The Journal of Specialised Translation
Issue 8 - July 2007
Personal revision habits At revision workshops, I have frequently heard people describe their revision habits, and I have wondered how accurate these statements are. Are they simply ideals, or do they reflect reality? Perhaps they reflect the reality with some texts and not with others. That is, people’s revision habits may well differ markedly with such factors as text length, text familiarity, direction of translation (from or to the mother tongue), and quality of writing of the source text.
While observational studies have the greatest promise when it comes to finding out what people really do, their statements about their habits are not without value.
10. Shih, Claire Yi-yi (2006). “Revision from translators’ point of view: an interview study.” Target 18:2, 295-312.
The author interviewed 26 professional non-literary translators who work from English, French or German into Chinese. They were asked how many times they go over a translation, how long they put their drafts aside before revising, what they are looking for when revising, and whether they think they use any untypical revision practices.
Most subjects reported that they went over their translations once or twice, though a few did three or four read-throughs. They mentioned variation with the type of job and the deadline. One translator said that self-revision was less important when she knew there would be a reviser. Another mentioned that self-revision after completion of the draft (as opposed to changes made while drafting) was not important
or necessary in documentation).
The most common answer to the question of how long drafts are put aside before revising was ‘no time’: the translators either said that the deadline did not allow setting aside, or else they felt no need. The second most commonly mentioned time was overnight. Some said that with long texts, there was a natural waiting time (at least for the earlier part of the text, presumably) since it took a long time to produce the draft.
Concerning things checked for, the most common answer was ‘readability’, followed by ‘accuracy’, then ‘terminology’. About 20 other points were mentioned, but much less frequently; only a few mentioned ‘meeting reader needs’, ‘omissions’ and ‘grasping the main idea’. Some of the points mentioned are very specific, such as ‘checking numbers and dates’. Shih suggests specific answers indicated that these respondents are aware of things that go wrong in their own work, and they revise accordingly.