Three of the most popular posts on my blog over the years have explored the relationship between translators and agencies: ‘18 reasons why an agency might stop working with you’; its sequel, based on feedback on the original post, ‘22 more reasons why an agency might stop working with you’; and a post looking at this relationship from the opposite perspective, ‘Thirteenish reasons why you might stop working for an agency’.
Today’s post is a sequel to the latter based on comments made on the original post, my own experience and opinions I have read in forums or discussed with colleagues in person.
The third section of the revision survey switched to focusing on the perceived quality of a revision and satisfaction with a reviser’s job. But it kicked off with asking respondents whether they were aware of the definitions of reviser and revision in the standard ISO 17100:2015, and two thirds are apparently not.
It’s quite simple, really. A revision is the comparison of the source text and the target text (i.e the translation) by a second person, the reviser (and, therefore, revision does not refer to the check the translator makes of his/her own work). Click on the above link for more definitions of terms used in the translation process. I have also written about the differences between revision and proofreading here.
As we saw in Part 1 of the Revision Survey Results, the main reason respondents gave for not offering revision services on their website or social media profiles (91 people explained their response) was poor translation quality. This was corroborated by the next survey question, shown above left.
This guest post cannot possibly say everything about revision and does not need to. Nikki Graham has already grouped together a number of revision-related blogs worth reading here for your convenience.
This means I am free to skip all the usual definitions and give you instead a hotch-potch of impressions and experiences which might give you some food for thought about how you approach revising your own work, how to refine your response to revisions by others of your work, and how you, perhaps, perform revisions on the work of others. I have written from the perspective of a revisor; a revisor whose own translation and revision work has come under harsh scrutiny where some revisions made and conclusions drawn have been justified, and others not. I continue to hope that insights thus gained serve to make me a better translator and a better revisor.
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?
Today’s guest post is by Nancy Matis and was first published on the sadly now-defunct blog of The Alexandria Library. It ties in nicely with a new theme on revisions on my blog, since I will be writing more about this topic in the near future. If you would like to write a guest post on the subject of revisions, proofreading or editing, please get in touch.
I’ve never been a brilliant translator myself. But I do think I’m quite good at revising others’ translations. This is probably because I started my career working as a language reviser.
When does a revision go too far?
When is a translation not a translation?
Revision is a very thorny subject, as I mentioned in my previous post on the topic. It can generate a lot of bad feeling if you think the changes made to your work were unnecessary and if the reviser’s opinion could mean you lose a client.
But what if the reviser screams “too literal” at every turn and changes the sentences so drastically they not only no longer resemble the original translation at all, they no longer reflect the author’s ideas?
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.
A recent argument with an agency about the word count for a job handed in weeks previously has driven home just how sordid this practice of counting words really is. Thankfully, this type of situation doesn’t rear its ugly head that often, and this particular client is not one of my main sources of income. But when an agency forgets I charge by the source word because their arrangements with other translators differ, and they then send a series of short documents as they arrive from the end client with embedded text that the counter in Word doesn’t recognise, problems and tetchy emails can ensue. And I do so loathe any suspicion that I might be trying to pull a fast one by adding more words to the invoice than I am entitled to, especially when the difference we’re squabbling about is a laughably small amount.
I’m sure many of you can identify with this scenario: an end client sends an agency similar documents on a regular basis and most are largely the same with just a few tweaks needed here and there to incorporate new information. Sometimes this work is handled by agencies that farm the job out to the first available translator, provide them with a TM and tell them not to touch 100% matches (which they don’t pay for). Sometimes the agencies are quite happy for you to alter the TM and pay a sliding-scale revision rate for matches. Other times the agency sends the work to the same translator year after year, who can then use his or her own TM to do the job. However, in the latter case, the one I’m most familiar with, the preferred usual translator is inevitably not always available, so the document is sent to another translator to process along with copies of previous translations.