Once a translation deadline is met, it is sometimes hard for a client to understand that it may not be actually ready for release or final delivery. Most of the times, translations, just like every written text, need to undergo a review process in which linguistic issues are, indeed, quite an issue, but formatting and general lay
out will hardly escape the reviewer’s scope. In fact, editing is quite an umbrella term for denoting the complex process of reviewing a text with QA purposes—whether it be translated or original copy.
Like translation, editing implies a time-consuming task that will demand and deserve a devoting a lot of attention to detail, closely reading source and target, and keeping the target culture in mind at hand even when the translator seemed to forget all about it. While the translator may be forgiven minor spelling, grammar and style mistakes, and/or accuracy/meaning/terminology errors, the editor cannot afford to leave any trace of them. In short, it is in the editor’s hands to safeguard the quality of final product—the text—from bearing any type of linguistic oversights.
ADJUSTING TO CLIENTS’ DOs AND DON’Ts BLEEPS
Among the many aspects of a translation that an editor has to go through, there’s the issue of reference materials sent by the client, such as key terminology glossaries, style guides and other more general guidelines such as DNT (Do-not-translate) lists. Needless to say, this requires a lot of flexibility on the editor’s part in order to consciously change from default setting to client mode: for instance, whether a client wants capitalisation to mirror the source or whether you will be free to follow local grammar guidelines regardless of source punctuation will determine your way of working—you will either do as told or do as you know it’s most appropriate in alliance with your language.
Now, when a client has already worked with translators and editors before, they are likely to have a series of materials that an editor will be entrusted with each time a new project comes along. Some clients like to keep their reference materials updated, so an editor will have to keep an eye on minor updates so as to be in tune with the latest in hyp. Other clients will send you exactly the same style guide and exactly the same glossary over and over again, sometimes for two years or so in a row, with few alerts for specific projects such as “Please note that we need X to read as source” or “Keep your translations short as this is going to be voiced over by an actor.” Sometimes, even, an editor may take pride in knowing that they have strictly followed glossary terminology and then, after a few days, the client might return part of the translation claiming that X term was to be changed for this project, even when the change suggested would contradict client’s own glossary and editor’s best knowledge of what the right term should be.
THE FACT THAT A TERM IS INCLUDED IN A GLOSSARY DOES NOT NECESSARILY IMPLY THAT IT IS THE ONE AND ONLY EQUIVALENT
TO BE EVER USED FOR ALL PROJECTS ALIKE.
So, how to cope with client expectations and not die in the attempt? First, I suppose it’s necessary to consider that not all clients rely on internal reviewers who know the target language we are editing as thoroughly as an editor should know it. For example, an editor may send the translation boosted up to the most exceptional level of quality, and yet the client reviewer may send a couple of comments or queries on “Why have you used X for Y?” or “Is this really how you would say ‘XXXX’ in your language? Please change it into ‘YYYY’.” With the “Please” part sometimes missing and the imperative being the protagonist in all this grammar drama. In cases such as this, an editor will probably have to go against their own principles and stick to client reviewer’s directions: even if it is not their choice from the heart, even when a change may have a detrimental effect on style, the editor is likely to have to abide by client terms because the customer is always right and because, otherwise, if they refuse to do so on principle—whatsoever those principles may be—, some other editor will take their place. Just as Oscar Wilde ironically said, “Manners before morals.”
That being said, there is an alternative to simply bending on your knees and passively saying “Yes, OK, agreed” everything: if the relationship with the client flows, or you have worked with them before, or even with a client you hardly know yet, you may try to make them understand why a certain edit would be far from benefitting the translation. For instance, if the edit introduces an error—whether ir be a grammar, spelling or accuracy error, to name a few—you can always resort to all rules of decorum and politely ask them to consider your reasons for not making that change in particular: “Thank you for your feedback. I have gone through your request to make X change(s) and I am willing to comply with your standards. However, please note that X change would…signify a spelling mistake/introduce an error from the point of view of grammar/interfere with consistency regarding X and Y… because…” Golden rule: always account for your disagreeing with a change; never assume the client can infer your reasons from a mere classification of the error it would imply. Whenever possible, provide resources that attest to the facts you are stating. These can be web links to online reliable sources or quoted passages from grammar books. You will normally wish to avoid mentioning language forums which, while they may be of great help when translating or editing, will proably be disregarded by the client. So, if you are going to quote a source, always quote one that is worth checking and that will be effective on persuading your client that on this one, they’ll have to leave the thing in your hands.
ARE REFERENCE MATERIALS EVER USEFUL TO AN EDITOR?
Yes! Leaving the issues mentioned aside, even a short, 7-page style guide may become a valuable resource while performing ERP tasks. Just as good glossaries will include a wide range of key terminology that is likely to turn up in the majority or the most typical projects a client will send, style guides can be truly helpful for both translator and editor when deciding on whether to convert source measurements into target language frequently used system, or whether to leave an acronym as is or expand on it in the translation, and in many other details that can otherwise keep the editor stuck with a sentence or a passage when trying to decide whether or not to introduce a change.
Glossaries. On the one hand, glossaries provide a good source for reference when checking for mistranslations, accuracy issues and compliance with client key terminology. Even when a translation reads sensible and flows naturally, an editor must check lexical choices made by the translator against the glossary provided by the client. This is the only way of ensuring that the glossary has been followed as expected. Yet reviewing terminology is not a simple one-step process that ends with a happy ending when you find out the translator has actually done as told. On the other hand, the fact that a term is included in a glossary does not necessarily imply that it is the one and only equivalent to be ever used for all projects alike. While a translation may be OK for one project, it may not be the most suitable equivalent for another. How can the editor explain this to the client and, sometimes as well to the translator? It all comes down to decorum.
Explaining why a term should be translated in a way that differs from a glossary entry may take time and an effort to help the client understand that it’s not that you are questioning their knowledge of the language but, rather, that you are concerned about the readability of the text if a certain term is used when another would be the most appropriate. Perhaps the words “context” and “expection” will resonate in the client’s mind if you approach them with something like, “… and as this is likely to be read by X type of adience in Z type of format, context calls for a different equivalent. Here I provide the term we could use as an exception for this project and two synonyms for you to decide which one you prefer, in case you agree with the change.” Again, fully explaining why you are making this suggestion and quoting the right dictionaries and other linguistic sources are a key step to having the client say “Yes” to your suggestions.
Style guides. For an editor, following a style guide is likley to imply both an advantage and a disadvantage as the client linguistic guidelines may challenge the editor’s previous knowledge and use of their own language. Some guidelines are closer to what the local grammar rules suggest, some deviate from the latter a great deal, to the point that the editor can predict how much the source style is likely to determine the target; some guides are quite comprehensive and encompass a wide variety of common issues or challenges that may be faced during TEP, yet others may be quite short and include nothing short of extraordinary. The point is, an editor must have or develop the ability to adhere to several different client style guides depending on the client and depending on the language variety of the target culture. Also, while both glossaries and style guides may be disputable, glossaries are likely to stand a better chance of being updated than style guides, which may result in an editor sticking to old-fashioned rules for a project just because the client says so. And last but not least, an editor may be asked to create a style guide himself for a given client and audience. But the creation of style guides gives room for a whole new article, so we had better leave that for upcoming posts.
DEALING WITH CLIENT RESOURCES: TAKE-IT-OR-LEAVE-IT TIPS!
- Always read the client’s instructions and reference materials. Even if you can guess what the project will be about or you have been working with a certain client for ages, a good editor will always go through the specific instructions given for each project and take a reasonable amount of time to read any glossaries, style guides, DNT lists or other resources provided by the client. If the client has sent them, they are meant to be taken into account.
- Be practical. While reference materials are not something to be skipped, time constraints, budget and other issues may not always be perfect for you to scan the 10,000-word key temrinologo glossary plus the optional acronym glossary plus the 20-page style guide and other previosuly translated and updated project that the client may send as reference of the style you are expected to aim at. When you can’t afford to scan, skim. There’s not need to memorise the rules or print the materials, but it’s certainly better to have a general idea of what the clients expectations are instead of desperately plunging into never-ending glossaries that you have never even seen, when you have the real need to check a term, an acronym, a few numbers, currency usage or capitalisation style.
- Be suspicious. Suppose you are editing a text whose translator you’ve known for a considerably long time now. Suppose the translator’s good, you know he pays as much attention to detail as you do, so you only watch for gross issues and with half your attention span on. Suppose you deliver your edited text to the client and even tell them that you’ll be happy to hear their feedback on your work. A couple of days afterwards, there’s an email in your inbox that just doesn’t sink in: the client is highly disappointed with your job, they have sent updates for almost every sentence within the text and are likely to claim for a refund, if not stop sending work to you for good. What’s the morale? Never take a translator’s quality for granted, no matter how good the translator is reputed to be and no matter how easy a project may look like at first sight. An editor must always be on the alert, always remember the translator is human as well and therefore prone to pitfalls, and that it is the editor’s job to try to make amends for those pitfalls so that there is (hardly) no trace of them in the final deliverable.
- Be curious. Even when a translation reads incredibly spontaneous from the point of view of grammar and syntax, specific terminology may not be precisely themost suitable for a given context, a certain audience or a particular culture. In that case, it is part of an editor’s job to research what the translator accidentally or purposefully did not research during the translation stage. It is highly important to be always on the alert, using as much of your attention as possible so as to spot even the smallest detail of a mistake. If there’s time enough to check with the translator why they have translated this as X or left Y untranslated, DO SO! Though translation, editing and proof-reading are functions which tend to be embodied by different, sometimes remote human workers, they are part of a team, part of a network which owes its existence to a common goal: making the most of a text when it is translated into a language other than its own. So, collaborative skills should always be part of professional translators and editors’ toolkit. There’s nothing wrong with politely asking a translator to provide reference sources for you to check the foundations of their decisions, and it is often the case that translators themselves will point out some major issues they encountered while translating, conflicted sentences or terms, choices they had to make but are not fully satisfied with, etc.
- Be realistic. Don’t make too many preferential changes. Preferential changes are the sort of edits an editor makes knowing that they are not exactly correcting a mistake or error but, instead, boosting a lexical choice by providing a more frequently used equivalent for the source term or improving on syntax so that the text reads more stylistically correct. In this sense, a few preferential changes are OK as long as you firmly believe they do the translation good. However, when 80% of your changes are preferential edits, you might need to start thinking why exactly you are making so many of those changes, and more specifically: “Are they really necessary or am I just wasting time that is neither entirely productive nor fully payable?”
- Remember you too are human. A key part of an editor’s job has to do with the development of a useful mindset for work. Editors need to self-aware, they need to understand that, as they are part of the final stages of the production chain, their job has to do with ensuring a translation is error-free and that comprises a wide range of error categories. Still, while their mission is to always boost-never worsen the final text, editors are not perfect, no matter how good the may be. They too can make mistakes, they too can introduce a change with their best interests at heart and yet be wrong in doing so, and not find out so until it’s done. Hopefully, there will be a chance to set it right during an LQA task. If not, you may still advise the client on what the change would imply and their reviewer may introduce it for you. Yet, if the error is not worth the fuss, you may simply comment on it saying something like it is not absolutely necessary to implement it, with a brief account for the pros and cons of doing or not doing so. The point is, do not punish yourself: unfortunately, everybody makes mistakes—the good news is that our job will often give us the chance to struggle to put things right as far as it’s up to us. ◘ ◘ ◘