Why You Can’t Afford to Skip Proofreading Translations

By Ray S
August 12, 2020

Proofreading translations is both your safety net and the final polish of your message when it comes to any kind of multilingual business communications.

Typos and grammar errors can make even a simple email look unprofessional. But spotting these is only scratching the surface of a professional proofreader’s job.

Because when the stakes get higher – when we’re talking about international communications between you and your audience, between yourself and your suppliers and clients or even internally – the dangers posed by translation errors are much greater:

Are you risking sending a completely different message with your advertising than the one you intended? Are you risking expensive litigation or lost revenue later on?

In translation, it’s a proofreader’s job to make sure that you’re not. They’re your final line of defence, checking for errors and polishing your message so that it’s perfectly ready for publication.

What is proofreading?

Proofreading is usually defined as a review of the final draft of a piece of writing. A proofreader’s goal is usually to assess the grammar, punctuation, tense use, sentence structure and formatting of a document.

But the actual specifics of what proofreading entails will vary depending on the industry. Academic proofreading is quite a lot different to proofreading in publishing – and both differ a great deal from the kind of proofreading translations require.

In translation, a proofreader must also assess how well the document conveys the intended message. This involves reviewing things like word usage in order to ensure that there are no alternative – potentially more suitable – translations which might have been used.

After a text has been proofread, it should be ready for immediate publishing.

Do you have documents that need proofreading? Read more about our services and see how we can help.

The different types of proofreading

Those three distinct types of proofreading are important to distinguish between. They all feature the need to perform that final pre-publication check of things like spelling, grammar and punctuation. But there are important differences when it comes to other priorities:

  • Proofreading for publishers – is often used to confirm that print media is ready for publication. A publisher will be looking for a proofreader to perform the standard vital spelling, grammar and punctuation checks on the work of all previous writers and editors involved in a piece.
  • Academic proofreading – in addition to the usual checks, academic proofreading will normally feature citing and referencing checks. At higher levels, an academic proofreader may also review the text’s style and the language used.
  • Translation proofreading – in addition to the checks listed above, proofreading translations requires the proofreader to compare the source (original language) and target (new language) documents for fidelity of meaning.

Why is proofreading translations so important?

Even highly skilled and experienced linguists can make a mistake. There’s also the fact that translation is often something of an art – an art which can be open to interpretation.

That’s why getting second and third sets of eyes on a given text is always vital. Because even with extensive subject matter knowledge and language expertise to call on, there’s always a chance that someone else may be able to offer a refinement.

Plus, proofreading is a vital step for even the simplest commercial document. The higher value your communication is, the more critical having a professional review process before publication becomes. Proceeding to publication without proofreading can lead to:

  • Miscommunications
  • Lost revenue
  • Damage to your brand

What is the difference between editing and proofreading?

Proofreading should come after editing in the translation process. A proofreader’s job is to perform the final error checks and polishing of a document which should already be well-written and clear in the language that it uses.

  • Editing – an editor’s job is to improve the impact your document will make. This might mean checking the clarity of language, the tone or voice, the consistency and the overall quality of the writing.
  • Proofreading – a proofreader then checks the texts for any typographical, grammatical or formatting errors in the original translation or which might have appeared during the editing process. In translation proofreading, they will also assess language use and may compare the source and target documents to ensure this is of the highest possible quality.

What to look for in your proofreader for translation

As you might expect, a proofreader needs to have certain skills – not least a powerful attention to detail – to do their job effectively.

There are certain things that it’s a good idea to look for when you’re looking for proofreading services for translations:

1) A native speaker of your target language and culture

Only a native understanding of the words used in your target document is sufficient to the task.
If you want to ensure that your new document is linguistically correct in all areas – grammar, spelling, punctuation, formatting and so on – nothing else will do.

Being a native speaker also means that your proofreader will understand the culture of the target audience of your message. This is key when it comes to making sure that the language used in your document conveys the message you want it to when it is read by someone raised in that culture.

Furthermore, it ensures your text will sound natural. Rather than incorporating the kind of errors which are often painfully obvious and jarring to a native eye.

2) A master of the source language too

When proofreading a translation, a native-level fluency of the target language being proofread is vital. But a mastery of the source language is also a must.
This is because a proofreader is often called upon to refer to the original document in the course of their work. They need to know when language might have been accidentally made more strident or become less powerful after passing through the translation process.

Their aim is to make any changes necessary to finalise the target document as a carefully tailored localisation of the source text. They can’t do that if they don’t know precisely what the source text says.

3) A subject matter specialist

Having full understanding of the terminology used in a given document from a specific industry or field is a key qualification of a translator, editor or proofreader.

For example, if you’re in the chemical industry, you might have documents which reference production processes or chemical properties. If you’re in a legal field, you might reference certain laws or practices.

If your proofreader has no understanding of the underlying meaning of the materials they are checking, they will have difficulty deciding whether or not any element is or is not correct or important.

That’s why, at Asian Absolute, we insist our linguists have a minimum of five years of industry experience or Masters degree-level qualifications in the field. For the highest quality translations, you need everyone involved in the process to know what they’re writing about.

4) Ability to follow a style guide

When you first negotiate your translation project with an LSP (Language Service Provider), they will almost certainly ask you if you have a style guide.

A style guide describes the design, composition and standards expected of the documents in question. A guide is often produced by individual brands to keep their branded content cohesive.

A good proofreader will be used to checking that translated documents are a match for a business’s style guide. As a rule, a reliable LSP will be proactive about requesting them.

5) Access to the right tools and technology

Modern translation services are delivered using CAT (Computer Aided Translation) tools which may include things like Translation Memories. TMs are databases of already-translated words and phrases.

This means that a proofreader who specialises in translation needs to have a proper working understanding of tools like this. This is pretty much a given if you’re using a professional translation agency. But it’s always worth checking as some agencies may offer you discounted translation costs when using TMs.

Why proofreading matters

You wouldn’t send a letter or start distributing marketing to your mailing list at home without proofreading it first. Nor would you apply for a patent or do any of a hundred other activities without having an expert carefully check what it is you’ve actually written.

When it comes to documents you’ve had translated into other languages, the need for proofreading services skyrockets. It’s the only way to guarantee your communications are the exact equivalent of your originals. As well as that they are on-point, publication-ready and completely fit for task.

Do you have a translation project which needs proofreading?

Get a free, no-obligation quote and see just how easy it can be to perfect your project, with Asian Absolute.

Already used by businesses in every industry, we’re your local, global translation agency.