my customers I ignore if my work is proofread, reviewed or edited or not, with three exceptions and in these cases I know who the proofreader/reviewer/editor is and we exchange views quite often. I must say also that I respect their work and t... See more
I have no idea what is the standard or even if there is one. A small number of my customers (direct clients and translation agencies) ask for a ready-to-print service, so these texts are reviewed in-house and we are obviously in direct contact. For most of my customers I ignore if my work is proofread, reviewed or edited or not, with three exceptions and in these cases I know who the proofreader/reviewer/editor is and we exchange views quite often. I must say also that I respect their work and they respect mine and I have never ever had a problem with any of them…Collapse


123Translations
 

Lancashireman  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:57
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Clarification Dec 20, 2018

This is not about in-house proofing. When I submit translations to other clients, I generally deal directly with the named project manager. This particular agency is a one-man operation, as far as I can tell. The case in point is a one-off invitation to me, just another name on his books.

 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 22:57
English to Italian
+ ...
Stay blind Dec 20, 2018

There are no standards.

In my experience it works MUCH better if you stay double-blind and all exchanges are done via the client.

Of course, they are always in a hurry so they prefer direct exchanges between translator and proofreader, thus screwing up the whole operation.


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 04:57
Member
Chinese to English
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Quite the opposite Dec 20, 2018

Samuel Murray wrote:


So have I. What sometimes happens in such a situation is that when the proofreader spots a particularly bad blunder by the translator, he might downplay the importance of the error when pointing it out to the client, and write a private message to the translator to reprimand him privately. This sort of collegiality is appreciated (though sadly, some colleagues lack circumspection).



[Edited at 2018-12-20 14:24 GMT]

No, I cut the translator out of the loop and tell only the client. A common issue in my language pair is that a Simplified Chinese translator who doesn't know Traditional Chinese claims a job, runs Simplified > Traditional conversion on it, then tries to pass it off as Traditional Chinese without checking for artifacts. These are very easy to tell, and I will tell the client if they ask.

Other times, the translator doesn't even bother to do the Simplified to Traditional conversion, and in such cases I immediately tell the client.

In neither cases do I bother with communicating with the translator. I'm not interested in trying convince someone who knew full well what they were doing.

I communicate with the translator only if I think they're essentially competent. If I see egregious errors, I tell the client not to use them again.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:57
Member (2007)
English
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Maybe ask to see the first translation before your details are shared? Dec 20, 2018

Lincoln Hui wrote:
I communicate with the translator only if I think they're essentially competent. If I see egregious errors, I tell the client not to use them again.

I think it is easier to respond truthfully to a dire translation if you can do it in direct 1-to-1 communication with the client rather than revealing your thoughts to the translator. But if you're happy with the translator's skill on the whole then it can be a quicker and more satisfactory process if you can communicate directly when necessary.

I don't often do bilingual proofreading but I do revise English target texts and ESL original texts. I find that it can be very useful to deal with the writer in a long-term relationship as you get to know each other's style. I have one ESL translator client who writes near-perfect English, and she sometimes leaves comments for me either querying something she's written or justifying her wording when she knows it's likely to raise red flags. In return, if I see a repeated error, rather than just correcting it I'll leave a short message so she can learn. I've been through the same process even with native speakers.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:57
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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@Lincoln, so not quite the opposite Dec 20, 2018

Lincoln Hui wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
What sometimes happens in such a situation is that when the proofreader spots a particularly bad blunder by the translator, he might downplay the importance of the error when pointing it out to the client, and write a private message to the translator to reprimand him privately.

Quite the opposite. A common issue in my language pair is [example of utter incompetence or gross imprecision]. [In such a case,] I cut the translator out of the loop and tell only the client.

I communicate with the translator only if I think they're essentially competent. If I see egregious errors, I tell the client not to use them again.

Same here.


[Edited at 2018-12-20 15:15 GMT]


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:57
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
In a one-off situation I might prefer anonymity Dec 20, 2018

I sometimes work for a client who actually runs an anonymous 'peer review' service.
He finds a translator whom he considers suitable for the job, and a reviewer. Neither knows who the other is, and for a quick turnaround, it can be very helpful. Reviewing is also a way of learning from others if they are good at their job - I have picked up some neat solutions that way!

I normally work for agencies who arrange for any proofreading, and only occasionally send me queries, but I
... See more
I sometimes work for a client who actually runs an anonymous 'peer review' service.
He finds a translator whom he considers suitable for the job, and a reviewer. Neither knows who the other is, and for a quick turnaround, it can be very helpful. Reviewing is also a way of learning from others if they are good at their job - I have picked up some neat solutions that way!

I normally work for agencies who arrange for any proofreading, and only occasionally send me queries, but I have once or twice been very glad of the anonymous peer review service, when I was uncertain about terminology in a translation (and delighted to be reassured by the reviewer and the end client).

The process is 'quick and clean', provided no major disagreements arise.
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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:57
Member
English to Italian
Based on scenario Dec 20, 2018

I basically agree with Lincoln's "it depends on the nature of the project", such as whether it's proofreading or revision, number of translators involved, need of harmonization, if it's systematic or occasional (i.e. spot-checks), etc.

Two extremes: spot-checks carried out to ensure the overall quality levels meet certain standards over time and across the translators pool versus full project revision of multiple translators' work to ensure it is always up to spec, consistent, follo
... See more
I basically agree with Lincoln's "it depends on the nature of the project", such as whether it's proofreading or revision, number of translators involved, need of harmonization, if it's systematic or occasional (i.e. spot-checks), etc.

Two extremes: spot-checks carried out to ensure the overall quality levels meet certain standards over time and across the translators pool versus full project revision of multiple translators' work to ensure it is always up to spec, consistent, follows style guides, etc.

In the first case, it would be advisable if proofreader/reviser's and translator's identities remained mutually anonymous, to guarantee impartiality and an unbiased evaluation, while in the second case, the most important thing is that translator(s) and reviser(s) are allowed to communicate freely to coordinate work and iron out issues, queries, etc.
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Colleen Roach, PhD  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:57
Member (Mar 2019)
French to English
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Similar problems in journalism (reporter/editor) Dec 20, 2018

Christine Andersen: "This forum is full of furious translators who, rightly or wrongly, feel their text has been ruined by an anonymous person who thinks they can proofread/review/edit…

A while ago, I worked as a "stringer" (a regular freelancer) for a newspaper in the New York City region. Because newsrooms are very deadline driven, and they knew that freelancers were trying to put together a portfolio of good "clips" for full-time jobs, they had a "process" that was usually res
... See more
Christine Andersen: "This forum is full of furious translators who, rightly or wrongly, feel their text has been ruined by an anonymous person who thinks they can proofread/review/edit…

A while ago, I worked as a "stringer" (a regular freelancer) for a newspaper in the New York City region. Because newsrooms are very deadline driven, and they knew that freelancers were trying to put together a portfolio of good "clips" for full-time jobs, they had a "process" that was usually respected: 1) the journalist went out to cover a story; 2) he/she came back to the paper to write the story and give it to an editor; 3) the journalist then stayed around the newsroom waiting for the editor to send back the "final" version to look at before it was shipped off to run in the next day's paper. The main reason for this "process" was not the worry that an editor would change something and make a grammatical error, but that in the quick pace of the job an error of content would inadvertently be made by the harried editor. (They were always "harried"...). Or, let's say an editor edited "out" what the journalist felt was a key part of the story --you had the opportunity to argue your case. I never argued rules of grammar or word choice as the editors were skilled in their jobs.

One day a calamity occurred: in the freelance world you were always hoping a story with your byline would go on the front page of the local section "above the fold" -- as this was a good "clip." One day, I wrote my story and waited around for an editor to send it back to me with his/her revisions. This didn't happen as they were short of editors for the day, and this is what occurred: my story was postponed and they had an editor look at it on a day when I wasn't in the newsroom to see the revised version. The editor who looked at my story introduced a clear grammatical error into her "revisions" of my work -- and guess what? My work ran as an above-the-fold story on the first page of the local edition. My one-and-only chance at a page 1 story in 1 1/2 years at this job was, in effect, ruined. I was furious but there was nothing I could do. My story is by no means unique in the world of journalism.

If translators must have their work revised by error-prone proofreaders -- or if they are simply worried about this happening -- then preemptive measures should be taken. In contracts or written agreements between an agency and a translator, perhaps it should be clearly stated that the translator has the right to see the final "product" before it is sent off to the client.
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