I mean no disrespect to good editors or good dachshunds, as both provide a valuable service to humankind in general, and to translators in particular, who can certainly use a good friend in their unappreciated and solitary occupation.
I chose this somewhat provocative title for my post because I want to bring attention to what I perceive to be a common misconception in what is called “translation industry”, i.e. the way in which some translation agencies misunderstand and ultimately mistreat translations and translators by placing too much emphasis on the importance of an editor, without realizing that it is the translator, not the editor, whose abilities will determine whether a translation will belong to one of the following categories:
(A) very good
(D) bad to horrible
A good editor can provide some assistance with translations belonging to categories (A) and (B), sometime – but not always – a lot of help with translation that would fall under category (C), while nobody, not even the best editor on this planet, can do much about a bad translation, because the only help in such a case is a new translation.
Many translation agencies would strongly disagree with my conclusion about the relative importance of a translator and the relative unimportance of an editor as their business model seems to be based on the opposite approach: translators are just worker bees who produce a relatively crude, largely interchangeable product, which must be further refined by means of an incredibly sophisticated machinery patented by translation agencies, because the sweet honey of a really good translation can be achieved only after sifting and filtering every translation through several layers of editing, checking and proofreading.
Of course, just because they say on their websites that their original, unique, revolutionary, sophisticated, innovative, advanced, groundbreaking and extremely cool and sexy 9-step translation process with an infallible system of checks and balances ensures accuracy and excellence does not mean that they actually believe in their own silly marketing lies.
They probably deviate somewhat from the straight path of truth in their marketing materials …. and use just one checker called “an editor” because it is much cheaper to pay just one person rather than nine people to do the same job over and over again.
How would a highly intelligent dachshund tackle a similar proofreading job? You can test it on your dachshund if you are lucky enough to have one. Print out your last translation and give it to your doggie friend to check it out.
Of course, first you will have to proofread it very carefully yourself to make sure that there no typos and omissions in it, which means that you should not proofread it the same day. It is always best to sleep on it and do it the next day, or in a couple of days if possible.
If it is a good translation, without any mistakes, your dog will carefully sniff out the printed pages, which is a dog’s equivalent of proofreading, and then go on to do other, more interesting things.
I am not only a translator, but also an agency, and I personally love it when I am checking translations as a proofreader and I don’t really have to do much more than the highly intelligent dachshund in my example.
Since I am not a dog, I don’t really try to sniff the paper and the toner on it, although I can smell it sometime, especially the toner. I actually proofread every translation that was done for me by another translator very carefully before I deliver it to a client, and if something does not seem to make sense, I go back to the original text in the original language and try to find the problem.
But if it is a well written translation, the problem is always in my head: I read the sentence one more time and I see, aha, this is where I misunderstood the English sentence, but it does actually make sense if I pay better attention.
Sometime I do change a few things, catch a couple of typos, or use a different font or different formatting. But not very often because I normally work with very good translators who would belong to category (A) or (B) defined above. If it so happens that I pick a translator belonging to category (C), I do my best to fix what I can, pay the translator the full amount of the invoice and never work with him again.
So far I never had to deal with a translator in category (D) (knock on wood), probably because I know how to pick them.
Since I don’t have to do anything with a good translation, the result – after the application of my expert proofreading skills, honed over a period of something like 30 years on thousands of translations from a number of languages – is exactly the same as when the same demanding task was performed by an astute dachshund.
Even if it takes me much longer to proofread a translation, as a dachshund’s smell test is not nearly as labor-intensive as proofreading performed by a human being, the result will be exactly the same as with the translation that was checked by the dachshund: nothing will be changed in it.
Nothing will be changed in it because a good translation can be proofread, with absolutely the same result, even by a canine, for example a highly intelligent dachshund.