Proofreading in a Multilingual World

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

When I tell people that I am a multilingual proofreader at a foreign language translation company, inevitably I am asked, “How many languages do you speak?” Although I am fluent in French and proficient in Spanish and Italian, I am actually able to proofread any and every language that exists. You might be wondering “But how is that possible?” In order to understand my role as a multilingual proofreader, you’ll need a little insight into how the translation process works.

The translation process can be quite complex. For a standard printed document being translated from English into one or more foreign languages, we request from the client the original electronic files in whichever desktop publishing program they were created. The text is extracted from the document by our Desktop Publishing (DTP) department and is sent to one or many translators, depending on the number of languages needed.  Once the translation phase is complete, the translator returns the raw text back to us, and DTP works its magic to reintroduce the translated text into the original document layout.

Many steps are taken to make this happen. Because translated text can run as much as 25% longer than the original source English, it is often necessary to shrink font sizes, reduce leading (line spacing), and adjust kerning (letter spacing), among other things that can be manipulated to squeeze all those extra words back into the original document format. This resizing process can introduce a myriad of formatting errors into the translated document, such as inconsistent text size and spacing, bold or italic text attributes that become lost or jumbled, and corrupted characters that have erroneously replaced the correct accented letters in a language.

Once the translated text has been put back into the original document layout, a PDF is made and sent to the translator for linguistic proofreading (LP), which is the equivalent of foreign language editing. The final step after DTP implements the translator’s requested LP changes is where I come in—Hard Copy Proofreader to the rescue!

A printed copy (i.e., hard copy) of the translated document is compared side by side with the source English document to ensure that the translated document has retained the look and feel of the original. For instance, bold headings must be bold; italic footnotes must be italic; underlined text must be underlined in the translation as well. All text must be translated and accounted for. Text size and spacing must be consistent; text alignments and indents must mimic the source. Tables and figures must be numbered in the proper sequence. Page numbering in the Table of Contents must be updated to match the actual pages if the translated document runs longer. All of these items can be verified without actually knowing the foreign language. If differences are found between the source English and translated documents, we ask the translator to clarify the discrepancies.

In addition, several language-specific items are double checked, including the usage of proper quotation marks (such as « French » or „German“ ones) and the usage of the decimal point vs. the decimal comma (in many European countries, the comma used to denote thousands and the decimal point to represent a fraction are switched). Special accented characters in the language are spot checked to ensure that they did not become corrupted during the processing and formatting of the document. When all those things and many more not mentioned have been triple checked, your translated document is ready to conquer the multilingual world!

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