On September 11th, the Quebec City chapter of Quebec’s association of self-employed workers and small businesses in language services, the ATAMESL, held a workshop for translators and editors at the Café Krieghoff, located in the city’s Upper Town. It’s a part of the city that bustles with residents and tourists alike.
The activity, mainly focused on translation and editing, gathered 15 language professionals and a few second-language teachers. Not surprisingly, many of the participants who attended the workshop lived in the Quebec City region.
François Lavallée, host of the event, founder of Magistrad, and vice-president of training and quality at Edgar, one of the important language professional agencies in the city, led a discussion of the pitfalls and advantages of translation and editing, as well as the benefits of partnerships between translators and editors. Instead of presenting a long speech on the matter, Lavallée voiced his own opinions on translation and editing before opening the floor to participants. For instance, we learned why Lavallée does not like unilingual editing (révision linguistique): in the absence of a source text, present in translation, the parameters are too vague. In addition, it is impossible to ensure language correspondence or target-text compliance without a source text.
Lavallée and participants alike had a number of questions to ask during this two-hour discussion. Here are just a few of them:
- How much experience must professionals have before they become writers or editors?
- Can translators be unilingual or bilingual editors?
- When editing texts, is it more important to focus on quality or cost-effectiveness?
- Must editors charge clients a word rate or an hourly rate?
- Do editors have some type of loyalty to translators? To the clients? To the end-readers?
- To what extent can translators and editors “improve” a text?
As part of the discussion, Lavallée took time to shed light on some misconceptions. For instance, we learned that it is not always best to leave a text as is even if we think it is good, for it is important to offer the maximum level of work possible to the end client. Any type of intervention is justifiable, especially if the texts in question are repetitive or redundant. The idea behind this exercise is to improve each other’s translation and editing skills.
Another point that Lavallée brought up during the discussion was the importance of team spirit between a translator and an editor. Both parties must know that they are collaborating with each other and having open discussions instead of working in competition and allowing one party to have the last word. Translators and editors can make suggestions, modify texts, and find solutions to translation problems.
In the discussions that ensued, all participants agreed on some common points: charging an hourly rate for editing projects, focusing on quality instead of cost-effectiveness, raising awareness about subjectivity in translation, avoiding repetitive and trite words in writing texts. And of course, we all concurred that our work is enjoyable because of the interest we manifest in language and its subtleties, its connotations. Other related topics in our round table included editing in literature, editing on paper, tracking changes in word processors, and writing well to translate well.
One other major problem raised in this discussion was the following: when faced with tight deadlines, do translators have enough time to edit texts after they have been translated? Here were some possible solutions: a) put aside enough time between translation and editing, especially if translators work by themselves; b) send a first draft to an editor; c) mutually edit texts if several colleagues are working on the same project; d) send several drafts at once in case of extreme time constraints; or e) put the text aside, and have a fresh look at it a few days or hours later.
The discussion concluded with this question: What makes editors capable of doing their work? Nobody had any hard-and-fast rules, but we believed that our professional environments encourage good editing practices, especially when novice translators and editors work with more experienced ones.
In summary, the evening was relaxed, enjoyable, and informative. Once our meeting came to an end, we left with new approaches to editing and translating, as well as ways to ensure effective communication when undertaking team projects. It was certainly worth my while to make a trip to Quebec City. I’ll do it again some time!