As I stated in the survey:
By revisions I mean checking another translator’s translation against the source and making corrections as deemed necessary. This is often wrongly termed proofreading.
Even though I’m no expert survey writer, and I received a few grumbles about not providing a “don’t know” option for some of the questions (deliberate on my part, I’m afraid, as I think it would have proved too popular and rendered the survey less interesting), the results are still revealing. In fact, the pattern emerged quite quickly and the percentages barely varied after the first few responses came in.
A total of 232 people completed the survey (massive thank you to all participants!), although not everyone answered every question (as you can see in the images).
The vast majority of the respondents had revised another’s translation at some stage in their career (see image above) and nearly two thirds do revisions relatively regularly.
The percentage of translators advertising revision services on their websites and/or social media profiles was only slightly lower than the number actually doing revision work every month.
Out of the 93 who voted “no”, 91 gave their reasons, which were quite varied. Predictably, however, around 25% mentioned that they did not offer revisions because of the poor quality of the translation, which in some cases proves to be non-native or MT output.
“In general the quality of the translations received is poor and it takes a long time to revise and even so the final result can be less than ideal.”
“Too many bad experiences in the past. Encourages bulk-market resellers to hire incompetent translators on the assumption that the editor will clean up the mess.”
“I’m under the impression I’ll receive too many offers to correct very poorly (cheap) translations or even machine translations.”
“Here in Argentina, 99% of Spanish>English translators aren’t working into their native language (i.e. instead of offering only English>Spanish, most Argentine translators work in both directions) and the quality of work into English is generally appalling. At one point I was repeatedly approached by agencies here to ‘revise’ such work but I soon came to realize that generally the jobs in question implied retranslation, and thus were not revisions at all.”
The second most-mentioned reason was simply not liking revision work (with one respondent calling it “boring”) and preferring translation.
“Generally more hassle than it’s worth!”
“I much prefer to translate, and translation usually pays better and is more enjoyable.”
Another main reason, alluded to in the above and many other comments, is that the amount of money clients (both agency and direct) are prepared to pay for revisions doesn’t make doing the job worthwhile.
“Little pay and too much effort.”
“My fees are not competitive.”
These two comments largely sum up the above three reasons.
“I stopped offering revision because I enjoy translating more and am offered enough translation work to keep me busy. Also I felt that some clients were using inexperienced, less competent translators to do the translation and more experienced translators like me to do the revision. I often had to practically rewrite the translation.”
“I hate doing them and the work I’m given is almost always very poor quality so 1) the rate never covers the time needed and 2) it’s a headache of a job trying to make something bad better.”
The above quotes also introduce a fourth reason mentioned by a number of respondents: no time. Colleagues are either:
“Fully booked with translations so hardly any capacity for other services.”
Or find revision too “time-consuming”, especially considering the rates generally offered for the work.
“Very often it will be faster to translate afresh from the beginning rather than revise the given translation. Revisions rarely are productive in terms of money earned per hour.”
“A revision takes a lot of time for less money than a translation. Sometimes, revisions need more time and work than a translation.”
“In my experience clients (whether agencies or non-native speakers who want someone to revise something they have translated themselves) are unrealistic about the time it takes to do a full bilingual revision properly. As an outcome I find this type of work stressful and unsatisfying, especially if the original translation is poor.”
Other reasons given on the survey form included: being an in-house employee; not having a website; and never asked to do a revision. A few said it was a service they reserved for specific clients or colleagues.
“I only do revisions on work by a handpicked team of translators.”
Interestingly, only two respondents highlighted the fact that being a translator doesn’t always mean you’ll be a good reviser.
“I don’t think I have all the right skills. Revision is different to translation and requires different skills. I can do light to moderate revision, but don’t feel as confident with more.”
“I am not a specialist in revision.”
The last comment I’d like to quote in this post not only reiterates some of the above reasons, but also brings another thought-provoking slant to the revision debate.
“Revision should be done internally, it is too important to be entrusted to external people. Plus there are so many amateur & junior translators working for low fees that I don’t want to a) clean their mess, which is time-consuming (and usually at a very low revision price); b) encourage the practice of having translations done by amateur or junior translators at very low translation prices then having that mess corrected at usually also very low revision prices. Small, specialized agencies revise in-house, and this is how it should be. The more we sabotage large money making machines, the better.”
Part 2 focuses on respondents’ views on the rate paid for revisions.