German translators, just like any other translators, must become proficient at a variety of skills. The most obvious one is fluency in the main two or three languages that the translator concentrates on. Important translation skills like proofreading, editing and revising are all useless unless the translator has translated a chunk of text or a document as accurately as possible.
Translators also tend to specialise in a particular field of translation. Legal translators specialise in legal translation, business translators specialise in business translation and so on. This makes for faster and more effective translation, which means the demands on proofreaders and editors are less onerous.
Once a translation project has been completed before it can be released to the client it must be further processed. That’s when proofreading, editing and revising all become important.
There is some confusion about these three separate skills. Even amongst some translators, there is a tendency to assume that they are all more or less the same exercise. Nothing can be further from the truth. So, what do these three things actually mean in a translation context?
Difference: Proofreading, Editing and Revising
Proofreading is an essential task after a text has been translated. It may be done once, twice, or more often, depending on the number of mistakes that are found. It may be done by the same translator who did the original translation or someone else altogether. Basically, proofreading does not intend to change the meaning of what has been translated, but simply to correct errors in punctuation, spelling and printing errors or typos. Proofreading may be done once before editing or revising, and then again after these exercises have been completed.
A document that has not been proofread may contain numerous small mistakes that will give the impression the client or reader that the translation was not professional enough.
Translators have their own preferred methods of proofreading. Generally, using another translator to proofread a translation is to be preferred. This is because it can be hard sometimes, for the person who translated a chunk of text to spot all the errors that he or she has made.
It seems to be easier to spot the errors that someone else has made, such as repetition, missing words or sentences, spelling mistakes, typos etc. Some translators like to proofread by reading the text from back to front or from the end towards the beginning, while others are more conventional and simply carefully read through what they have in front of them. There are also automatic ways of checking spelling and typos such as Word’s spellchecker.
Editing is a more complex skill than proofreading. An editor checks to see that the right content has been translated and that the message that the original writer wants to convey has been addressed. An editor will also check to make sure that words and phrases have not been translated so literally that they are meaningless in the language the text is translated into.
This is less critical for highly specific translation content, such as scientific or technical translation. It is more important for literary and marketing translation where content may convey a different meaning with too literal a translation. This type of translation editing is also known as localisation.
Revising is a step further than editing. While editing may look at grammatical construction to make sure that a translation is correct and accurate, the revisor actually rewrites the content so it may end up being different from the original. This may be necessary if the original text is hard to follow and the translator has been asked to improve the flow of text so that it is easier to understand.
Revision may also be done if there is a lot of idiomatic languages used, for example in a novel or children’s book. Depending on the target language the concepts used may make no sense and it is the translator/revisor’s task to alter the message somewhat to match the cultural norms of the people for whom the stories are intended to reach.