What is the purpose of a revision?

Is it just a box-ticking exercise to comply with the ISO 17100:2015 International Quality Standard?

Is it a chance to find a mistake in the translation as an excuse to pay the translator less or not at all?

Or is it an essential step in the translation process with the aim of delivering the best possible text to the end client?

I used to think that when I didn’t hear anything back from a client about my work that everything was fine. Now I’m beginning to think that quite the opposite might be the case. There are generally always some back and forth questions about choices or something I may have overlooked. As revision is more prevalent now than when I first started translating many moons ago, especially as it is compulsory for any TSP providing certified services compliant with ISO 17100:2015, when you don’t receive any feedback, it probably means your work is being revised and you’re not being consulted about any of the changes. You will, therefore, have no idea what kind of opinion the agency is forming about you or whether an overzealous reviser has managed to convince them that your work is not good enough.

Agencies are normally set in their ways and have established their own systems and processes. Ultimately, you’ll probably find that, in the long-term, it’s better to collaborate with those that do get back to you about your work. Not only will you learn more and grow as a translator, you’ll also feel part of a collaborative team and have more control over the final outcome.

One thing that revision is definitely not is an excuse for the translator not to do their research properly because a reviser is not paid to research terminology problems. That’s the translator’s job. Knowing your text is being revised doesn’t let you off the hook. It doesn’t give you carte blanche to litter the text with comments saying that you don’t understand this very well and could the reviser double check. We all work under time constraints and a reviser is expecting to be able to go through your work relatively quickly (I usually reckon on 1000 words per hour, although I’m often slower than this). If you leave too many questions to the last minute, there will not be enough time for the reviser to sort them out, you will stress them out considerably (unfortunately I can relate only too well to this scenario) and you will not make a good impression.

If you cannot turn in your translation without reams of questions about the meaning of certain terms and phrasing, then that is a clear indication that you are not fit to do the job, either because you are not specialised enough in this area or you don’t know the language well enough and should not be offering it in a professional capacity. Again, much to my chagrin, I am speaking from experience.

Revision is so much more than a cursory process just to meet the conditions in the ISO standard or a means to test the quality of a translator and impose penalties if mistakes are found. (Read those NDAs carefully because they often include clauses detailing how much of your fee with be docked per error. Don’t sign them if you don’t agree with them or get the wording changed before you do.) It’s a crucial part of delivering a top-notch text to the client and ensuring their satisfaction. And satisfied clients generally come back for more. With that in mind, let’s all ensure we treat revision with the importance it deserves.

If you are interested in reading more about the topic of revisions (one of my favourite subjects!), please see my Revisions page and the Editing, Proofreading, Revision and Review section on the Interesting Articles for Translators & Interpreters page.

Image by James Kerr from Pixabay

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6 thoughts on “What is the purpose of a revision?

  1. Very interesting insight into the revision world!

    I must read your other blog posts on the subject!

    Have a nice day, Brexiter (although I know you must have voted against it!) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Nikki

    Beware agencies that say something like, “We have to do this because ISO”. Official standards generally require certified companies to embrace certain principles, to write procedures to say how they follow them, and to show that they follow their own procedures in practice. So if a company attempts to force translators to jump through bureaucratic hoops, then those hoops are of the company’s own making; ISO is but a smokescreen.

    Although I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiment behind Chris Durban’s exhortation for translators to sign their work, I wouldn’t necessarily trust all clients to refrain from altering my signed work without agreeing it with me first.

    Another point that is sometimes made about revision and with which I disagree is that reviewers should not make changes based on style, as if style were merely a matter of personal whim. Style can be important in ensuring that a text fulfills its purpose (e.g. to sell or entertain or to be consistent with a brand’s tone of voice) and sits correctly with its target genre conventions.

    Reviewers should certainly give the translator the respect they deserve and should not change things to make the translator look bad or just to impose their personal taste. But our primary duty as revisers is surely not to the colleague who produced the translation but to the client and to the readers, to whom we owe a duty of professional care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Oliver, thanks for your comments. This post is not meant to be a comprehensive look at revisions, which is why I have written others on the subject. I fully agree with you about your points and I have mentioned the last one before in a previous post (The Thorny Subject of Revisions) and in comments elsewhere (such as recently on Kari Koonin’s blog). Unfortunately, quite a few do not agree because they take every change as a slight to their professional skill instead of feeling that they are part of a team that together aims to fulfill the brief and deliver what the client wants.


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