Proofreading in a Multilingual World (Part 2)

Resources for Proofreading in a Multilingual World

Written by Renee Greenland, Multilingual Proofreader at The Geo Group Corporation.

Now that you know more about a proofreader’s role in the translation process, allow me to delve a little deeper into the topic of what kinds of resources a multilingual proofreader can use to ensure that a translated document is ready for its target market. As discussed in my previous blog titled “Proofreading in a Multilingual World,” there are many concrete items that a proofreader can verify without intimately knowing a particular language. Although a proofreader might not know all of the languages that need to be proofread, there are plenty of ways to familiarize oneself with a foreign language to help ensure its accuracy.

Being that multilingual proofreading is such a specialized job function, there are really no resources out there that are readily available. My top three most helpful references were researched and developed over time as recurring issues continued to arise. In order to ensure a quality rendering of a translated language, I would suggest compiling the following three reference guides:

  1. Develop a reference sheet of all the special characters that belong to the alphabet of each foreign language you will be proofreading so you can verify that corruption has not occurred. A common mishap during the electronic file transfers between client, language service provider, and translator is for the special characters in a language (like the “ñ” in Spanish or the “ü” in German) to become corrupted, or basically turned into another nonsensical symbol or character, such as a question mark, a random symbol, or an accented character that simply does not belong in that particular language. By posting this reference sheet of special characters above your workspace and reviewing the special characters right before you start proofreading each language, you will be able to detect and correct any corruption in the text.
  2. Create a cheat sheet of the different types of quotation marks that are used in each language you will be proofreading. A multilingual proofreader needs to check that the correct foreign language quotation marks have been used in a translated document, just as a professional editor would ensure that smart quotes (curly or slanted quotation marks) and inch marks have been used properly in English text. While some languages including Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Turkish use the same style quotation marks as we do in English, other languages use variations of English-style quotation marks, or even unique symbols. If a document is being translated into Greek or Polish, a vigilant multilingual proofreader will ensure that the proper «Greek» or „Polish” quotation marks have been used.
  3. If you will be routinely proofreading technical documents in multiple languages, then do yourself a favor and make a spreadsheet of translator-approved terms that will be used repeatedly, such as Chapter, Table, Figure, Page xx, etc. These terms are often embedded in the text as “cross references” or electronic links that automatically navigate you to a particular table, page or chapter when you click on them. For this reason, oftentimes this text will not be a part of the translation memory and will need to be requested from the translator after the translation phase has already been completed. By keeping track of these common translated terms, you can avoid last-minute requests to a translator in a different time zone who may very well be sleeping at the precise moment the project needs to be delivered to the client!

When you work as a multilingual proofreader, you will find that the same issues arise again and again, so keep careful notes of Q&A sessions with translators so you can begin gathering information for future reference material. Although certain customers’ specialized needs may require that you develop client-specific reference sheets exclusively for them, with the three guides listed above, you will have a good head start on mastering the basics of proofreading in a multilingual world.

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