Translation and proofreading

I often receive emails from readers asking me about translation and being a freelance translator. I thought that I would share some of them, along with my responses, as they might be of interest to other people. Antonia asked me the following:

I’m taking tests to start a translation course in Rennes and I’ve been asked to proofread a document. I know I’m meant to point out various types of problems including spelling mistakes and issues with layout and to check the general quality of the document. However, I’m not exactly sure how thorough I need to be. Should I rephrase badly turned sentences? Do I need to work line by line? In short, I’d like to know whether there are norms or guidelines to follow for proofreading.

Proofreading is a concept which can vary wildly from one client to the next, and so I advise you to get precise information about what you’re expected to do. In general, it is a finalisation process which eliminates the errors that have slipped through the net of earlier checks. The document has already been corrected in terms of style and faithfulness to the source text, so your role is to guarantee that it doesn’t contain any mistakes in terms of presentation, typos, spelling and punctuation. These mistakes are hard to avoid because they become invisible to the person who’s spent hours working in great depth on a text. You shouldn’t come across poorly constructed sentences, but you might find the style of the translation disappointing, in which case you should ask your client what to do about it.

By | 2016-10-18T15:49:59+00:00 May 2nd, 2007|Freelance Translation, Technical corner|1 Comment

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.

One Comment

  1. Enigmatic Mermaid May 5, 2007 at 11:42 pm

    Proofreading is the third step and generally entails what Céline has described.
    At this point you’re expected to ensure text integrity, which basically means nothing is missing, the document is prim and proper and there no pink elephants flying around. You are not expected to do any major rewriting.
    And in fact, at this point, most agencies will consider any major changes a terrible offense to the consistency gods.
    But use your good judgment. If you are proofreading and come across something that is obviously wrong or very poorly translated notify the project manager/client at once.
    Once I was doing linguistic testing in-house and towards the end of the job they gave me a user manual to proofread. As it happens, I spotted a sentence that looked funny and went for a check in the English original, which had been used as backbone for 15 or so languages. The English, faithfully translated into Portuguese, said something like “To add more brightness click the minus sign”.
    I had been testing the software for 8 days and knew this was pure nonsense no matter what the original said.
    However, this mistake had gone virtually unnoticed by all language teams and it was too late in the game to change it, except for Portuguese. But they made a note for the next software release. So keep your eyes peeled and don’t be afraid to go beyond the call of duty, if necessary.

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