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Now that I edit translations regularly, I am developing new tricks to make the process more efficient. Below, I’ll share two of those tricks. First, though, let me start at the beginning, when I would reject any offer to edit a translation.
I used to fear editing because the editor is the last set of eyes on a document, and that’s a lot of responsibility. Any time I saw “proof” or “edit” associated with a potential job, I would delete it or turn it down without a second glance. I let my fear stand in the way of Cochran Language Services reaching its full potential.
Conveniently, this spring, one of my clients started sending me weekend editing projects. I agreed to take short ones initially, my way of testing the waters. Guess what? The PM was satisfied with my efficient and thorough work, so she continued to send similar jobs. With time, this solidified my confidence in my eye for detail, understanding of scientific texts, and grasp of English grammar. Now, I look forward to seeing the project inquiry in my inbox on Fridays.
As promised, I’ll share with you two tricks I developed to streamline the editing process.
1) Analyze the source text a day or two before. I search for terminology, abbreviations, etc. that I don’t recognize and look them up. This is, of course, easiest with short projects of <3,000 words. I’m positive that it could help with longer ones, though. What this does is keeps me from wasting editing time bouncing my attention back and forth between internet searches and the target document details.
2) Edit the headers/footers/letterheads on every page first, THEN tackle the body of the text. For the same reason above – it keeps me focused on one area of the text at a time. I can make sure footers are consistent with the source text. I can zero in on phone numbers, names, and addresses without thinking about scientific terms. Also, this eases me into the editing process. Sometimes, once you get into the body of text, it can overwhelm you, especially when errors and missing text abound (after all, you never know the quality of the translation until you set eyes on it). So, headers and footers give me a feel for the translator’s work.
I hope these two tricks help you, or that you recognize them because you use them too!
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I can proudly say that, after 6 years in business, I’ve learned that there is a time for passively operating my business and for actively operating it. And, let me say, both have their challenges.
When COVID hit in early 2020, I found my stride with the active operation of my translation business. It included cold-contacting potential clients, writing bi-monthly blog posts, interacting on LinkedIn, and regularly posting on Instagram. These types of activities helped me find new clients and develop professional relationships with other translators. It didn’t feel like work, just part of my standard operating procedure.
Over the summer of 2021, though, I've had so much on my plate with selling and buying a home that I have not had time to be active in the above sense. So, I gave myself permission to stop the forward momentum of my business and to rely entirely on passive operations to simply keep it idling.
To me, being passive meant letting the work come to me. I checked my email for job offers from current clients and did those jobs. Of course, I also invoiced them and fielded client questions. I stopped investing in professional relationships, since I needed more time with friends during this high anxiety period. I knew my translator colleagues would still be on LinkedIn when I returned. These passive operations allowed me to maintain an income, my translation skills, and my long-term clients, all of which I was grateful for. However, I knew I could do better, and I started itching to move forward again (I don’t idle well, I get antsy).
Since my new home went under contract this week, I decided that I'm ready to be active again, to blog and interact with the translator community. There’s just one problem… I have to re-wire my brain. See, since I stopped using the “active operations” muscle, it’s gone all flabby and weak, and my old friends Procrastination and Perfectionism easily overpower it. For example, today, I’m having a very difficult time sitting at my keyboard to write this come-back blog post. I wrote two sentences earlier, then decided it was time to brush my dog. I returned to the computer 10 minutes later, wrote two more sentences, then got up to make a snack. By then, it was time for a scheduled phone call with a friend. Now, it’s early afternoon and my perfectionist voice is piping up and telling me, “This post isn’t good enough, so you should save it and go back to it tomorrow with a clear mind.”
I am determined to continue flexing this muscle though and return to growing my business. After all, that same determination is what got me here in the first place. I look forward to seeing you on LinkedIn or in my inbox to discuss business and life as a translator. I've got lots to say after a few months away!
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I have been working on PMTE projects (post-machine translation editing) a lot more over the last year. So, I have become aware of a few of the linguistic hurdles that make this type of translation work frustrating for translators, project managers, and translation-buying clients. Below, I describe 3 French phrases, common in medical science translations, that pose a challenge to machine translation tools.
First, though, it is important to understand the core of the issue. Many phrases/terms in French have a few possible translations (even incorrect ones) in English. Thus, translators feed the MT tool with these various options, and the tool cannot generate consistent translations of such phrases. Then, when a translator accepts the PMTE job, a few things may happen:
3 difficult-to-machine-translate French phrases:
The obvious translation is literal: hospitalization report. However, consider the nature of such reports. They contain details about the patient’s stay in the hospital, and they are usually provided at discharge (or when a patient dies). So, according to some translators, this could also be translated as: hospitalization discharge report and, maybe even hospitalization discharge summary. Others suggest a shortened version: discharge report or discharge summary. Still others might suggest hospital stay report (or summary). So, you can see how translating this phrase would produce inconsistent machine translation.
… formulaire du jj/mm/aaaa (for example, 01/01/2021), in the context of a list of documents submitted to an ethics committee
Two possible correct translations would be … form dated 01/01/2021, or even … form from 01/01/2021.
However, the machine translation segment often reads … form of 01/01/2021, which, to me, is very strange in English. I would say the War of 1812 (here the date is very formal, historically documented, and an accepted name of an event), but I would not say the … form of 01/01/2021. As mentioned above, some translators feed this type of incorrect translation to the MT, and that is how poor-quality translation is perpetuated.
Justification de l'adéquation des moyens
This is seen in ethics committee documents. It is a phrase found in the French Public Health Code that does not seem to have an exact equivalent in English. In a recent project, I searched the translation memory for previous examples of this phrase and its translation. I found:
Rationale justifying the suitability of resources
Rationale for the suitability of resources
Rationale for the appropriateness of resources
Justification of the adequacy of resources
Personally, I like the first one, it covers the bases of rationale and justification. As you can imagine, though, the client will be confused when it ends up with multiple translations of this document name.
Food for thought
I hope these examples and my explanations give other translators food for thought. My only suggestion to avoid frustration between the PM and translator is to use clear communication. The translator could include a note with his/her work explaining his/her choice and pointing out the lack of consistency in the MT-generated segments. At least then, the PM could take that information into account when deciding how to proceed.
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Every translation project calls for varying depths and types of research. Some of my projects stay on the linguistic level (i.e. I choose the correct word based on my expertise in the English and French languages). However, some jobs require digging deep into science in both languages in order to accurately translate the text. Those projects are among the most challenging and time-consuming. Below, I describe an example of the latter from my work last week, including the steps I took in order to provide the best translation I could.
The translation subject
Hospitalization summaries for several patients who had received an allogeneic (from a donor, not from their own body) stem cell transplant and had a reaction afterwards.
The 3 most challenging French terms