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Proofreading the original document during the certified translation process

Updated: Oct 10, 2020

What may be some of the reasons behind a bad translation? One of them is that the translator's training, skills or preparation may be inadequate, or that they are not specialised in the subject matter of the text. However, there is another very common possibility that is usually not taken into account, and for which the translator may be blamed, although it certainly not their fault. It could simply be that the text is badly written in the original language. In these cases it is very difficult to produce a good translation while at the same time remaining faithful to the meaning and tone of the original. This is even more the case when it comes to certified translations, since ensuring fidelity to the original is the whole point of the certification.

This is why, just as it happens before a book is published, a text that is going to be translated must first pass through the hands of a proofreader of the original language. And we don’t just mean a digital one, as you probably have on your word processing programme, but a real life, native speaker of the source language. This will preferably be a professional with excellent analytical reading and writing skills. Certified translation are very often needed for official documents issued by an authority such as a government department, university or registry office. In these cases it is probably impossible to make any corrections to the original without return to the organization which issued them. This may be quite a hassle, but we do recommend it in order for the certified translation to be absolutely correct and to have no problems when they are submitted at the place they are required. Usually, however, and as we should expect, such official documents are correctly written in the source language. Although it is always worth giving them a proper check over. Mistakes can be made.

Human vs. digital spell checker

Although there are many digital proofreaders in the form of word processors (they are fast and efficient, and are certainly an invaluable tool for the reviewer), for professional work it is important to use a human proofreader. You only need to open a programme like Microsoft Word to realize that there are aspects of even our native language that escape us, and however careful we have been while writing a text, there are usually at least a few suggestions for changes. But digital spellcheckers are far from infallible. There are many examples of when they get things wrong.

Differences in verb tenses.

Ignorance of colloquial language. Academic dictionaries are like the tip of the iceberg: they only represent a part of the living or spoken language. Thus, word processors are not able to correct non-academic words or set phrases.

A lack of updating of the programme with the latest versions of dictionaries. It is common that when using old programmes these include errors in words that have been corrected in more recent editions.

However, as mentioned above, it is certainly true that word processors can help the human proofreader to correct the most obvious and indisputable errors.

What is the relationship between a spell checker and a translator?

In general, professional proofreaders are usually philologists, journalists or graduates of humanities courses such as Philosophy and Literature or History. Also, to become a good spell-checker it is necessary to have read a lot and be up to date with the latest changes applied by dictionaries and linguistic authorities to the languages being worked with.

From this point on, the professional proofreader also requires a professional translator to ensure that the final translation is of high quality. The fact that both linguists are professionals is not only important in ensuring that a good job is done but also that all the correct steps of the process are followed. In short, the relationship between the proofreader of the original document and the translator is as follows:

The proofreader carries out the spelling correction in its entirety and sends it to the translator.

The latter must first read the text in detail and completely before starting to translate.

If they have any doubts about certain words or phrases, the translator will refer back to the proofreader and discuss the issues in order to come to an agreement of how to proceed.

To conclude, and to emphasize the importance of spell checkers, let us take as an example an important literary work that is going to be translated into several languages. It is possible that the first translation will be from Spanish to English, and that the latter will be the source for translation into other languages. In this way, without thorough and correct proofreading and correction, all kinds of errors could be reproduced over time and spread through various languages, leading to sometimes significant changes to the original text. This kind of documentary “Chinese whispers” has in fact has happened many times throughout history. Although these errors occurred in the source, they have sometimes unfairly left the translators with the blame. We would like to avoid this happening, especially with certified translations. We recommend that you check any documents you need translating, before paying good money to have them expressed in another language, errors and all! We will of course carry out a thorough proofreading of the texts before and after translation, but it’s helpful if you can let us know about any errors in advance, so we can consider the correct course of action to ensure a smooth process and the most accurate certified translation possible. We don’t accept anything less than 100%. As ever, thanks for reading, and just get in touch if we can be of any help with your standard or certified translations. We offer complete accuracy, acceptance by the requesting authority, and the cheapest price on the market - all guaranteed!

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