Tuesday, 19 March 2013
A proof-reader has torn your translation to pieces. Is it ok to freak out?
Picture this. You are assigned to do a translation. You do your research, you do your best to complete it by the set deadline, you proof read it several times. You are happy with the results when you decide to send it. It is not, after all, the first time you are working on a similar text and you know your client very well.
Twenty-four hours later you receive an email from your client. The proof-reader has some suggestions to make and could you please check them and agree to accept them or not? You open the document and...get a heart attack, right on the spot! The proof-reader has corrected every single line of your precious translation, in BIG bold red letters visible even from the other side of your flat. Panic! Cold sweat! Self-doubt! You pretty much know at this point that you are not getting another translation project from this client ever again.
And then, you have a closer look at the corrections in your text and realise that they are all about style. In other words there are no grammar or syntax mistakes. There are not even any terminology mistakes. The proof-reader has corrected your decision to place an adverb at the beginning of a sentence and not at the end or your choice to go with a certain noun and not with its synonym, or the fact that you chose to use a noun instead of a verb to say the exact same thing, etc.
Is it ok to make such corrections in a text?
It is my understanding that if you make grammar and syntax mistakes, in a translation, you should (assuming you translate into your mother-tongue) go back to school at once, learn your language all over again and decide later whether you want to become a translator or not. And if after all that, you still want to work in translation, you need to get some extra training. If you make terminology mistakes on the other hand, you ought to be working on easier/different texts or you need to be doing some serious reading. Lots and lots and lots of reading to learn all about the text's "inner guts".
But who decides which style is correct and which isn't? Don't get me wrong, I know that some texts DO require special style and formatting. The E.U., for example, issues its own style book for translators and writers. I am obviously not referring to this kind of style and I am not referring to the use of correct tone either. I am talking about the small details that make my translation different from yours. As a proof-reader, I have never fallen into the trap of changing/"correcting" an entire sentence, just because to MY ear, it sounds better, (remember, most of the times your PM will not be speaking your language, so all s/he will be left looking at is red, red, red - and that's when the Clash of the Translators begins) and believe me, as a writer, I have been tempted many times.
What do you think? Do you agree or am I overreacting?
Natali Lekka, is an EN & FR into EL freelance translator and the owner of Worlds of Words