Translator vs. Proofreader

One of the things I have learned in life is that no one is aware of their own mistakes, if one were aware of their own mistakes, they would avoid making them in first place.

If you make a mistake it is because you are totally sure you are doing the right thing.

That is why in any translation the proofreading step is needed, someone else who is not involved and can see from a fresh point of view, from a different point of view. As a translator all my translations go through a proofreader to avoid those blind spots I did not see at first. There are also times when I had to become a proofreader and review a translation myself.

Out of this experience (correcting and being corrected) I have some thoughts that I want to share with you.

Purpose: the purpose of a translation is making an idea written or spoken in one language understandable to people of a different language. The better they understand the idea, the better the translation is; simple as that.

Proofreading is a step in translation, so it holds the same purpose. Therefore anything done by the proofreader needs to be with a view to improving the purpose of the translation, making the message clearly understandable for a person who does not speak the original language of the message.

This purpose unites both translator and proofreader. Unfortunately there are some considerations in between.

a) To any human being it is very difficult to accept a correction. The first reaction is to justify oneself and explain why we are right and the correction wrong, instead of taking a look and correcting what has to be corrected.
b) Many proofreading are made from the point of personal preferences and opinion, brushing aside the purpose of the proofreading and defeating the purpose of the translation.
c) A need to assert oneself, one´s knowledge and one´s importance by demonstrating that the translator is wrong, because that proves I'm right.

You will find many corrections made with the sole purpose of demonstrating that the proofreader is better than the translator, so changing a word for an equivalent or rewording a phrase which in fact does not modify the meaning. It is true that sometimes as proofreader you find things to correct, but sometimes the corrections is just a frivolous attempt to show how good you are compared to the translator.

My rule when I translate is: which words will express what it mean, not what it says?
My rule when I do proofreading is: if it is saying what it means, then no change is needed, otherwise which word or words will express what it means or would make it more clear?
The rule if I have to correct someone is, try to address the behavior to be corrected, not the person.

Everybody has a favorite set of words which hold dear; I do, but before I change anything in a translation I try to avoid a, b and c above and stick to my rules, because the translator and the proofreader are a team.

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