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Sunday, December 21, 2008

To Edit or not to Edit

All knowledgeable translation buyers and most translators agree that editing by someone other than the translator is essential to ensure the quality of a translation. However, most translators are reluctant, and some outright refuse, to accept editing jobs.

Should a translator agree to edit a colleague's work and, if so, under what conditions?

Some translation buyers will have a translation done by the cheapest available translator, or even by free machine translation, and then expect a competent human translator to clean up the resulting mess. If the client can find a human translator for such an editing job, it usually turns out to need a complete re-write, taking more time and effort than doing the translation from scratch. Needless to say that I, for one, refuse to accept such "editing" jobs or quote a price to reflect the aggravation and the time I expect to need, including for providing a report about the original translation if requested.

On the other extreme is a competent translation, which is given out for editing to fix a few typos, minor omissions, and, if possible, to improve the overall style of the text. I like such jobs because they give me insight into a colleague's thought process and often teach me creative solutions to difficult translation problems I wouldn't have thought of myself. Editing a competent translator's work is a pleasure and can be an educational experience.

Because of such extremes, I never accept to edit an unknown translator's work before seeing the original source-language text and its translation in order to locate it on the continuum between those extremes. When editing the work of one of the regular translators of our company, I already know what type of mistakes that particular translator tends to make (and we all make mistakes) and revise his or her work accordingly.

It's a good practice for the editor to discuss specific problems with the translator. For this reason, when our company has both translation and editing done by outside contractors, we encourage them to discuss specific problems between themselves, just as we discuss them with our translator when we do the editing in-house. Communication between translator and editor results in a better translation and in a higher level of satisfaction of translator and editor, who both feel that they have contributed to the excellence of the final product.

8 Comments:

Blogger Alejandro Moreno-Ramos said...

I refuse too to accept 'editing jobs'. I prefer to focus on pure translation.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Lusitania said...

Hello, dear colleague. I quite enjoyed reading through your blog. My feelings are exactly the same, regarding edition AND proofreading. The thing is that there are bad translators and all of us think we're better than the next one. All of us who consider ourselves translators forget that we also learn from each other and that we too make mistakes, ignoring the main ethics which is to be humble and to always remember our role. I usually say that there's no bigger critic to a translator's job than another translator...

1:08 PM  
Blogger kalim said...

<bL it is very interesting web site.i really enjoyed to read it.

9:25 AM  
Blogger rosemary said...

I love editing. I have been translating for 36 years, and by now I should know a thing or two. I have my hourly rate, and usually don't bend. If a client (agency) wants me to edit, I am happy to do that work for them as long as they pay what I charge. I can usually improve a translation a little or a lot, and find the work very interesting. BUt it's probably not everyone's cup of tea.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I completely agree that there should be a dialogue between the translator and the editor. I'm working for a new company, and have been hired specifically because the documents are of sensitive nature, and they want a final opinion as a) an editor and b) a native-speaker looking at these documents with no knowledge of the first language.

I sent my comments back to the translator. All of the comments were clarifying the original text OR the changes I had made to verify they were true to the original meaning. The translator wrote me back, claiming that a translator remains loyal to the meaning. The thing is...the meaning was confusing in English. I was totally surprised, as I was looking forward to the start of a collaborative effort, especially as we'll be working on numerous documents together. Talked to some other editors, and they rolled their eyes, claiming that translators are always this way. I've not experienced this before, and want to get a translators opinion.

Anyone want to venture a solution, or a possible reflection on the conflict that you've experienced in the past? I know that I would most sincerely appreciate any insight.

10:04 AM  
Blogger translationtrudy2011 said...

Any form of translation service must go through edit phase. Without this phase the quality could never be guaranteed.

7:31 AM  
Blogger SJR said...

In one of my language combinations, speakers of the source language often claim bilingual ability and so are assigned projects in my language combination. I find it irksome to then be asked to correct jobs that other translators should not have taken on in the first place.

With regard to being asked to post-edit machine translation, this is something I would NEVER agree to do. Replacing our position with machines and then utilising our skills at half the rate to correct the machine's mistakes is something I believe undermines our entire profession.

4:16 PM  
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9:36 PM  

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