3 Myths About Who Should Edit Your Translation

Some translation projects involve a lone translator, while others allow the translator to choose an editor. My own experience comes from working for direct clients, where I almost always choose an editor to work closely on my translation with me, or we switch roles and I’m the one who edits my colleague’s translation. Even if you don’t work for direct clients, it’s useful to be prepared to find the right collaborator when the time comes.

Some agencies will pay you a price that includes both translation and editing so you can hire your own editor. Although not all that common, this is not unheard of, so it’s good to be prepared.

Reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of your colleagues could also come in handy when choosing a practice partner. If you’re a beginner looking to hone your skills, it can be helpful to find a colleague to give you feedback (for more on this, see my past post Hone Your Craft Before You Sell—How I Would Have Practiced as a Newbie in Hindsight).

To really master the art of finding the right editor for each project, you’ll need to keep an open mind and break free from some common misconceptions you may have inherited from the way translators usually work with translation agencies.

Myth 1: Both the translator and the editor must be native speakers of the target language

Many in the translation industry believe that they should only translate into their native language. Others assert that they are competent to translate in both directions. Whatever one’s position on this debate, it seems to be predicated on the paradigm of working alone.

However, it’s only natural that a translator will excel when paired with an editor with complementary strengths and weaknesses. Sure, there are some projects where it makes sense to have two native speakers of the target language. But if you carefully consider each project, I believe you’ll find there are in fact some instances when you’d be better off pairing a native speaker of the source language and a native speaker of the target language.

I’m not saying that any old native speaker of the source language will do. I’m referring to someone who masters their source language (the project’s target language) at a high level. It’s commonly assumed that native speakers of the source language will stick close to the source and produce a translation that is not well adapted to the target language. However, I’ve found that the opposite can be true.

In fact, I’ve found that translations that stick close to the source are more likely to come from translators who are native speakers of the target language who are unable to fully comprehend the source. This sometimes leads them to translate word for word out of fear of getting the meaning wrong. On the other hand, native speakers of the source language tend to be well aware of the deeper meaning behind the source text and of subtleties that are difficult to translate. This allows them to explain the meaning and make pertinent suggestions to their colleague who is a native speaker of the target language.

I’ve also noticed that pairing a translator living in the target-language country with a translator in the source-language country can be of merit. In a certain sense, this bears similarities to the “native of source” and “native of target” pairing, as one colleague is more in tune with the source language and the other is more in tune with the target language. For practical reasons, it can also be helpful to have someone on the ground in the source-language country, where more of the demand tends to be. This person can help handle contact with the client in the source language.

Another factor that speaks in favor of working with a native speaker of the source language is when some specific combination of subject-matter expertise, text-type familiarity, and client-specific terminology is required. Sometimes you simply cannot find two native speakers of the target language with the right combination of skills, but adding a native speaker of the source language can be the missing puzzle piece.

Myth 2: The translator and editor should have similar expertise

Sometimes, translation projects are categorized in very broad terms, such as technical, medical, legal, financial, or marketing. These are five of the most common specializations, when looking at how translation agencies assign projects and how translators tend to position themselves. According to this logic, you just need to find two legal translators to work on a legal project or two marketing translators to work on a project loosely classified as marketing.

However, the reality is that many projects are far more complex if you dig deeper. A website about a technical product may require both someone with strong expertise related to that particular type of product and someone with a knack for web copy. Although clients may be able to find both of these skills in one person, that will not always be the case.

In fact, the search for the right subject-matter expertise is exactly the reason I sometimes hire a native speaker of the source language to edit my translations, and also why I recently tried being the native speaker of the source language for the first time.

One example of the former was a project involving HR materials where I teamed up with a native speaker of the source language who had worked in HR prior to becoming a translator. I didn’t know any native speakers of the target language who had worked in HR, and the greatest challenge of this project was making perfect sense of the rules specific to the source-language country.

In the project where I tried getting my feet wet as a native speaker of the source language, a regular client of mine needed a translation in the opposite direction and I was unable to find a native speaker with expertise in the subject matter. I was able to offer my knowledge of the client’s terminology and preferences along with the required subject-matter expertise and called upon a native speaker of the target language to help ensure everything was well formulated and readable.

Myth 3: The editor must have a background in translation

It’s also relatively standard that a translator is asked to edit another translator’s work. However, on some projects, I’ve found it effective to work with a copyeditor who is not a translator. They are usually especially good at suggesting improvements for flow and style and picking up on any traces of source-language interference in the target language wording.

I’ve worked quite a lot with an editor trained as a copyeditor and native in the target language but who still has a working knowledge of the source language. This person has more of a copyeditor’s approach than a translator’s but would still notice if I accidentally omitted something from the source language.

In other cases, it’s perfectly fine to work with a monolingual copyeditor. In these cases, I serve as the link between the source and target to make sure the editor doesn’t change the meaning. I’ve even experimented successfully with pairing a translator who’s a native speaker of the source language with a monolingual copyeditor who’s a native speaker of the target language to take it to the extreme.

In addition, there are professionals other than copyeditors whom you might want to review your translation. For example, some cases call for a true subject-matter expert, such as a practicing physician or attorney.

I hope these reflections have helped clear up some misconceptions and open your mind to new possibilities. Above all, think carefully about each project and keep in mind that the right combination benefits everyone. You’ll learn more from working with someone who has skills that complement your own than with someone who has similar strengths and weaknesses, and the final translation will be more effective and accurate.

What unorthodox combinations have you found to be successful? Let us know in the comments.

Image source: Pixabay

Book review: Revising and Editing for Translators

Reblogged from Amper Translation Service blog, with permission, incl. the image

Recently I came across a reference to a book on editing that caught my attention, partly because I hadn’t encountered many comprehensive guides on editing at that point and partly because this one was specifically aimed at translators. It turned out that the work had been around since 2001 and was now in its third edition (issued by Routledge in early 2014), so it was obviously popular and had been updated, too).

“Revising and Editing for Translators” is written by Brian Mossop, a Canadian who worked for the Canadian Government’s Translation Bureau for many years and now teaches editing/revision and translation at university level. The author’s considerable experience of revising translations and teaching students and teachers alike about revising and editing is reflected in the clear structure, real-life examples and broad scope of this work.

Routledge’s edition of the book is 244 pages long and divided into 14 chapters. These are followed by six appendices (e.g. on assessing quality and grading texts) and a list of bibliographical references and other books and articles for further reading, plus a helpful index. There are a number of practical exercises and tips for further reading at the end of each chapter, which relate to the subject matter covered. This way of presenting material makes the book suitable for self-study as well as classroom use.

What I like about this work is its clarity: the language the author uses is straightforward and lucid (not academic and dense), the chapters are structured well and he employs plenty of examples to make his points understood. He also illustrates different kinds of attitudes and approaches to editing/revising, i.e. proscriptive v. liberal, without dictating the stance the reader should actually take.

I also like the amount of differentiation Mossop uses, which makes it clear how many different levels there are to editing and how many factors play a role in the choices editors make (cf. chapter 2, “The work of an editor”, chapter 3, “Copyediting” and chapter 4, “Stylistic editing”, for example); basically, chapters 2 to 7 all make this point.

Chapter 8 is particularly interesting in my view as it’s concerned with software tools that editors and revisers can employ:

– internet searches to check terms and phraseology using search engines like Google
– looking for definitions of terms online
– using bilingual databases like Linguee and WeBiText and online translation-memory programs
– using editing features that word-processing programs offer (spelling and grammar checks, find & replace, displaying changes, adding reviewer’s comments, comparing different versions of documents, etc.)

Mossop also makes a clear (albeit personal) distinction between editing and revising at the beginning of the book and consequently divides the work into two sections on each area. Chapters 2 to 7 are on editing, while 9 to 14 are on revising. In a nutshell, he takes editing to mean “reading a text which is not a translation in order to spot problematic passages, and making any needed corrections or improvements” (p. 29). As for revising, he regards this as a task “in which [translators] find features of the draft translation that fall short of what is acceptable, as determined by some concept of quality” (p. 115).

In chapter 10, he discusses 12 parameters that play a role in revision, including accuracy, completeness, logic, facts, page layout and even typography (i.e. the use of bold, italicised or underlined text, capitalisation and colouring). Chapter 11 covers degrees of revision (from “intelligible” to “polished”), whether or not full or partial checks should be done and the risks inherent in spot checking. Chapter 12 is about the actual revision procedure (e.g. which steps to take and in which order) and what you can do about any unsolved issues.

There’s a lot more to the book than I can write about here. In short, I’d say it’s essential reading for any translator, not just for editors and copywriters, since every translator has to read their own work through and edit (or “revise”) it themselves before sending it off to the customer. I’m surprised I only discovered the book by chance, but that may be because it used to be published by a very small specialist publisher (St. Jerome Publishing); perhaps word will spread faster now that Routledge is backing it. (Click here for details about the book.)

Writing for the Web

By Helen Eby

Writing for the WebLast August, I went to New York City for the Editorial Freelancers Association Conference, and one of the topics was editing for the web. That topic is not only important to editors – it is also highly relevant to translators and many other professions. We write content every day, and we have to find ways to make our content stick out among the wealth of other content that appears online all the time. Here are some of the main points that I picked up from Erin Brenner’s presentation, Editing for the Web. I have also included information I learned in other workshops.

Readers are looking for what they need, right away! Therefore, we have to provide text that meets those needs and leads them toward meeting their goals efficiently.

Our goals are the same as always:

  • Give the audience information. They are trying to satisfy a need.
  • Make the audience comfortable. They won’t stay on a site that is not respectful and attractive!

However, writing online also comes with some limitations:

  • We read slower online.
  • 80% of readers’ time is spent before scrolling down on a page.
  • Readers generally spend no more than two minutes on a site.

How can we help our readers use their time advantageously? How can we make our message as clear and effective as possible? Erin focused on looking at our content from the point of view of the reader, not the author.

How should we format our material to engage our audience?

White space helps guide us to what is important. When a page is too cluttered, it becomes difficult to read, and people are likely to gloss over it. What tools can we use to organize our writing more effectively?

  • Specific, clear headings
  • Short paragraphs, and paragraphs of varying lengths
  • Tables
  • Bulleted lists
  • Block quotes
  • Bold and italics

It can often be helpful to take a look at the final online version and see how the text lines up there before an article is published.

Titles and Headings: Keep them clear

We need to make headlines and subheads specific and clear. The key words from the article should be in the title. Keep titles down to 50 characters or less, including spaces. Ask yourself: If I were searching for an article about this topic, what words would I use? Then, put those words together.

This helps in two ways:

  • Readers know what they are getting.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) can be improved.

Paragraphs: Break them up, keep them short

Online, it works better to write in short paragraphs. We need the white space, so find shifts to break up paragraphs. Write the most important information at the start of the paragraph, because people might skip the rest. Focus on uncluttering your text at all cost. When in doubt, just delete it. This is called Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF).

The following are some changes we would make in text for online media.

Print media example Online media version
A decision to buy. A buying decision.
The impact of the content. The content’s impact.
I am able to. I can.
Present progressive (I am coming). Present tense (I come).
Passive voice is OK for science texts. Lean towards the active voice.

Tables

As shown in the table above, we can use tables to highlight comparisons side by side. This can be much more effective than paragraphs or lists, since it puts information not just in a vertical organization (as in lists) or a linear organization (as in paragraphs) but in a two-dimensional format, making some information much clearer.

Bulleted Lists

You can use lists to make information clear and scannable. However, bear in mind the following:

  • Keep each item short.
  • Reserve numbered lists for sequential items. Otherwise, just use bullets.
  • Avoid embedding lists within lists, or items will seem off topic.

Block Quotes

When to use block quotes is determined differently online and in print. In print, we make a quote a block quote if it is more than 3 or 4 sentences long. However, when writing online, important quotes are always made block quotes. Also, examples are always block quotes.

Bold, Italic, and Underlining: How should we use them?

Use bold to emphasize:

  • Key words and key ideas
  • Introductions to the bullet list
  • New terms
  • Short examples

Be consistent about bold type. Do not overdo it. Beware of using color in bold because of people with visual impairments.

Italics are hard to read online. However, they are used instead of underlining. Do not underline! Online, underlining means links. Double underlining is a link to an advertisement.

What are the results?

As we engage our readers with clear, BLUF text, they will trust us to serve them again. That is what we want: to be able to continue a long conversation with our readers. After all, online interaction is a conversation they start and we respond to, serving them first and foremost. As I read in a shoe store bathroom wall this week:

A sale is nothing you pursue: it’s what happens to you while you are immersed in serving your customer.

Enjoy serving your readers!

For further reading:
Wikipedia’s Manual of Style
BuzzFeed Style Guide
Redish, Janice. Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content That Works, 2nd. Ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann, 2014. Print.

Header image credit: Picjumbo
Header image edited with Canva

Revision: a nlboe and etessanitl srcviee

ATA Conference session T-10, Saturday 10:00-11:00, Garden B

Revision a nlboe and etessanitl srcvieeIf you can read the intended title of this presentation, then you can understand that it is impossible to catch all our own mistakes. As translators, we become as close to the material as the author (some say closer). Our eyes begin to gloss over typos and errors as our brain becomes accustomed to them. This is why we catch new errors all the time, even after publication.

Every professional translation deserves to be checked by a second translator before delivery. This is called revision. Only an experienced translator can do this job. Teachers or Certification exam graders may seem suited to the work, but professional revision is not the same as grading papers or exams. Many “newbies” to the ATA Conference are in fact experienced translators, so they should be able to accept revision assignments and perform this critical service. Also, the principles of revision apply to our self-revision. Anything that can increase our effectiveness as revisers can increase the quality of our work and also the confidence that our clients have in us.

The presentation will define revision and contrast it with activities that look like it but are not (e.g. editing, copyediting, proofreading, grading, and evaluating). It will also include pointers on how to approach the revision task and how to price it.

Whether you have ever revised anyone else’s work or not, come to learn about this crucial activity and add it to the palette of services that you can offer your clients. Enjoy the bad puns and cartoons, too.

Header image credit: kaboompics

Author bio

Jonathan HineJonathan Hine, CT (I>E) translated his first book, a medical text, in 1962. Besides translating and revising, he conducts workshops throughout the U.S. He also writes self-help books and articles for freelancers, and a blog about working while traveling. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (B.Sc.), the University of Oklahoma (MPA) and the University of Virginia (Ph.D.), he belongs to several ATA divisions, the National Capital Area Chapter of ATA and the American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association (ATISA).

He also volunteers as an ATA mentor and a Certification Exam grader. Contact: mailto:hine@scriptorservices.com