Four eyes see more than two

Since we can all agree that nobody is perfect, nobody can do a perfect job all of the time. Therefore, for translators, the support of a reviewer who can guarantee the quality of their work is ideal. Because, however experienced you may be, some kind of mistake – whether relating to translation or typography – will always find its way into a text; these two types of mistake depend less on experience and more on concentration and writing style. The best way to avoid typos is continuously re-reading what we write but this is not a fail-safe guarantee against mistakes. Reviewing our translations at the end is not the solution, either; often, instead of seeing what is actually there, we see what we expect to find and, if we think we have written something in particular, this is usually what we read. This is one reason why, in an ideal world, texts should be reviewed by individuals with no pre-formed expectations.

At the end of the day, translation does not necessarily need to be a solitary activity; in the best possible scenario, it comprises constant dialogue between fellow translators and with reviewers and all the benefits that come with such team work. Firstly, when several translators work together on a single text, they each contribute their particular knowledge and vision of the text (which is different for every person). Therefore, their best individual assets are combined and their defects offset. In these cases, communication is essential for guaranteeing coherence of terminology and tone, for example. However, it will always be necessary for a reviewer to apply his or her knowledge to the definitive version of the text and give a final seal of approval. The reviewer’s role is different to that of a co-translator; this individual, ideally, would never need to refer back to the source text, although – in reality – he or she should verify that the source text content matches its target text counterpart. Additionally, a reviewer should contribute specialised knowledge of the text’s subject matter and, even if this is not always strictly the case, should at least do substantial background research.

Aside from translation mistakes, a reviewer with subject-matter knowledge is, in many cases, able to identify mistakes in the original text. Specialised concept reviewers are hired to review original texts to ensure that the facts reflected in them have been correctly developed and explained. For example, when dealing with an experiment, they would check the methodology and results from the point of view of an expert. Whenever possible, the second opinion of an expert (not necessarily a professional reviewer) and a reviewer (not necessarily a subject-matter expert) is preferable.

In my personal opinion, translators and reviewers should mutually distrust one another. I know that many people will be against this idea, since translator-reviewer trust produces quicker work and increased efficiency, and these individuals are correct in their own way. However, it is dangerous to trust that someone else will correct our mistakes; furthermore, a mistake is more likely to be overlooked if both parties believe it to have been addressed by the other than if two professionals take on complete, individual responsibility as they see fit. Therefore, if our aim is to achieve the highest level of perfection possible, we should be suspicious; if we prefer efficiency and on-time delivery, we should be trusting.

In most cases, the ultimate objective is to find a balance between time invested and quality of work, which should not be less than so-called ‘editorial quality’. Editorial quality refers to a ready-to-print text which leave the reader impressed, given its lack of linguistic mistakes, appropriate tone, clear images, etc. A non-reviewed text will, most likely, contain some kind of mistake, bound to distract the reader from the text’s purpose and which could, even, make him or her consider the text an uncultured piece of writing (this should be avoided at all costs). For instance, if a text aims to sell a given product, it would be worth investing in a reviewer to avoid mistakes which could negatively impact on sales.

A translation reviewer provides us with a chance to test a text’s effectiveness before it reaches its intended readership; in interpreting, this would not be possible. We should, therefore, maximise this professional’s potential. After all, how many poor translations could have been avoided if a native speaker had only reviewed the text? And I am not even talking about a professional reviewer. Of course, the worst grammatical mistakes usually come from our infamous friend Google Translate, which should not be used in the first place. In conclusion: do not submit un-reviewed texts; if you do, do not use Google Translate; and if you do, do not look for sympathy when native speakers laugh at you.


Translated to English by Siân Owen

About Sara Novo Carballeira

Naronesa (A Coruña), licenciada en Traducción e Interpretación por la Universidad de Vigo. Traduce del inglés y el alemán al español. Interesada en la localización de videojuegos.

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