Recreating a text in another language involves so much more that the just translation process itself. Depending on the translation situation (the type of text, the purpose of the translation and its target audience), taking another close look at the translated text sure can be worthwhile. This way anything that could maybe do with improvement can be tracked down and straightened out. Yes, we all know that to err is human. And it’s no different when it comes to translations, as all kinds of errors can crop up, even in the most careful work: omissions, transposed letters, inconsistent use of terminology … It’s for reasons like these that professional translation agencies employ specific methods to guarantee linguistic quality assurance. The translation is comprehensively checked over by the translator him or herself as usual before delivery and then another check is carried out by a second, qualified translator.

But in order to achieve the best quality possible, translations should be proofread or revised. As these two verbs are often used interchangeably, you could be forgiven for thinking that they mean the same thing. Although the goal is essentially the same – the improvement of an already existing translation –, the two terms are not synonymous. And as there’s no consensus in either theory or practice on a single definition of the two processes it’s a smart idea to specify in advance with your own translation service provider just which points should be considered when it comes to proofreading and revision, or, indeed, to make sure that the requested service is clearly defined.

Here at medical language service we have agreed on the following definitions. If a translated text is to be revised, it is checked thoroughly against the original by a second specialist translator (this is known as the “4-eyes principle” and complies with Quality Standard DIN EN ISO 17100). This means that the target text is compared with the original source text. Both the completeness and consistency of the translation are important here. Customer specifications are also taken into account, for example, in the use of certain terms, consideration of reference material and of how well the text fulfills the purpose of the translation. This process is mostly called revision in the English-speaking world. While, on the other hand, proofreading is generally limited to a simple check of the grammar, punctuation and spelling in the target text. This does not include carrying out a comprehensive comparison with the content of the source text. Although the terminological consistency of the translation can also be included in the proofreading, if required. Proofreading generally also means that a higher volume of text per hour can be checked, while, in our experience, you should on average calculate for around a third higher cost for revision. Both the time available and the existing budget certainly also play a role when it comes to deciding on one or other service.

And there’s a million dollar question to ask in both cases: is this intermediate step after the translation really so important? After all, you’ve already paid for a professional translation. And the answer is: yes, in particular, if there’s a high level of risk associated with the translation, such as for documents that are going to be printed. You can think of proofreading or revision as an investment, one which minimizes any risk associated with the language used in final product and helps to prevent potential additional unwanted costs that might arise in the future. Here are a few examples that should help to illustrate the point: it could be a brochure that has to be reprinted, just because a figure in the translation doesn’t match; or a translated package insert which presents a risk to the patient because an incorrect term has been used and it has to be resubmitted; or even a misinterpreted advertising slogan that could mean long-term damage to a company’s image.

A really good translation service provider is always aware of all the possible scenarios and can actively manage the associated risks, once the overall objective of the translation project has been clearly defined. So, always make sure that you communicate your situation and expectations very clearly to your trusted translation partner and then listen to his or her advice. This means that your individual project requirements can be specifically accommodated and the project management customized to fit. Then all the right measures can be taken to make the best possible use of the available resources and contribute efficiently to ensuring your success.

By Laura Sánchez Ríos, M.A. and Alessia Rabasca, M.A.
Project Management – medical language service