PROOFREADING IS WHAT MAKES THE QUALITY OF A TRANSLATION
When a customer commissions a translation from a translation agency, proofreading by a second language professional is most often included in the price. This stage, depending somewhat on the contents, is referred to as proofreading, language planning, copy editing, linguistic or text checking, editing or revising.
What kind of value does this second stage add to a translation? How does a text edited by a language professional differ from one proofread by someone who just speaks the language?
Why translations should be proofread by a professional?
Sometimes people ask: Why is a separate proofreading stage necessary at all? Do the agency’s translators do their job so poorly that the results of their work have to be checked?
This is not the case at all. Rather, it was noticed that proofreading by another professional adds to the overall quality of a translation. Therefore, it has been a standard in the industry ever since. Naturally, translators proofread their own work themselves. However, the end result is even better if another language professional proofreads the text from their own point of view with fresh eyes. It is only too easy to become blind to your own mistakes, which are otherwise so clearly visible to another pair of eyes.
Including a revision stage in the translation process enhances the quality of translation even further. The quality of texts provided by translators improves if they receive feedback regarding their work. Obviously, this requires a workflow in which the proofread text with proposed changes is returned to the translator who then reviews and approves the changes. This is the standard workflow in the translation agency Translatum.
Especially when translating texts in specialty fields, it is important for the translator to be familiar with the field and its terms. Many technical translators are indeed specialized in translating texts from specific disciplines.
In terms of timing, it makes sense for the translator to be able to focus on conveying the meaning. Then another professional takes care of the style and clarity of expression in a separate revision stage. Naturally, translators themselves are language professionals. Yet, at times it just doesn’t make sense for them to spend a lot of time polishing things that clearly fall into a proofreader’s domain.
Bilingual content management
Proofreading a translation differs slightly from proofreading a text written directly in the target language. This stage at the translation agency Translatum is performed, whenever possible, as comparative proofreading. This means that the translation is set against the source text and, when necessary, its accuracy is corrected.
Research has shown, maybe a bit surprisingly, that comparative proofreading improves a text’s readability as well as grammatical correctness to a greater degree than proofreading relying exclusively on the translation. One reason behind this might be the fact that if a proofreader comes across an unclear expression, they find it easier to suggest a correction if their interpretation is supported by the source text. However, this requires language skills and understanding of the source text from the proofreader.
Nowadays, technical translations are performed almost exclusively with the aid of translation tools. Comparative proofreading is often done using translation software itself. At times a bilingual Word document file exported from the translation software is used. The layout of such document may considerably differ from that of the source text. In any case, some training is indispensable before one becomes fluent in reading and editing text segmented by translation software.
Efficiency resulting from professionalism
If an experienced professional does the proofreading, it goes without saying that the quality of the text will improve. A professional proofreader knows the routines and essentials of language checking like the back of their hand. Moreover, in cases where storing such information in long term memory would be unnecessary, they know reliable sources of information concerning correct language use.
The proofreader who knows their role refrains from introducing superfluous changes to the text. Introducing changes that are clearly a question of taste would mean waste of time both during proofreading and the translator’s revision stage. On the other hand, changes based on outdated or wrong information make the end result significantly worse. In the best case, they take unnecessarily long to correct during the revision stage, as the translator will have to evaluate their relevance.
Proofreading requires extensive expertise
As translators are language professionals, it may be enough to merely correct spelling and language use during the proofreading stage. Nevertheless, it is often advantageous if special attention can be paid to the text’s general understandability, fluency and readability in the proofreading stage.
Sometimes a free translation is commissioned, where the text’s fluency is a priority, and, where necessary, the translation diverges from the source text significantly. In such cases, we speak of copy editing, rather than regular translation. It requires modifying the text according to its objectives, remarkable vocabulary skills, great style and linguistic creativity – qualities one can expect exclusively from an experienced, linguistically conscious and skilled language professional.
Customer as content expert
Proofreading translations was described above with regard to language use and text checking. When it comes to the contents of translated texts, customers themselves are the ultimate experts.
It has been found that – in terms of the end results – the most efficient workflow is one which includes the customer’s representative proofreading the contents of the otherwise completed translation. In this expert proofreading, the focus is on making sure that the technical terms used are precisely the ones that are usually used by the customer. After this checking stage, the text returns to the translation agency so that the translator gains insight into the corrections made and the customer-specific translation memory can be updated.
It is also beneficial if the customer can be consulted already during the translation stage and answer questions sent by the translator. These standards also contribute to the quality of future translations, as each translation expands the translation memory and term base.