Receiving a translation back covered in tracked changes and comments is never a nice experience because it mainly signals that the client is unhappy with your work. A mistake is a mistake and has to be owned up to and corrected. It’s something you have to learn from to improve your skills and ensure you don’t repeat. And you have to hope that the consequences won’t be too serious and that you don’t lose the client as a result.
But when there are no errors and the red highlights differences in opinion between the translator and the reviser/editor, it’s a whole other ball game. The ensuing argument can turn into a battle between who is right and who is wrong. And although one may emerge the victor, as in table tennis, points can be won by either player along the way.
Revision has long been a touchy subject. That’s why translation forums are teeming with posts by disgruntled translators complaining about the unfair editing of their texts and all the “unnecessary changes”. I’ve often been on both sides of the net, and as a reviser I know I’ve made my fair share of these “unnecessary changes” because my aim always has and always will be to provide the end client with the best rendering of their text possible. And that sometimes entails tweaking things here and there to ensure the text flows better.
revision should take place in a spirit of collaboration
It’s infinitely preferable for these changes to take place in a spirit of collaboration. The agency should send the original translator a copy of the revised text to approve the revisions or defend the original choices before the translation is sent to the end client. But so many skip this step altogether these days and instead give the translator the revised copy for their information or to justify paying them less after it has already been delivered to the end client and it’s too late to voice concerns about the edits.
I can understand why some agencies don’t give the translator an opportunity to respond to the revisions. Regrettably, there may be no time for ping-ponging the text back and forth. They may also just farm out translations for revision to tick a quality-assurance box rather than really caring about the end result. Perhaps they have got tired of all the bolshy translators who cannot accept that their version can be improved upon, who feel they have to argue against every change a reviser makes to prove their worth. Unfortunately, this attitude is often a direct consequence of some agencies docking pay if a “mistake” is found. It’s a vicious circle.
language is such that it’s unlikely for one person alone to hold all the answers
If an agency doesn’t consult the translator about the edits, they are placing all their trust in one person. Yet language is such that it’s unlikely for one person alone to hold all the answers. One mistake or dodgy sentence does not mean that the whole text is rubbish and that the opinion of the translator, who has a far more intimate knowledge of the text after the research put in to translate it in the first place, no longer counts.
When I’m wearing my reviser shoes, I often tell agencies in my feedback that I think a translator is good even if I have made a number of changes. Because I don’t want them to get the wrong impression and never hire that person again. And when I receive my revised translations back, I usually accept all the edits and don’t bother to complain unless the change has made the text worse. Life is too short and you just have to accept that others have their own style, favourite phrases and expressions, pet hates and peeves and own subjective ideas of what makes a text sound good and what doesn’t.
the objective should focus on client satisfaction
The objective of everyone involved in the project, i.e. the agency, PM, translator, reviser, second editor (the reviewer, if there is one), DTP department, etc., should be focused on client satisfaction, which usually means delivering the best possible version of their text in the target language. And I believe this can only be successfully achieved by everyone working together with a team mentality rather than as individuals who then partake in a blame game if something goes awry.
If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, please see the list of other posts on the Revisions page.