On reviewing other people’s translations and having my own reviewed by others


I started reviewing other people’s translations and having mine reviewed by others about thirty years ago, while working at the translation department of a major public bank in my country, Argentina.

We used to translate financial agreements and bank-related stuff mostly, but legal papers and different types of technical texts as well, including patents and manuals.

We worked the old-fashioned way– face to face, in groups of three or four, on “real” pieces of paper, using “real” black pens. There weren’t any computers, Internet resources or electronic dictionaries. No translators’ fora on which to ask “difficult” questions. No CAT tools or translation memories to share. No DTP resources either, just simple, ordinary typewriters.

There was, yes, a wonderful collection of dictionaries in the office, and, when our own resources failed to fit the bill, there was the possibility of browsing the well-provisioned library of the Ministry of Economy, just two blocks away, crossing the sadly famous Plaza de Mayo Square, and the U.S. Lincoln Library (at the time located on Florida Street, about a block away from Plaza San Martín).

We used to have hot discussions over the meaning of a word, over the convenience of using one grammatical structure or another, over whether we were respecting the original or not… until we would come to an agreement (or go with the majority opinion).

Sometimes, all this was not enough and there was the need to ask for expert advice. So, depending on the nature of the translation, we would resort to people from the Legal Department, the Project Development Team or Architectural Services, for example, and we would pester them with questions and doubts, paper and pencil in hand.

The pile of paper sheets would grow over days… or weeks. And a glossary for the whole project would be developed at the same pace. There being no word processors, we had to go back and forth uncountable times in our manuscripts, making corrections here and there, when we finally found out the meaning of those problem words that repeated themselves all over the translation.

Then, each of us would check his or her own translation against the original for accuracy and completeness, make consistency adjustments, and correct any spelling mistakes (spell-checkers in 30 languages were still science fiction). Finally, we would put all the pieces together and hand them to the lucky one who would review the whole thing.

My first reviews taught me a lot about my colleagues’ personality and particular ways of approaching a translation– the extent and success of their research efforts, their ability (or inability) to keep consistency in a long text and to maintain attention to detail after long hours of work, the swiftness with which they would take things for granted… I felt at the time, and I still feel today, that such a “dissection” of someone else’s work is a unique opportunity to see how other people work, how they organize their thinking and work, how much they understand and like (or dislike) a certain text and the translation task in general.

Whether it was me or someone else in the team that reviewed the group’s work, we always followed not only an established working procedure but also certain “good fellowship” criteria. We had our differences, but, in essence, we were all friends. And were there to help each other do the best possible job.

Today, I don’t have the opportunity of being part of “physical teams” as I did in the past. I work with e-colleagues from distant places in the planet, and I somehow miss the closeness I shared with my old workmates. But the lessons I learnt while working with them will always stay with me…

#1 – I always respect the original translation. I may like it or not, I might have done the whole thing quite differently, but if the translation is correct, I leave it as it is. (In some cases, I write comments on how I’d have solved a certain problem posed by the source text, and many translators have been grateful for these.)

#2 – I never undertake to review a text when I’m not familiar with the subject matter. In a similar fashion, I try to have my translations reviewed by the “right” people.

Some time ago, I was asked to bid for the translation into Spanish of some mutual fund reports. I had to translate a sample text, which was short but full of twists and turns. I immediately called Javier, a good old friend of mine, who’s an expert in stock markets and mutual funds and, on top of that, a very good translator. I translated the sample and sent it over to him for revision– an hour later, when I got the text back, I couldn’t recognize it. Not that he had changed “my style”, but apparently I had chosen all the “wrong” terms. I submitted the translated sample rather dubiously… but they happily gave us the job. Javier and I worked together for the following month. Every time I finished two or three of the reports, I forwarded them to him. I’d receive them back the following day, all red-marked at the beginning. In the course of the month, I learnt a lot about that specific terminology and, by the end of it, Javier just had to make minor adjustments to my texts. We would discuss, argue and even quarrel, but finally came to agreements. It was kind of stressing, but everything went just fine.

#3 – Whenever possible, I reserve the right to have my translations reviewed by people I like and respect, people who will respect my work but who won’t overlook my mistakes, whether big or small. If, after working once or twice with somebody, I find out that he or she is not the “right one” for me, I just won’t ask them again.

In short, the relationship between translator and reviewer should be based on trust, friendship and genuine teamwork. And, of course, “genuine teamwork” is not possible when the translator feels the reviewer is out there to criticize and prove his or her point, and not to help out.

Embarking on the translation of clinical trial documents? Make sure to bring the right gear! (Revised and expanded)

When you translate clinical trial documents, you may be helping a patient with things such as starting a clinical trial or an investigator read the clinical research protocol in his or her own language. Your work counts. Your work is important. Your work affects the lives of many people. And you’are driven to work hard. Responsibly.

Translating clinical trial documents

Now, there’s no denying that translating clinical trial documents can be a tough nut to crack. Actually very hard if you don’t have access to the right tools and resources. So if you intend to dive into the depths of this mighty river, make sure to bring the right gear.

Below you’ll find a handful of helpful resources that can help you assemble a powerful English-Spanish translation/writing kit:

•  Access to the Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA) through Tremédica (International Association of Translators and Editors of Medicine and Allied Sciences).

If you need help getting started with the MedDRA, you may want to check An introduction to MedDRA for medical translators by Emma Goldsmith on her blog, Signs and Symptoms of Translation.

•  A subscription to Cosnautas, including:

•  Fernando Navarro’s authoritative Libro rojo (the Red Book);

•  NEW! Diccionario de investigación clínica (DIC), a must-have English-Spanish dictionary of clinical research terms, by M.ª Verónica Saladrigas;

•  Siglas médicas en español, a repertoire of initialisms, acronyms, contractions and symbols used in Spanish medical texts, also compiled by Fernando A. Navarro;

•  Árbol de Cos,  a collection of links to Internet resources for medical translators and writers, compiled by Laura Munoa, with the assistance of Fernando Campos Leza, and María J. Hernández Weigand); and

•  Alergología e inmunología, an English-Spanish dictionary of allergology and clinical immunology, by Juan Manuel Igea Aznar.

•  Pablo Mugüerza’s Manual de traducción inglés-español de protocolos de ensayos clínicos (English/Spanish Clinical Trial Protocol Translation Handbook), a Fundación Dr. Antonio Esteve publication.

•  Glosario EN-ES de ensayos clínicos (Glossary of clinical trials, ENG-SPA), by María Verónica Saladrigas, Fernando A. Navarro, Laura Munoa, Pablo Mugüerza, and Álvaro Villegas, a Tremédica publication.

•  Clinical Research Glossary, a publication of the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium.

•  Diccionario de términos médicos, Real Academia Nacional de Medicina.

•  Stedman Bilingual: Medical Science Dictionary, English-Spanish, Thomas Lathrop Stedman, Editorial Panamericana.

•  MediLexicon online database of pharmaceutical and medical abbreviations.

•  Glossary of Pharmaceutical Terms, English-Spanish, WHO Collaborating Center for Pharmaceutical Pricing and Reimbursement Policies.

•  Diccionario de anatomía e histología, by Francisco Speroni, Editorial de la Universidad de La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

•  A Spanish-English glossary of genetics, by Emma Goldsmith on Signs and Symptoms of Translation.

•  Vocabulario inglés-español de bioquímica y biología molecular (English/Spanish Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Glossary), by María Verónica Saladrigas, M. Gonzalo Claros Díaz, and Diego González Halphen, a Tremédica publication.

•  A Spanish-English statistics glossary for clinical trials, by Emma Goldsmith on Signs and Symptoms of Translation.

•  Medical Translation Step by Step: Learning by Drafting, by Vicent Montalt and Maria González-Davies, Routledge.

•  Cómo traducir y redactar textos científicos en español, Reglas, ideas y consejos, by M. Gonzalo Claros Díaz, a Fundación Dr. Antonio Esteve publication.

•  SEQC’s Manual de estilo para la redacción de textos científicos y profesionales (Style Guide for Scientific and Professional Writing).

Please note this style guide does not incorporate the latest changes introduced to the Spanish grammar by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, which you can find here.

You can also refer to Spelling and Typographic Standards of the new Ortografía de la lengua española (2010) as Applied to Biomedical Publications in Spanish: An Overview, by Manuel José Aguilar Ruiz, a Tremédica publication.

•  5000 frases precocinadas para textos científicos, by Pedro Margolles García, a NeoScientia publication.

•  A Practical Guide to Self-Reviewing Your Translation Work, an e-book intended for new translators and others interested in implementing a systematic self-review process.

I hope this will serve as a starting point for building your own resource portfolio. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section of this post. And, of course, happy translating!

A Practical Guide to Self-Reviewing Your Translation Work

ACE Your Post-Translation Process and Pre-Delivery SAFE Checks

This e-book is the first in a series of summarized publications that are part of the Skill Building for Translators (SBT) Program. It is intended for new translators and others interested in implementing a systematic self-review process.

Hopefully, after reading this guide you will have a better understanding of the steps needed to self-review your translation work thoroughly, and an orderly method to do so methodically.

I am acutely aware of the fact that this guide can be greatly improved and supplemented, and it will probably grow and develop over time. Your feedback is most welcome!


The Newbie Translator’s Corner: Healthy Relationships with Translation Agencies and Project Managers


December’s always been a crazy month for me. Work pours in ahead of the Holiday Season, the house and the pool get more crowded and noisy than usual with my two teenage boys out of school, not to mention preparations for Christmas’ Eve, which we usually spend at home with family and friends.

Every year during this busy season, no matter how swamped I may be, I take some time to greet my translation agency project managers, and thank them for another year of close collaboration and good work together.

After all the complaining about translation agencies and project managers we can read about on the social networks these days, some people may find it odd that I’m talking about closely collaborating, doing a great job together, and giving heartfelt thanks.

I think the secret lies in becoming consciously aware that it’s you who chooses who you work with, what agencies you work for, and even which individuals inside those organizations you accept work from. Very much the same as in your personal life, there’s no point in sweating over relationships that’ll lead you nowhere. As freelancers, we’re perhaps the only ones in the labor market empowered to do so.

So, embrace the idea that, as a service provider and an entrepreneur, you choose who you provide your valuable services to. But (big BUT here), once you’ve done so, take precious care of those client-provider relationships you’ve established, and nurture them day in, day out.

The checklist below will help you test your existing/potential relationships with translation agencies/project managers. This is only a starting point— individual translators may have their own criteria to add in order to customize the checklist as needed.

December has always been