It takes Two to Translate

One translation, two people working on it: the translator and the proofreader. The translator actually translates the source text, it is quite straightforward. To many people the role of a proofreader is rather vague. What do proofreaders actually do? What is their role? Why are they needed? Are the translators not good enough that proofreaders are required? Are they just there to judge the translator? Are they friends or foes? Let’s break down the translator-proofreader relationship.

In an ideal world

From a translator’s perspective: a proofreader is the person that reads the target text and makes sure there are no terminology inconsistencies throughout the translation, checks if the text flows naturally in the target language, checks the spelling and grammar to catch any misspelled words the translator overlooked, checks that no mistranslations are present, no parts have been left untranslated or missing from the target text and generally ensures that there are no problems with the text. Basically, a proofreader is one of the two-member team that will produce a great translation. The more experienced a translator is, the easier the proofreader’s work becomes.

From a proofreader’s perspective: A translator is only human and mistakes might be made. A proofreader does not spend so much time on the source text as the translator has, but focuses mostly on the target text, having the source as reference. A proofreader has a clear view of the target text, a fresher eye and can easier spot any issues. A proofreader should have the courtesy to show respect to the translator’s work and realize that if there are inconsistencies, if there are any, it is the proofreader’s responsibility to correct them. A proofreader is there to help the translator in order both of them to create a fantastic end-product. The more experienced a proofreader is, the better the end product becomes.

In reality

From a translator’s perspective: A proofreader is a person with the power to have an opinion on the translator’s work, a person that corrects what the translator missed, reminds to the world that translators are not machines. Some translators love their proofreaders, some others dislike them. Some proofreaders are actually doing what their title implies and all goes well. Some others tend to exaggerate on the issues spotted and try to convince the client that the translator used is bad, inexperienced or unprofessional. (Let’s make one thing clear here: There are no bad translators. There are experienced and inexperienced ones. A proofreader should be more experienced than the translator in order to be able to fulfill the role). So, why the drama of the bad and good translator? Why? Because translators are paid more than proofreaders and proofreaders do not like this! If they convince a client that the translator is a bad one, they may get the translation project next time!

From a proofreader’s perspective: A proofreader needs to clean up after the translator. Some proofreaders love their translators, some others dislike them. When correcting a final product of an inexperienced translator, they end up doing more work than they were supposed to. It can cause frustration and the project becomes a nightmare. In fact, sometimes they have to retranslate parts of the translation provided in order to satisfy the customer’s needs and at the same time avoiding a project marking their name with a black spot.  A proofreader is there to fine-tune the text. A proofreader is given the power to judge the translator’s work, to provide feedback if the translator is bad or good. Taking advantage of this god-like power, they get carried away and sometimes give unfair feedback. And because translators are paid more, proofreaders may over-rate the corrections to a client and hope that next time they will be picked to play the role of translators.

A suggestion

Why don’t the translator and the proofreader stop playing Cowboys and Indians in the playground? You are missing the point, people! Why don’t just stop throwing stones at each other and instead invest this energy on producing a perfect translation, on working as a team to create a masterpiece? I mean, all translators have played the role of the proofreader and proofreaders have played the role of the translator. There is plenty of work out there for everyone, so I reckon, lay down your weapons and just peacefully work together to paint a hauntingly beautiful translation: loved by your client (spared from being in the middle of your little war and does not have to be a witness of the crossfire of your unnecessary word-exchange), and enjoyed by the general public!

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