I believe 100% matches are one of the best things about translation. When I was just starting out as a translator, I used to take on more translation work than I could really handle, so each 100% match felt like a mini-vacation, since it meant I had to translate a little bit less. I like 100% matches that come from other people, too, because it’s interesting to see how they tackle translation challenges.
Imagine how frustrated I feel when people around me do not share this attitude and prefer to tear down the work of others, rather than build on it. This post is an attempt to convert more people to my way of thinking.
Reasons not to interfere with 100% matches in the first place
- More often than not, a significant amount of effort had gone into those matches before they appeared in front of you. At the very least, they were translated by the original translator and, ideally, edited by another linguist. Quite often, they were also reviewed by the end client’s staff. Unless all of these people were unqualified or there were no review steps at all, excessive tampering with their work does not sound like a good idea to me at all.
- Any efforts to improve 100% matches will likely fall upon deaf ears. No one cares about your attempts to add value to something that is considered 100% done.
- 100% matches are normally paid at a much lower rate than new words. This reduced rate covers mainly two things. First and foremost, it covers checking whether 100% matches fit the new context. Second, the rate might also include full revision of 100% matches. If a translator starts to rewrite 100% matches and spends as much time on them as on new words, she goes way beyond what’s expected and earns less as a result.
- In my experience, most changes done to 100% matches are preferential style changes. There is little or no value to them. So why make them at all?
- Changing 100% matches creates a headache for anyone who will be using the same translation memory in any future projects. When one source text has two or more different translations in the TM, this person will have a hard time choosing among them.
What happens if you do interfere with 100% matches
No one ever thanked us for doing anything to 100% matches. All the feedback we received about them was complaints. Some clients did not like that we had tampered with 100% matches that had been already approved by the client. Others said that changing 100% matches created confusion. For example, in a recent project, our translator chose to edit quite a few terms in 100% matches. The client then inserted this text into an existing translation, which had the old terms. 100% matches we had changed became inconsistent with the old stuff as a result. As a result, we had to spend countless hours undoing our changes.
If changing 100% matches can get you anywhere, it is into trouble.
What to change
This is not to say that 100% matches are always perfect. Sometimes it is important to revise them. But revising does not mean rewriting to suit your preferences! You need to correct only what clearly warrants a change, such as:
- Fixing indisputable errors such as typos, critical omissions, or mistranslations. A translator is always expected to correct these errors, even if he is not the one who made them originally.
- Adjustments required to reflect the changes made in more recent translations. For example, if you changed a translation of a term in the new part of a manual, you also need to correct the old translation of this term that comes up in 100% matches.
And these are changes that should be avoided:
- Preferential style changes. If you feel that style is an issue in 100% matches, contact your client, explain the issue, and re-negotiate the cost if necessary. But do not make corrections, just because you think you can say it better.
- Other minor changes such as style of quotation marks.
The saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” sums up this post perfectly. Change 100% matches only in case of obvious errors. Avoid preferential changes by all means. Put your creativity to use where it can bring the most value, and that is in new translations.
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