Checking and editing an existing Japanese or Italian translation to improve it
But, who are such “other persons”? Generally they are more or less prepared and more or less honest translators or editors, but often left a little too free to intervene with corrections that the original translator has no way to contest, and unbeknownst to him therefore suffers. This does not mean that this process—which is even covered by a specific ISO standard for language service providers—is always necessary. Actually, in most cases it is often unnecessary and merely adds an extra burden on the final customer without any tangible benefit being derived from it. In any case, the very concepts of editing and proofreading are sometimes strangely misinterpreted even by knowledgeable people, leading to confusion about the role of the editor and creating a potentially damaging situation for the translator. Aliseo Japan® has its own way, we believe correct, to understand the matter.
Introduction to our Japanese and Italian editing and proofreading service
According to ISO standards and now a well-established practice at so-called LSPs, a translation should go through four distinct stages:
- VERIFICATION: Checking the fundamental accuracy of the translation. Since this is part of the translator's job, verification is not something which needs to be expressly requested.
- EDITING: A professional editor (not the original translator) reviews the translation for errors, consistent use of terminology, and register.
- SPECIALIST EDITING: If necessary, an editor qualified in the specific field of the translation examines the revised translation. This is a bilingual review to assess the suitability of the translation for the stated purpose and target audience.
- PROOFREADING: A final check before publication to ensure that all errors have been eliminated and that new ones have not been introduced during the layout phase.
This procedure is now a widespread custom, but is doesn't mean that every translation must necessarily go through stages 2, 3, and 4. It all depends on the particular problems that could arise from not applying one or more of these stages.
As the primary link in the transactional chain, translators should use any means available to thoroughly check their works before delivery for contents, syntactic and grammar errors, and possibly strictly follow any style manual imposed by the client.
Such a check is not always sufficient, though. In practice, the more critical eye of a second person (e.g. a linguist dedicated to editing or another freelance translator) can detect the smallest of errors that manage to slip past the repeated checks of the translator. In other words, translators acting as reviewers possess a special knack for discovering the mistakes of others, although they may still fail to notice their own.
Our editing and proofreading languages
A generalist translator who is only qualified from a linguistic standpoint may face difficulties with certain specialized texts and therefore end up translating with an excess of creativity and guesswork; in such cases, specialized translators of the source language may be preferable due to their expertise in the subject matter, even if they lack extensive vocabularies or perfect writing skills. Texts produced by such translators should then be reviewed by a proofreader to render them more readable.
In most cases, a few translation errors do not adversely affect the content's usability or lead to accidents or legal troubles. But sometimes these are real risks, making it prudent to have the translation checked by another professional to avoid situations where a serious mistake may result in injury or death—or simply damage the reputation of the client. Such checks are necessary because translators are only human and mistakes will happen occasionally, although it is important to note that professional editors are not infallible, either.
We can serve as translators or reviewers for Japanese-Italian translations. When translating, we deal with phase 1 (verification); when asked to review a translation, we handle either phase 2 (editing) or 4 (proofreading) or both, depending on the instructions given to us.
With all that said, it is important to fully understand the differences between editing and proofreading. Despite the fact that many professionals and translation companies use the terms interchangeably, they are not the same thing.
How much does a revision cost?
(How we set rates)
|Editing:||USD 40 / Hour|
|Proofreading:||USD 8 / page|
for translation companies
- These rates are updated periodically to reflect changes in the JPY/USD exchange rate.
- "Page" means 200 Italian or English words or 400 Japanese characters
- The minimum rate per job for direct clients is USD 40.
- Unless different terms are agreed upon in advance, all payments are due within 30 days of the invoice date. (Private individuals must make their payments before translation work begins)
- Payment method: PayPal or credit card via the free PayPal service (account registration not required).
From Contact in the top menu please choose your way to contact us for requesting an editing or proofreading service in Japanese or Italian, or for more information on our linguistic services.
Remarks on editing rates
Inexperienced or unqualified translators often appear as an economical choice to clients because they provide their services at such low rates. But when the resulting translation is fundamentally flawed or unsuitable for its target audience, lacks lexical breadth, has been done too literally, makes insufficient use of synonyms, or lacks fluidity, the client should accept the fact that the cost of its review can equal or even exceed that of the translation itself.
Reworking an existing translation often takes more time than re-translating from scratch since the editor is required to work within a framework that has already been predefined in some way, to maneuver carefully so that the correct portions remain intact, to adopt the original translator's mindset, and to some extent emulate the existing writing style. In other words, this process is much more mentally taxing on the editor and, paradoxically, increases the risk of introducing new errors.
There is no way to determine how long an editing job will take without examining the translation first. A rather common yet inexplicable notion is that the price of a review should be a fixed percentage (typically around 50%) of that spent on the translation. This doesn't work in practice because there is no real way to calculate a priori how many hours of work will be required without seeing the actual text.
In fact, the risk would be not only on the editor side because by failing to quantify his/her economic remuneration he/her would not earn enough with respect to the time actually spent, but to the entire value chain too because by feeling forced to work fast and without the necessary commitment precisely because of the low editing rate accepted he/she would not carry out honestly the task received: improving the translation instead of worsening it.
What is editing?
Also referred to as a bilingual check (or even “cross check” or native check in Japan), this process aims to correct and improve an existing translation by comparing it to the source text. Clients typically request editing to ensure that a translation correctly reflects the source content, especially in cases where inaccuracies, improper register, or a general unsuitability for the target audience could cause serious health and safety problems or otherwise reflect poorly on the client.
Consequently, editors must be very well versed in both the source and target languages and have access to the source text.
I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
Writer, aphorist and poet
In general, editing should be entrusted to a professional translator or to an editor who is a native speaker of the target language. With highly technical/specialized translations that require the use of a particular terminology that can not be easily learned, however, it may be better to hire a native speaker of the source language who has a firm grasp of the specific concepts that appear in the translation. A proofreader can then be hired to check the text prior to publication.
A rather bizarre phenomenon occurs in Japan: many translation agencies employ Japanese reviewers to check texts translated into their source language, that is not in their mother-tongue language, or first language. In our view, this can be justified only when it is feared that the non-Japanese translator might not be able to correctly understand the Japanese source text—for instance because it's objectively too difficult or obscure—but in any case the reviewer's work should be restricted exclusively to finding translation errors. The biggest problem, however, is that these reviewers—often with the agency's approval—overreach themselves and even arrogate to themselves the right to change the writing style in what it is not their first language. Unforgivable!
As a matter of good practice, revisers should be able to show the original translator ways to improve, and thus in theory should serves as a sort of teacher—which implies of course that the reviser is more skilled than the translator. But this happens less than it should.
Editing jobs require:
- An editor/revise who is very familiar with the subject matter
- An editor/reviser who is a native speaker of the target language but has also mastered the source language
Typically, checking a translation basically means vetting each single word and meaning, which can take even longer than translating from scratch because the editor/reviser is forced to work within a template that has already been defined by the translator, and this can end up being more of a hindrance than a useful reference. Therefore, editing should be paid based on the translation rate or on the actual time spent revising.
What is proofreading?
Proofreading is a post-editing phase in which the translation is checked for correctness as a monolingual text. It does not involve the verification of terminology.
This means that the proofreader's mastery of the subject matter and source language is irrelevant. In general, the time required to proofread a text is directly proportional to the number of words that it contains, hence proofreading services are usually based on word count.
But clients often request proofreading for texts which really need a full editing pass first, a misunderstanding (unacceptable from translation companies. By the way, we also have a page dedicated to translation companies) perpetuated by the lexical confusion between editing and proofreading.
The reality is that translations produced by non-native speakers of the target language—a very frequent phenomenon—almost always contain far too many grammatical and syntax errors in addition to translation errors and a writing style that necessitates a complete overhaul, or even a new translation.
Proofreading jobs require:
- A proofreader who is a native speaker of the target language
The use and abuse of editing
Translation is a highly creative profession and translators possess varying levels of expressive creativity.
Distinctive writing styles may be used to create variations of a translation that are all fundamentally correct. Ask ten professionals to translate the same lengthy and complex text, for example, and you are likely to get ten different yet accurate results. If those ten translations are then sent to ten different editors or reviser, ten new versions of the translation will be produced, meaning that you will have your choice of twenty unique variations on the same source text! But which is the "best" translation?
The above example demonstrates the need for clients to clearly define the editorial scope. Doing so will prevent the editor's ego or desire to self-promote (deliberately damaging the original translator) from compromising a translation which might already be perfectly usable.
Editors or reviser should ideally refrain from correcting a translation directly, instead leaving that task to the original translator and respect his/her right of objection. This unfortunately does not always happen; a client will usually adopt the new version under the assumption that its revision by another professional (not to mention the additional money spent) guarantees its accuracy, or because merely proposing corrections instead of actually making them will confuse the original translator or take too much time.
In any case, end clients (but also translation companies) are seldom capable of or willing to evaluate a translation quality themselves—therefore neither the editing/revision quality—particularly when they don't understand the languages involved (which is quite often the case with Japanese). Haphazard editing can easily ruin a good translation and causing a waste of money and the original translation discarded because of the failure to evaluate him/her properly, which is precisely why he/she should always be made aware of any corrections made.
Joys and sorrows of MTPE
MTPE means Machine Translation Post Editing. In essence, it means correcting machine errors, which in the field of translation are made by machine translation software.
Probably half of the world's population has heard of Google Translator in one way or another, while for “insiders” the preferred machine seems to be Deepl Translator nowadays, which deposed Google from the first place on the podium. There are other players, but they have to be content with a smaller slice of this very profitable market (although not for everyone).
It cannot be denied that at least between similarly structured languages (Italian and English, for example) machine translation has made substantial progress in terms of form and content, provided that the source text is relatively simple, structured with relatively short periods, in relatively well-known domains, with a controlled language, simplified syntax, reduced vocabulary and of course when the source text is perfectly native. Still, caution should be always exercised because surprises are never lacking. However, between structurally different languages—such as Italian and Japanese—things are quite different, especially as the length of the periods increases and in less treated domains. Try to believe.
imposed by clients
or freely chosen by translators?
There are two ways of looking at machine translation post-editing: that of translation companies, which use machine translation to provide translators with an "already translated" text that purportedly “only” requires some corrections here and there—therefore a job to be paid less than a traditional translation— and that of translators themselves, who may tend to consider machine translation more a technical aid to replace or add to the traditional dictionary and the omniscient Internet. The difference is substantial: to suffer the imposition by clients—whose aim is to reduce costs—or choose it freely as an additional tool to support the traditional translation work. (No translation agency has ever dared of asking translators for a discount because they use dictionaries and the Internet, right?)
To be a little cynical we might say that the basic concept behind MTPE (or PEMT, or simply PE or Post Editing as it’s often called too) as seen by clients is that the machine translates at no cost and human editors only correct errors and adjust syntax, thus earning significantly less than they what they would by translating from scratch, entirely with their brain.
But this editing takes longer, because unlike real translation, which requires to read only the source text—and from there to start tracing the basic semantic architecture—MTPE also requires to read and understand what the machine has translated automatically, the construction of which can, however, be very different from what the human translator instinctively prefers. After a first reading, the translator realizes that the machine has made real translation errors (which at a first might not emerge clearly due to its apparent translating quality) and has constructed the sentences in its way, with fanciful periods and most probably by translating too literally.
After the first moment of uneasiness, the translator starts reviewing the terms proposed by the superior intelligence and does lots of copy-pastings to make the sentence more human, especially fluent and that does not seem to have been translated by a good non-native speaker. Maybe the translator gets a jolt of nerves and deletes the entire machine translation to start from scratch because by dint of reading it and rereading it he cannot make heads or tails of it, and this is when he starts addressing some nice thoughts to the client with whom it might be now too late to try to negotiate a better rate.
Maybe the translator even starts doubting that the poor machine could not do better because after all it was fed with a text written by a non-native speaker (such cases abound!) Typically, however, the client won't be able to help the translator since he has no clue about the target language, maybe has other things to do and then, what the hell, he's paying, isn't he?
More often than not, clients request revision jobs suggesting that the translation was done by a real-life translator, whereas it was only machine-translated. By the time the text arrives, however, it may be too late to refuse the job, perhaps because translators don’t want to risk jeopardizing the relationship with the client whom—from time to time, fortunately—sends more “human” jobs. Or, when they find the strength to remonstrate, clients bring out the insidious idea of “light revision”: “Hey, we don't need all that quality, after all. Just make the text comprehensible...”, except to be later bombarded by questions and comments from the final client who is not satisfied with the translation quality.
Some translation agencies try to convince the still hesitant translators by reassuring them of the excellent "pre-revision" work which their in-house specialists have done (“They have adapted the source text to make it more comprehensible to the machine, which translation as then been integrated with our 'reliable' translation memories. You will see that the work will be easier...and faster!”) The fact is that this is not always the case practically, especially when clients don’t know the target language at all. Sadly, this also happens with difficult or complex documents such as patents, court decisions, historical texts and everything that generally requires precision, research and/or stylistic reworking.
In the end, however, MTPE gives a result: full (or almost full) profit for the translation agency that probably charges the end client with the revision at the price of translation—the joy of MTPE—and reduced profit for translators even though they will most likely have to work as much as before, if not more—the sorrows of MTPE.
Better being traditional translators
simple editors of
more or less intelligent machines?
In essence, it can be said that for translators MTPE combines the disadvantages of machine translation with the difficulties of human translation, i.e. the difficulties add up. End clients pay for the work almost if not as much as a human translation while getting something that can only be inferior to what good translators would do traditionally. This is because in one way or another they are led to follow the semantic structure aseptically traced by the machine and to accept too promptly and uncritically what it proposes unless, of course, they decide to do it all over again, but at that point working as much as they would have done without the machine’s help. That is, it is a compromise solution that as such satisfies only the translation company if involved, certainly not the translator.
We prefer to continue to be translators, not correctors of more or less intelligent machines. We are happy to leave this new role to the new generations of translators—provided that it will be still possible to continue to call them—or to the more accommodating ones whose expectations are more in line with the secondary role that awaits them in the increasingly flat world of languages.