Proofreading, or the eyes of a stranger and my hard work

Since I started working as a translator, this is a sensitive issue for me. Something that can take me off-balance. It is impossible for me to keep calm when I get that email from some client’s reviewers asking for my considerations over his considerations about my work.

These are a few things that go through my head in that moment: oh-no-i-lost-the-client-forever-will-never-recover-i-knew-i-should-not-work-with-a-migraine-my-career-is-over.

Finally, when I am able to breathe, I open the email, check the notes and see that there are only small preferential changes, nothing critical, and nobody wants to kill me for using ‘soft’ when he preferred ‘smooth’. I calm down and then the important thing I would like to discuss in this post arises (and you go on and wonder why I wrote 2 paragraphs before what I really want to discuss…)

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that this is actually good. After you dismiss the initial terror, it is very good to have a client’s feedback, to know what the client likes and wants, which words he would rather use, build a glossary together, and in the odd event that I am actually wrong (fiction, of course), I can even learn from that. Or at least think twice before accepting a job while with a headache.

But it is not easy. Us, human beings in general, have a not so healthy relationship with criticism. We struggle to deal in a straight and objective way with criticism, and understand it as something specific and isolated from us personally, or as an attack to our work in general (or our life, or our appearance, or whatever is being assessed at that moment).

In fact, I have seen some forum threads in translator’s sites discussing this sole theme extensively, and, most of the time, disallowing our client’s reviewers. Translators are offended because they are “forced” to use words they do not believe is the best for the context. Translators are angry with the new phrase construction of their sentences. Translator are indignant with a second opinion.

Although I understand that, in some cases, the in country reviewers are not linguists themselves and might bring a few issues to a text, we need to learn to separate things. Nothing is sadder than to spend hours searching for that perfect figure of speech to match the one in the source text and have the reviewer say your translation is wrong because it has not “the same wording”, when that was exactly your goal! Yes, there are cases that need to be questioned, that need to be reverted, but 90% of the fixes, are only preferential and perfectly acceptable ones. Maybe they are more adequate to the internal lingo of your client, and they are certainly not a personal offense to you.

In fact we, translators, or we, human beings, just need to work on our humbleness. We should listen to a suggestion, a critic, know how to place that in context, question and “defend” when necessary, of course, but without dismissing a whole professional category as ‘people that do not know what they are doing’.

Yes, I do have pride in my work and yes, it does bother me when some review does not improve anything and changes the work that was so hard to accomplish in a satisfying way (to me). However, I do understand and accept that this step is necessary and a part of the job.

Let us all be more Zen, is what I recommend to my fellow translators.

by: Cássia Afini

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