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Why have a foreign text edited?


Is your document really good, when it could be great? Do you want a second set of eyes to ensure it’s perfect? Have you entrusted your thoughts to the page in a foreign language and want it to read as if composed by a native? Are you interested in launching your American text on the British market, but concerned about the pitfalls of British slang versus American slang? These diverse scenarios all offer good reasons to get a document proofread or edited and the types of proofreading or editing you can ask for are just as varied. What exactly does it mean to “proofread” or “edit” in the translation world? What kind of proofreading/editing do you need? And why have it done at all? I will answer these questions and more in this month’s blog.


What is proofreading?

Proofreading is a versatile animal and much like a chameleon, its definition seems to change to fit the needs of the industry in question. In the publishing industry, documents are initially subjected to different levels of editing such as developmental editing, line editing, and copy editing with proofreading at the very end to correct any minor errors and typesetting mistakes. In the translation world, however, proofreading usually comes into play right after the translation is completed. Unlike in the publishing industry, proofreading in the translation industry involves identifying grammatical and typographical errors as well as any errors in spelling, formatting, and translating. Some translations do end up being published, however, so proofreading for publishing and proofreading for translation may overlap at times. In this article, I will focus strictly on proofreading for the translation industry.


What is editing?

Editing is similar to proofreading, but it zeros in on the content rather than focusing strictly on the mechanics of language. On my travels through the translation industry, I have noticed that many use proofreading as a blanket term for editing as well. I generally consider editing to be any work that seeks to improve the writing style or check the uniformity and coherence of the text’s content. Nonetheless, proofreading and editing both have a place in the translation world and there are many different kinds that need to be done. Let’s dive straight into editing.


Monolingual Editing

Whenever you write something in your native language and have someone else look it over, you are asking for a monolingual proofread. Our world is teeming with a diverse array of people, however, who communicate in different flavors of the same language or break down language barriers by expressing themselves in languages not their own. In the translation world, this has given rise to monolingual editing to localize and monolingual editing of texts written by non-native speakers.


Editing to Localize

Editing to localize involves taking a document written in one variety of a language and localizing it for a different variety. If a text is written in American English, for example, a British native speaker might be tasked with changing the spelling, expressions, idioms, vocabulary, writing style, etc. to match the British way of using English. When a text is edited to localize, the translator generally checks for and modifies the following to match the local language variety:

  • Variety-specific phrases, expressions, and idioms

  • Vocabulary with variety-specific meanings

  • Variety-specific spelling

  • References to things that don’t exist where the variety is spoken

  • Anything that could be misunderstood due to the difference in cultural context between varieties

Why is it important?

It is important to have a text localized when you want to ensure absolute clarity of communication in the target location. Texts that are relatively formal and academic may not need such treatment as much as texts that are very informal and discuss everyday items. The difference between British and American English, for example, is much more pronounced when talking about everyday things like clothing and kitchens than it is in texts discussing scientific principles.


Editing Texts by Non-Native Speakers

No matter how good a person is at speaking a foreign language, they are rarely good enough to masquerade as a native speaker on paper. That’s why native editors are here to help! While editing a text written by a non-native speaker, the editor will make minimal changes to ensure the fluency and grammatical correctness of the text. At the same time, the editor will also check that the text makes sense and flows logically. Where confusion arises, the editor might work closely with the author to ensure that their intended message is articulated as clearly as possible. Editing texts written by non-native speakers includes checks for:

  • Linguistic fluency

  • Grammatical errors

  • Logical flow

  • Difficulties in articulating content

Why is it important?

No native speaker would ever dream of incorporating some of the mistakes made by non-native speakers into their writing, no matter how small the snafu is. How gravely these mistakes affect communication varies. For many non-native speakers wanting to produce a flawless text, however, proofreading by a native speaker is indispensable. The fact that good writing is difficult to achieve even in your native language makes proofreading by a native speaker even more vital to texts written by non-native speakers.


Questions?

Not sure if the translation you have is accurate? Have me proofread the first page of a translation for free!

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