Why isn’t just a translator enough


Hey, Tembua! You always say that you use a six eyes process. That’s translator + reviser/editor + proofreader. But if your translators are as good and experienced as you say, why do they need the other team members?

Good question!

Let’s address the question of the editor first. In our industry, they’re called revisers. Anyone who has ever written anything knows the value of a second set of eyes. Particularly when one writes quickly, there’s a risk of duplicating a a word or using the wrong world, and the the original author’s eyes might skip right over those errors. (See the errors in the previous sentence? Well, sure—you didn’t write it!)

But more important than that is navigating among multiple word choices, none of which are errors. Think large dog vs. big hound. A native speaker can feel the difference between two phrases that technically have the same meaning. A capable reviser evaluates those choices and sometimes replaces the original translation with a phrase that better captures the intent of the source text.

These word choices are part of what creates the overall tone of the document—informal, formal, businesslike, condescending, joking. The reviser tweaks the translation in whatever ways will help it better maintain the tone of the source.

In general, the reviser’s goal is to make the translation sound like it originated in that language. Obviously, the translator does that, too, but the second set of eyes can focus on it more specifically.

As for the role of proofreading in all this: Everyone who touches text has the possibility of inserting an error. The proofreader’s sole goal is to make the document perfect. They don’t swap synonyms or switch phrases around. They just read for mistakes.

With the advent of machine translation and neural machine translation, the second and third steps become even more important. The human touch is still necessary.

Do you have other questions? Let me know!

Patricia May
pm@tembua.com