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Versão em português

Gabriela Castelo Branco As a soccer fan and a Flamenguista who grew up watching Zico play, I can never forget a comment made by a colleague of mine: “proofreaders are like goal keepers: they are only noticed when they fail”. Indeed, if discussions on the translator’s visibility and the awareness of our interaction (and intervention) with the original text still generates controversy, imagine the state of proofreaders’ (in)visibility.

As in translating, comments on proofreading are generally negative. The few times I have heard proofreaders being mentioned in the editorial market, the issue was an unwarranted change, the application of a rule “that nobody uses”, always imparting a rigid nuance to proofreaders’ actions. Perhaps for those who endorse the theory that “bad publicity is good publicity”, this could be significant. After all, I never hear good or adverse comments about us proofreaders of technical translation and localization.

Be mindful that the chances are great that one of us will bungle between the goal posts. Not that translators are as bad as Flamengo’s defense, rather it seems we are covering the goal with only one defense player and 11 forward players on the opposite side. While in some more traditional roles proofreaders will be responsible for grammar corrections and for adapting the text’s style into Portuguese, we language proofreaders of technical translations have to play in all 11 positions. If we ask the project manager if grammar correction, style adaptation, correspondence between the original text and the translation or terminology verification is to be prioritized, the answer is likely to be: “all of them”. And a little bit more.

Besides this responsibility in the field, we cannot ignore training. Becoming acquainted with more and more tools and file formats, recycling and constantly broadening the linguistic base in the foreign language and mainly in Portuguese, keeping ourselves updated on state-of-the-art technology are some of the keystones.

Basic bibliography for the proofreader

And who is the coach? Translator training courses are few, and fewer are those of respectable quality. Of a proofreader training course, I am unaware. I have heard it said that proofreaders are not trained; either you are one or you’re not. Or that learning involves practice. But then, who will have the opportunity to begin a career as a full fledged proofreader, in the first division right from the start? This is a complex affair.

It seems that all proofreaders share some personal characteristics: they are perfectionist, meticulous, detail-oriented and critical. They have a clinical eye, but do not lose sight of the game. They are extremely knowledgeable and bear a passion for their colors, viz. the Portuguese language. These features are not necessarily virtues. How many times have we taken a dislike to a certain structure, to a certain generally accepted translation? My winner phrase is “suportar” (to support): O sistema suporta as versões X, Y e Z (The system supports versions X, Y, and Z). Well, I DON’T support it.

Issues of style, then, are very personal. What then? Should we preserve the translator’s style, different from ours, or accept it?

It is a shame that tight deadlines and work volumes leave hardly any time for these and other considerations. I believe that a good part of our translating and proofreading background may be present in this exchange. In practice, translators rarely have access to the changes made by proofreaders. How many times have translators spent hours searching for an expression or trying to improve a structure for the proofreader to then destroy all that work with a quick, superficial scan of the eyes over the originals? How ethic is this intervention? And how many times have both spent hours trying to construct the same sentence when a simple e-mail exchange could enrich the discussion and save time at both ends?

Normally in this area, we do not know what happened to the translation or proof we delivered, and we do not even think about it. Hence, we end up assuming less responsibility for our work and contributing to our invisibility. I agree that we should not be visible in the text, yet increasing our visibility in society and in the market is one way of recognizing our profession.

As translation memory use increases and localization firms begin to implement machine translation programs, a good proofreader’s worth will appreciate in the market. We need to increase our efforts in the training of new professionals and invest in those already in the field. I see a few possible steps: workshops, project team briefings and debriefings (or meetings during the projects!), informal reports on key issues, delivery of the final project files to the team or a simple e-mail message exchange. Perhaps with more interaction, reflection and visibility we might be able to come closer to the millionaire’s salaries earned by soccer players. Or at least get closer to that number 10 shirt on our customers’ teams.

Gabriela Castelo Branco Ribeiro is a freelancer translator and proofreader who specializes in localization projects. She has a degree in Translation from PUC-RIO (1998), where she is currently working toward her master’s degree in Language Studies. During her spare time, Ribeiro enjoys the company of her husband Cláudio and daughter Vitória, cheering for Flamengo (or suffering with the team) and tasting good wines at the Brazilian Sommelier Association (ABS).


This article was originally published in Сcaps Newsletter (

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