(Not) lost in revision

Revision is a complex operation and should be handled by experienced translators, professionals with many years’ expertise in appropriate business sectors. The aim is to check meaning and sense are the same between source and target texts, as well as to improve the quality of the target text. It is also the last chance to avoid mistakes that can cost dearly.

Here is something of what I learned in my career as revisora, the Italian word for reviser.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is valid for translation, transcreation and other language-related jobs as well, but revision is the last step before the text goes live, so it is even more important to clarify doubts and ask questions. Some consider asking questions a sign of weakness: for me, it is a sign of professional competence and it shows your client you are committed to deliver the best possible result.
  • Don’t be afraid to turn down a project: if it’s not your field of expertise, if you don’t feel 100% confident, better to turn it down. Defying all logic I sometimes get offered revision of texts I’ve just turned down for translation belonging to sectors I don’t feel confident working in. Does it make any sense? No, it doesn’t, as I think that revision is a sensitive operation, which should be commissioned to professional translators with extensive sector-specific experience. By saying no to something which doesn’t fall into your field of expertise, you prove to be a professional; plus, the customer will surely appreciate it – I can testify to that – and will come back to you with confidence once a text pertaining to your expertise comes round.
  • Respect the translator’s choices, as long as they are correct and make sense. Suppress the very human urge to change a word or an expression just because you like it best: these preferential changes (or hyper-revision) won’t add to the clarity or correctness of the text. Revision should aim to be invisible. As said, the objective is to improve the quality of the target text, not to make pointless changes just to stand out. It’s always important to be able to distinguish between necessary corrections and suggestions.
  • If you can, establish a connection with the translator, discuss, ask for clarifications. You’re not a teacher correcting an assignment: revision should be a shared enterprise, based on cooperation, constructive in purpose, proactive in suggesting viable alternatives when needed.
  • If the text you’re meant to revise is very bad translated, refuse to do the job, as revising it would take you longer than translating it from scratch: ask the client to have it translated by someone else, or to ask the original translator to take a further look, or suggest you can do the translation yourself.
  • Always keep in mind the big picture, by which I mean the text in its entirety, its tone, style, register, rhythm: if the change you’re introducing is small but significant, it could have a great impact. Think twice.
  • Try and see the text from the reader’s perspective, put yourself in the target audience’s shoes: this always works to pinpoint the correct tone and register. The reviewer sees the text from another perspective, as if from a distance, and can pick this up more easily.
About the author
laura-cattaneoI am an Italian specialist in marketing, creative and legal translation and editing. I put my many years of experience to the advantage of my clients by creating texts resonating with the Italian-speaking audience and making brands locally relevant. Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter or visit my website.