Revision Survey Results – Part 5: The Final Comments

The word is out: having your translations revised is THE way to grow as a translator. If you continue to work in your bubble without any feedback, you’ll make the same mistakes again and again, your word choices will remain narrow, you’ll never learn to think outside the box and your translations might never ever sing.

“I am not sure that one gains too much useful knowledge from a course on revision. Experience of being revised (whether monolingually or via translation) and revising is what makes you a better revisor. The interaction involved in close translator/reviser collaborations on big projects can be an abundant source of learning.”

“I work in a team of three where one person translates, another revises the translation (and the translator accepts/rejects the changes) and a third colleague does a final proof. This system generally works well and we all learn from each other too.”

“My case is special, because we are essentially an in-house team (some of us off-site), working for a host of departments/divisions as our ‘clients’. We have the same cycle for nearly all projects: translator – content reviser – translator – language reviser – translator – final approval (head of team). Therefore the translator has the final say in what to accept or reject from the reviser’s changes. But again, it is generally based on discussion and consensus.”

And, of course, revising is a way of learning too:

“I like to do revisions occasionally as they’re a good means of picking up others’ techniques.”

In this final part of the revision survey results series we take a look at the comments some respondents added at the end of the form. We’ve already examined why many colleagues don’t like doing revisions (part 1), what they think about the rates usually paid for this type of work (part 2), whether clients are happy with our revisions and how we feel about revisions of our own work (part 3), and suggestions for how we can improve our technique as revisers with further training (part 4).

Many respondents used this section to reiterate complaints about the poor quality of translations they have revised and that for some agencies employing a cheap translator to translate and a more expensive one to clean up the mess is their standard practice:

“As a native German speaker I work from ENG and CZE into German. I used to do a lot of revisions from Czech into German, but stopped this service almost completely in recent years as most CZE->GER translations are done by Czech native speakers (rather than German) and the quality simply is so poor that I do not see a reason to help agencies with this unprofessional approach.”

“I’m fed up with being paid less for proofreading when the client would have saved money by asking me to translate in the first place.”

“Revision has become the cure for cheap, low quality translations.”

“I work for an agency and still don’t have any clients of my own. But I’ve known that the final client has been upset with the translations and final revised product coming from other colleagues from the same agency. I’m daring to think that the poor quality in those translations is because of the very low fees the agency pays. It’s not an excuse, at least not for me. I know that a bad translation will damage my image and reputation, and the agency’s, resulting in losing the client eventually, so we all lose with that attitude.”

It was good to learn that the above is not everyone’s experience in our profession and that some companies and agencies are getting it right:

“Yes, some agencies do use cheaper and/or non-native translators and then ask me to revise their work (and sometimes rate it, effectively vetting new prospects for them). Depending on the standard, this is OK with me. After 30 years in translation I enjoy revision and editing and hope my experience can benefit others. But if the standard is really poor I will say so up front and turn it down or charge more. I charge what I consider a reasonable hourly rate so I do wonder if it actually works out any cheaper for an agency to use me in this way rather than paying me to do the translation in the first place! Often, they offer the translation first and I turn it down due to lack of capacity, knowing that they are then likely to offer the revision, which is usually quicker to squeeze in. I also do revisions (paid or as a favour) directly for colleagues whose work I am already familiar with, usually in my specialist subject areas.”

“Revisions are often offered at a per-word rate, which may or may not cover the effort involved. Where a translation is particularly poor and requires a lot of work I go back to the client and ask for the work to be paid hourly instead (and in most cases that is accepted on the basis of examples from the original translation).”

“I only accept revision work if I’ve seen the quality of the translated text (or if it’s for a known client that can be relied upon to use qualified translators). I also charge per hour for revision projects.”

“I generally limit myself to one or two revisions a month, and only from sources that I know will deliver quality material.”

The advice this respondent gives should certainly be followed:

“Translators need to see the quality of the translation before setting a fee to the revision/proofreading.”

Personally, however, I find it hard to evaluate some texts on the fly and occasionally discover they are much worse than I had realised once I get my teeth into them. This can also result from the translator/client using Google Translate (or similar) for some paragraphs, or even the entire text:

“The most awful thing is when they ask you to post-edit a Google Translated Target Text (pretending that a translator did it!)”

Another oft-mentioned problem is being revised by the client’s in-house staff who are frequently non-native speakers of the target language and/or don’t have a clue about the subject:

“I usually have my work revised by skilled professionals who perform an invaluable service and deserve to be paid better, but revisions by non-native English speakers (usually someone on a client’s staff) are a nightmare, requiring me to spend valuable time justifying each decision and arguing against unnecessary or downright unacceptable ‘corrections’.”

“Sometimes clients use their own staff (not translators) to do revisions and I believe it is not proper practice as they tend to change the document and use false cognates or even make grammar mistakes as they ‘correct’ the translator.”

“I don’t know whether it counts as ‘lost a client’ but I did stop working for one of my own volition after too many poor ‘revisions’ of my work that I was asked to confirm. The ‘revisions’ introduced lots of grammar errors I had to re-correct. While at least they asked me to check, I asked them to stop doing it. They didn’t. So I stopped accepting work from them (and explained why).”

“In the case where I was unhappy with a reviser’s changes to my translation, and pointed out where they had introduced errors, I contacted the client again when my invoice was overdue, was accused without any evidence of delivering a poor translation, and asked to reduce my invoice. Despite reaching a compromise agreement that the client said they were happy with, I never heard from them again.”

“I am happy to accept revisions of my own work if done by English mother-tongue translators or clients (indeed can often be very useful). However, this is not always the case (French clients or agency staff like to insert their own revisions) which is when negotiation can get tricky!”

“The problem I see now is that there are more and more non-professional translators and linguists working in this field, at least in Spain.”

“A revision by a person who does not know the source language very well and by a person who does not understand the document is of no value.”

I’d like to thank everyone that took part in this survey again for your time and comments. I hope you have enjoyed reading the results and learning about your peers’ experiences. And I’d like to end this fifth and final part with the following observation:

“IMHO, there is not enough checking or proofreading happening any more, partially for economic reasons, but also because companies and individuals think it’s a waste of time. It is up to us to convince them otherwise.”

This is definitely the way forward and the next step I will be working towards. I hope you’ll join me in that endeavour.

Photo by Vie Studio from Pexels

Explore this blog by starting with the categories page, which includes a section on all the surveys I’ve run. 

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