It’s a fine line

It’s a fine line between proofreading and re-translating a text. Some may think they are the same, but in fact, they are two different things. A proofreader does not re-translate the text, his job is quite different from that. Four eyes are better than two and two brains are better than one. Proofreading is ensuring the job is done well.

Identifying errors

The first part of the job is to review the translated text and identify possible errors. These can be simple typos or serious grammar flaws. But we don’t correct them, we don’t change the original translation. Our job is to identify these issues and point them out to the client. We leave our comments explaining to the client why we believe that sentence or paragraph should be changed and suggest the possible solution. We don’t change it, we don’t own that translation, the colleague who had done it does and they have the right to respond to our comments. It is a fine line, since we also end up translating it, or re-translating it if you like, but our solution is not final, even our Code of Ethics sets that.

The translator’s response

The document is then given to the translator, who will read our comments and respond accordingly. Most times, it may just be a typo that flew under the radar during their own review. It happens to us all. It does not mean that the translator is not professional or less competent, it just means they’re human. So, if it’s just a typo he may accept the comment and correct the error. But sometimes it may be a grammar issue, localisation issue or simply a style issue and that may lead to discussion. The translator may not agree with the suggestion and it comes back to us for comment. Usually, if it’s simply a style issue, the proofreader will agree and the matter is solved. When it’s localisation or grammar issues may be more complex. You may need to quote your dictionary or grammar to prove your point. But in the end, a resolution must be achieved and the problem must be solved. The proofreader has a consultative role in the process, he does not decide.

For the client

This is a very important process for the client. The majority of our clients do not speak our target language, therefore they have no way of evaluating the quality and accuracy of that job. Having a second person looking for errors will ensure the final document is accurately translated and error-free. Plus, we are all humans, and we all make mistakes, so if we have a second professional looking at the document it will be a way of assuring it is done properly. The purpose of proofreading is not pointing fingers. The proofreader is usually a translator and he will certainly have his jobs proofread as well. The purpose of proofreading is to achieve a better outcome for the client.

Sometimes it’s hard for the client to understand why we made certain comments, especially if it’s a localisation issue. It is our job to explain why is it relevant to the quality of the document and what type of problems it may bring if it’s published or used that way. It is a communication job between the proofreader, the translator and the client, and although the proofreader suggests a new translation, he does not re-translate, it is a fine line, but one we cannot cross.

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