Raising the level of perfection of translations

MASUMOTO Aiko, Translation checker
She was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture. She is mostly involved in legal and contract translation and translation checking. Her working languages are Japanese, English and Korean. Her hobbies include traveling abroad. She recently started studying Chinese.

Improving quality through readability adjustments and research

The role of a translation checker within your company is not just about checking for mistranslations, omissions, spelling errors and other careless mistakes, is it?

That’s right. Of course, we look for such mistakes, but our job goes beyond that. Our approach is not to merely have a “corrected” text, but an improved translation, which we reach through repeatedly adjusting expressions written by the translator. We also put a heavy focus on improving readability. This is why it takes much more time than one might imagine.

Could you be more specific?

For example, when translating within specific fields such as with legal translation, we can assume that most of our readers will be experts in that field, so our first step is to have a solid grasp of the industry itself as well as the type of terms and phrases used within it. Only then can we create a logical text that does not come across as awkward when read by the people who are working in that industry. If our job were only about replacing words by others, we would be left with a text that feels uncomfortable, unnatural and would be difficult to understand—it is extremely important for us to avoid that. To ensure the translation is natural and coherent, we first check the translated text against the original, making corrections as necessary. We then check the bilingual text further, since careless mistakes can also be made inadvertently when correcting. After that, we focus solely on the translated text, checking whether we can read the sentences smoothly and whether the information is easily understood. If at any point we hesitate or think “what?” when reading the translated text again, it means that something is unnatural or underdeveloped, so we need to refer back to the original text and adjust the translation once again.

Is it the same for both Japanese and English translations?

Yes, it is the same. In Japanese, sentences most often do not contain any grammatical subjects. If you translate them literally into English without adding subjects, the result will not look like English. On the other hand, English sentences always contain clear subjects and objects, which will make sentences look overly wordy if included in the same way in a Japanese translation. It is important to write natural sentences that are appropriate for a specific type of content and language. I also do things like changing the voice from the passive to the active when the sentence flow calls for it, and I generally always strive towards a translated text that does not break the reader’s train of thought. Naturally, the readers can only read the translated text. But if they can feel the original language through it and sense that it is a translation, they will have a harder time understanding it. Even when the meaning is understood, if the readers had to think about it, one cannot say it is a good translation, hence why we go through a process of trial and error when translating.

I see. No matter who the reader is, it is crucial to end up with a smooth text, and your role as a translation checker at Interbooks is to adjust it in order to achieve this result. If that is the case, I am guessing that translation checkers’ language skill levels must be very high. Is that so?

I think that they need at least the same level of language and translation skills as translators, as well as an ability for doing research. Research is indeed one of the skills that is very important for the job.
Just like translators, checkers are expected to conduct in-depth research on the text’s content to produce the most appropriate translation overall and to improve its quality.

Does that mean that the checker plays an equally important role as the translator?

Because we are all only human, even the best translators can make mistakes. Respecting the checking process is important to make absolutely sure no mistakes are left, and I also think it is an essential process to raise the quality of the translation. I believe that the role of a translation checker is to raise the level of perfection and improve the quality of a translated text.

MASUMOTO Aiko, Translation checker

A field that AI cannot easily infiltrate

What do you think is the most difficult part of your job?

I think that it is very difficult to control the number of corrections to apply to a translator’s work. A good checker can be recognized by their ability to identify what needs to be corrected. An unexperienced checker might trust the translator so much that they overlook some important mistakes, or in contrast, they might make too many unnecessary corrections.

How do you know when to make a correction or not?

You need to take a step back from your own knowledge and do extensive research on the standards of the field in which you are translating, looking for the ways in which people in the field express things and what kinds of phrases are appropriate. In some translation projects, it is said that 70% of the work is about research. So I think that “research” is really the key to deciding whether a correction needs to be made or not.

I guess you are used to working hard on projects, devoting 70% of the time to research, since Interbooks does a lot of industrial translations. I also feel that the checker’s job is within an area that is difficult to standardize, since it requires a lot of flair and experience. Do you think that it is a rewarding job?

Because the checking process changes depending on the quality of the translation, it is indeed difficult to do it in a standardized manner. However, as I explained earlier, since we follow a process of checking the translated text against the original and then performing an additional bilingual check, before reading the translated text again by itself, a certain level of quality is guaranteed.
The checker’s job is very detailed and requires a lot of patience, but one can also learn a lot from looking at the translator’s work. Sometimes, I find great translations that give me goosebumps! I do this job because I love translation so, of course, I really enjoy it. I also find it really rewarding to be in the very important position of ensuring the quality of the work.
I also think that it is an area where AI cannot easily step in. AI is not currently able to do anything beyond corpora. Aren’t humans the only ones able to go beyond corpora to create translations that can move people in a way? I think so anyway (laughs). I do not think that checkers’ jobs will decline any time soon. In fact, I expect the demand to increase!

Interbooks Co., Ltd.