I’ll call him O for Offended.
O and I had volunteered our services at an NGO. His job was to translate an article and mine was to proofread it. And the NGO would get another English-language document for their website.
O’s work was good. In my mind, by suggesting about ten slight modifications, I made his translation even better.
For example, I changed
- “June 9th” into “June 9”
- “meet up with” into “meet”
- “around the planet” into “around the world”
- “numerous” into “many”
I also tinkered around with a sentence so that “sous la houlette” would not result in “under the primeship”; enter “under the primeship” in Google to see how obscure it is. Mystery expressions might be fine for an academic paper, but not for publicizing an event to the general public.
Each tracked change made O hostile.
He wrote back a page-long letter pitting His Word Choice against my word choice. He felt he had to defend all but one of my proposed changes.
I got a list:
Why did you take off the “th” from the date?
What’s wrong with “under the primeship”?
“Nombreux” means “numerous”!
The closing paragraph included a threat to never translate for the NGO again because he did not have time to correct the corrector.
Why would O spend an hour questioning every tracked change?
Maybe O is used to defending his work to project managers in face of The Overzealous Proofreader. But I was not proofreading for our employer and I did not go overboard.
A tracked change is not a personal affront.
Unlike O, I take editorial suggestions into account with little emotion. My own work is picked apart on a regular basis and these critiques are sometimes encouraging—and sometimes harsh, no holds barred. (Check out this post from The Cycling Translator if you want to get better at editing and proofing.)
Every time I get feedback, I get better at my job.
Thanks to feedback from other translators, I’ve been reminded that:
- “Which” and “that” cannot be interchanged at will.
- The spellcheck is better than me at Americanizing all instances of Canadian spelling (“fiber” not “fibre”).
- Hyphens can be left out more often than I thought.
- Short words are better than long ones.
- Too much confidence in understanding the source text can lead to criminal linguistic activity.
I welcome feedback and read suggestions carefully. I take note of what I could have done better.
O should have done the same.
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