Thursday, July 10, 2008

Translation experience is important for English language editing

Your organization needs to polish your deliverables—really make them shine. You're considering hiring an editor for general QA and language editing.

Recommendation: screen candidates for foreign language and translation experience.

If your company develops programs in English for English-speaking audiences, you probably don't need a bilingual editor, right? What you want is an English language editor who has studied foreign language, unpacked its grammar and syntax, digested its idiom and style.

Translation exercises especially sensitize editors to essential content; translation also teaches editors how to rewrite from scratch, as it were, which is crucial for successful editing in any industry. It's not important if your editor can speak fluent Hindi as a second or third language. What matters is the geeky grit of working over lines of text with highlighters and needle-point pens like the Pigma Micron or the Staedtler .005 mm.

When a writer doesn't have time to polish his work, for example, the text he produces may be full of filler, throwaway lines that were important at the time of writing because they helped him keep pace or maintain momentum. An editor who lacks translation experience may encounter such a text and recognize that there's a problem: good.

What's bad is that such an editor may attempt to solve the problem by tweaking words here and there, trying to smooth the syntax or improve a bit of grammar—a complete waste of time in this case. You don't want an editor who's keen to tweak filler. You want the other editor, the one who can immediately recognize filler for what it is and rewrite sections to cut that filler, foreground the essential content, and preserve what people commonly call flow.

That editor usually has solid experience translating paragraphs of a language X into cool, crisp English.

No comments: