October 6

Life as an Editor


By Mabel Chan, Junior Editor, on behalf of the Editorial team at Lingua Technologies International.

The state of translation/interpretation is gaining global recognition. For instance, according to the Economist, the business of translation, interpreting and software localisation (revising websites, apps and the like for use in a foreign language) generates revenues of $37 billion a year. However, the translation process, especially for commercial or formal purposes, involves more than just a single person translating a script. It often involves many parties performing different tasks, most of whom are relatively unknown. One such role is the translation reviser.

A translation reviser is a person who checks a translated piece for errors, be it in terms of inaccuracies in translation or in terms of language and expression. Most of the time another translator fills in as reviser, but in some companies, there is a team of dedicated revisers who proofread and edit translated pieces. Lingua Technologies International is no different. We have a team of revisers (we call ourselves the Editorial team) in our company who revise all English and Chinese translations before sending them over to the client.

To introduce our job, we sought questions from curious outsiders and compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions. If you do not see your question on the list, feel free to leave a comment and we may just release an addendum if we get enough!

1. Do you all read words all day long? If so what do you all edit? Words, punctuation, spelling, but do you all correct sentence structures as well?

We correct and edit the translated text, but with the added step of looking back at the source text and ensure the meaning is carried over effectively and accurately.

We will also, if necessary, provide translation suggestions of taglines and slogans (how do you translate Subway’s “eat fresh”, for instance?).

We mainly look at three aspects: grammar, meaning and also whether the mood of the writing is appropriate. A translated press release will not look the same as a translated product patent, for example, even if they are of the same product. Different words will be carefully chosen to present a particular context.

2. Is it a boring job? (I ask this very carefully, because of course if you are doing something you love, you can do it all day. Eg I love milking cows, so I can stay with cows all day, that sort of thing)

Like all jobs, it depends on attitude. If an editor regards translation as a work of art, with an image in his mind of what the translation should look like, and proceeds to sculpt the translation into this ideal product, it can be very fulfilling when he looks back at his accomplishment. And such an editor does exist, by the way, and is sitting across from me right now, plunging into his latest aesthetic masterpiece.

As for myself, I like that I get to read about different kinds of things as I translate. I get to work with journal articles of skincare products, news reports about everyday heroes, pillow commercials, as well as information on how to manage my shares. If variety is the spice of life, this job sure isn’t losing ground on the Scoville Scale.

3. What advice can you give to someone who aspires to be an editor?

Translate. To be able to edit another’s translation, it is helpful to have some idea of the process and requirements of translating something. Whenever you see a brochure or other document outside, be it a medical brochure in a clinic, or some new government scheme you receive in the mail, take some time to look at both language versions, if any, and see if you can think of something better. Note the words they use.

4. What is the most demanding aspect of being an editor?

When I first entered this job, my superior told me (semi-jokingly) something all editors should note.

“Don’t trust anyone.”

While that sounds a little harsh, it does exemplify the demanding part about being an editor. Don’t trust anyone, especially the translator. Check through every detail in the translated piece. Even if that translation of the organization name looks right, check to see if there is an official name already released in the press. Check if the most minute footnote text at the bottom has been translated. And because we cannot trust any detail of what is given to us, we tirelessly pore over all resources available to us (we keep books listing Singapore’s roads and addresses in Chinese, for example) and this takes up a lot of concentration and time.

It is that rigour in checking that is required, and the discipline to scrutinize every single detail, is the most demanding part of the job.


That ends 4 questions we often have to answer at dinner parties (or festive family gatherings). If there is something we missed out, leave a comment.

We will be rolling out more articles on translation, editing and other relevant topics, so stay tuned to (and Like!) our Facebook page. We also regularly share translation-related news from around the world.

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