I’ve met a lot of people who believe translation is something that’s done by a translator from start to finish. I doubt this is always true. A big translation agency like Lionbridge would probably disagree, too :). While a translator undoubtedly does a very important part of the work, in the final analysis, he/she is better off when translation is a collaborative effort. Let me give you three reasons:
Reason 1: Editing makes a difference
Most translations benefit from editing by a second linguist. I wrote a lot about editing over the years, but it all boils down to one thing: at a certain point, a translator stops noticing errors in his/her work and needs someone else to look at it with a fresh eye. Look at translated books—they almost always have at least one editor.
Collaboration between the two isn’t limited to exchanging files by email. Editing is in essence a dialog. A two-way communication between a translator and an editor is crucial. A translator can and should leave notes to an editor, explaining his/her choices such as translation of abbreviations, unclear original, etc. The editor must then confirm suggested changes with the translator either, again, through notes or ideally in a live conversation.
When done properly, editing has a measurable positive impact on the quality of translation.
Reason 2: Sharing responsibilities for higher productivity
While some translators pride themselves on having the skills not related to translation directly such as OCR, DTP, or project management using CAT tools, I believe many would rather delegate non-translation tasks to someone else. At least, this is a smart thing to do because the key to long-term success in any endeavor is focus—and not trying to be all things to all people.
One example is receiving a scanned PDF file for translation. With this type of files, a client normally wants a translated DOCX file that matches the original formatting as much as possible. Recreating this formatting from scratch is often a challenging task that takes the time and energy away from the actual translation. Because this type of work is often cheaper than translation, by doing it himself/herself, a translator often earns less per hour as a result. And because he/she may not have the skills necessary to do the job perfectly, the quality of the formatting he/she creates may be subpar.
By delegating this kind of tasks to other team members, a translator can focus on what he/she does best—translation.
Reason 3: People love company
One of the core needs of a human being is sharing emotions and experiences with someone who cares. If you doubt this, try not talking to anyone else for a week. Just as most other folks, translators spend a huge part of their life at work, and they want to share good and bad moments with people who’ll understand and empathize with them. Being a part of a translation team gives that important sense of belonging.
If you are a translator who works as a lone wolf, I’d be thrilled to learn about why you choose not to be a part of a team.