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WHY WE LIKE REVISION

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We help others by translating texts, but today we’d like to tell you more about some of our other services. There are many people who have a text in English or Polish and they’re not interested in translation but they want their text to sound professional. There are many reasons for that: their English is good, but not as proficient as a translator’s, they have a translation but they want to have it checked, or they are self-aware enough to realise that they need to have their Polish text polished. As you may know from our previous entry on revision, review, and proofreading, we also offer these services.

We both review, revise, and proofread, but the texts Martyna does are different from Paweł’s, so we have different experiences, attitudes, and approaches to this topic. That’s why we’ve decided to split this entry into two posts, and today Paweł will share his views about this topic.

Remember: in this text, we use the definitions of revision, review, and proofreading as explained in the above-mentioned blog entry.

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Usually, I review texts written from scratch in English or revise Polish or English translations. I’ll start with review and I’ll focus on English texts, because the majority of my customers write for foreign audiences.

So, when I review texts, I do several different things.

First of all, I look for general faults: grammatical, punctuation, terminological, spelling mistakes, and typos. Many of those are simple mistakes: they can be called “accidents at work” and they don’t happen regularly. Sometimes they are errors, i.e. the author lacked knowledge of the correct form of the word, phrase, or grammatical structure. For example, if the author wrote “ocurrence” once and later on spelt it correctly “occurrence”, that’s a mistake. However, if he/she wrote “ocurrence” each time, that’s an error and probably the author doesn’t know the correct spelling.

translator and reviser at work
Pondering over errors and mistakes

Secondly, I look at the style. I correct clumsy wording, awkward structures, or culturally unacceptable phrases. For instance, “heretofore unknown” will get corrected to “unknown so far” in a scientific paper, “Read, prior to starting the machine, carefully the manual” will be “Read the manual carefully before you start the machine,”, or “the blind and otherwise handicapped get country help” will become “persons with visual impairment or other impairments and disabilities receive state benefits”. Generally, this requires changing some vocabulary choices, but it may also involve whole sentence manipulation by re-arranging the structure.

The goal of review is to make the text adequate for its purpose, so that its final recipient will find it appropriate lexically, grammatically, and most importantly, culturally.

Apart from simply correcting mistakes, errors, and style, I often explain why I’ve made such choices. I put my comments with the appropriate function in Word if I review a Word file. I try to educate the authors, so they know what has gone wrong in their texts. This way, I help them prepare better texts in the future. I also give the authors general feedback about the text’s strengths and weaknesses.

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When it comes to revision, my activities are to great extent similar as in review. Let’s remember that revision requires checking with the source text. Usually, I compare the texts sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph. I also start reading with the translation and then check the source material. This way I can prevent my mind from getting influenced by the original. When we read first the translation, then the original, it’s easier to find ambiguities or clumsy wording that otherwise can be easily understood or overlooked if the source text is known first.

Depending on the specific task, again I try to comment on my changes and show any problems with wording, grammar, style, or terminology. In the last case, revision is especially a good tool for correcting mistakes. It may happen that the translator of the original text has misunderstood something, lacked specialist knowledge, or mixed terms by accident. The reviser can easily spot any such problems within the translation when comparing it against the original. In the case of review only, this is more difficult because only blatant mistakes are clearly recognisable, while more nuanced terminological issues can be unnoticed.

Of course, I give the translator the benefit of the doubt and some cases require additional explanation from them. It sometimes – very rarely, but still – happens that the unexpected or seemingly wrong term is the correct one in a given context.

Just like in the case of review, I try to provide feedback to every revised text. I comment on both strong and weak points and note areas of improvement.

***

There are several reasons why I like doing reviews and especially revisions of other translator’s works, but the major one is that I am able to learn so much from this task.

I don’t approach the task as a “person who knows best” when it comes to vocabulary or style. I take revision as an opportunity to learn from others: to learn something from the text itself, to learn about the decisions and approach of other translators, to learn thinking outside my box… or to learn from other’s mistakes.

The first issue is also true of translation in general. I learn new things from the texts as it’s rarely the case that I know everything that is presented there. Sometimes there are new words, sometimes new facts. By doing revision, I can easily expand my knowledge as I recheck what the other translator’s choices are. It’s also a revision for me, because I refresh my knowledge or keep it constantly in my active vocabulary.

Revision is also a great opportunity to learn from other translators. It’s no big surprise that different translators translate the same text differently. In revision, I can see how others approach difficult parts in the text. Also, revision allows me to see various styles that can be adapted in translation. I believe that the role of a revisor is not to adapt the style of the translator to one’s own but to correct the text only if necessary to make it adequate to a given purpose.

This brings another point, which is to think outside my box. I can compare the decisions of other translators with my intuitions. Sometimes I notice a word or a phrase that I think is a very clever solution to a given translation problem with which I’ve struggled in the past. Later on, I may be able to use this solution or a very similar one when I encounter a similar difficulty again in the future. Generally speaking, revision is a great way to break patterns in translating. I often find myself thinking “I’d do it differently, but this is also good or even better”.

Lastly, revision is also a good way of learning from other translator’s mistakes. It sometimes happens that I notice a word or a phrase that seems fine at first glance, but I’m not really sure. I start then my research and scour all the available resources to find the correct answer and to find out that the translator’s made a mistake. This is also a valuable source of developing one’s skills as a translator.

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Many may think that review and revision are just about reading and correcting texts and that they’re simply boring in comparison with translation. I believe, though, that reviewing and revising are interesting and worthwhile tasks that allow me to grow professionally as a translator.

Remember: if you want us to learn new things or if you’d like to pit us against your texts and translations in review or revision, just contact us!

Paweł

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