ATTRAVERSO – COLUMN BY LETIZIA MERELLO (12)

Attraverso… on revision. How can a competitive level of productivity be achieved while maintaining constant quality? It might seem to be mission impossible, but it’s actually quite simple with the right team spirit.

It starts with the linguist, who carefully post-edits his or her work, especially focusing on the known weaknesses of the translation engine used, carefully rereading everything. And then… remember my waffle from the previous episode? I like to imagine it already cooked to perfection, ready to be “served” to the reviser, who will only have to see to a few final touch-ups.

First a necessary premise: there are different types of revision, which are more or less in-depth or focused on different aspects, all depending on the critical points of the text and what the customer has requested. The type of revision I most frequently do at work focuses on the internal consistency of the text and the adequacy of the terminology chosen, without forgetting routine quality controls, of course. I must admit that I rarely go any further: the average level of the texts I work on is rather high (and I must be grateful to all my colleagues for this, both in-house and freelance!), so if you were expecting a post where I complain about other people’s mistakes, I’m sorry to disappoint you.

You may have already deduced the same, considering my peaceful disposition between the lines of this column: I’m rather easy-going. Maybe that’s why I’m a good reviser; in a sense this is odd, because I don’t like it at all! But it must be said that the details always make a difference, and some soften the blow. These include a delivery of the translation accompanied by a good glossary that will make my automatic checks easier. If the translation also includes specific, detailed notes on any problems present in the original text, it’s quite likely that the revision will be a breeze.

Translators know that distance can work miracles in the success of a job: the best solutions are often found by letting the text rest for hours, in the most fortunate cases days. I say fortunate because those who translate will know all too well that this luxury is often hard to come by. That’s why we have revisers!

The reviser does exactly what we would do if had that extra time: read the translation with “new eyes”, test it to find its weaknesses, and adjust those weaknesses in the best possible way, all without distorting it.

The latter may seem like an exaggerated clarification in the field of technical translations, where a translator has very limited space to add a touch of their personal style. But this is not the case: a good revision must always respect the initial text and avoid preferential corrections as much as possible, and a good reviser must remember that even if the final brush stroke is theirs, the signature on the job always remains that of the translator, with the relative honours and burdens.

Image by Siim Lukka from Unsplash

In a sense, we could compare the noble art of revision to martial arts: an approach focused on the non-violence, elegance and cleanliness of movements, where you act in defence and not in offence, but without any mercy for objective errors.

However, as a meditation novice (as well as a yogini doomed to the eternal limbo of the beginner levels), I prefer to say that revision is perhaps the most mindful part of my work. And not just because it requires a lot of self-control in some cases… 😉

I’m trying to say that the revision of a text another person has worked on is an excellent exercise in sensitivity: indeed, apart from the obvious objective of checking for a lack of errors, the aim is to understand whether a different nuance is truly useful to the text (for example, if it is closer to the language of a particularly specific sectoral niche) or if it’s a question of personal taste. Thus the reviser’s mission is to accompany the final text towards an ideal balance.

Being overwhelmed by a waterfall of zen wisdom on Monday morning wasn’t exactly part of your plan, was it? Well, these are the risks you run coming to visit me for a harmless coffee break!

The cover image is me, drawn by Claudia Plescia.

English translation and adaptation by Sarah Schneider