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Proofreading German to English Translations

Your German client may say lektorieren (proofreading), korrigieren (correcting), or redigieren (revising): what they mean is making sure your German to English translations are up to the mark – German meaning fully understood, English truly English!


Professional translation agencies will have translated German to English translations carefully proofread before sending them to the client- ideally by a second translator who is also qualified in the same language pair as the original translator.

After all, that’s one of the major reasons for working through an agency.

When you commission German to English translations from a freelance translator you should clarify whether their charges also including ask a second party to proofread their work before submitting the final version to you.

This should be reflected in their price....It’s the old monkeys and peanuts scenario again.

Proofreading charges

A fellow translator recently asked me what she should charge for a proofreading job for a government department.

My experience is that the going rate is anything from 25% to 40% of the standard line or word rate.

But the effort and time required to do a good job depends on the quality of the original translation – so I thoroughly recommend having a look at the text before quoting a definite figure.

Quality is key!

The work involved can vary from reading through an excellently written/translated text to hours of trying to decipher just exactly what the writer intended to say.

However, sometimes it’s extremely difficult to calculate the number of words or lines in a document.

This is often the case with PowerPoint presentations which include graphs, PDFs and other graphic elements. In this case, translation agencies and translators will probably quote an hourly rate instead.

This usually fairer to the translator – PPTs, for example, always seem to involve a significant amount of “non-translation” time spent playing with formatting etc.

Don’t underestimate the work that goes in to proofreading – when a fresh pair of eyes is given a text, they are effectively starting from scratch. The work can involve:

  • Background research into the topic
  • Double checking definitions
  • Checking adherence to the client’s own terminology
  • Checking consistency of terminology use
  • Checking English grammar and style

SAVE TIME & MONEY: Help the proofreader focus on the language rather than your formatting. Texts supplied as straightforward Word documents are much quicker and easier to correct and adjust than PDFs, PPTs or graphics, saving money for you, the client. 

What does proofreading involve?

According to the UK’s Chartered Institute of Linguists, good German to English translations should be:

"Functionally accurate, stylistically appropriate &  faithfully render the style and meaning of the original piece of writing."

Here’s a brief outline of the factors which I think make a translation “good”.

The need for tact!

I am constantly impressed at how well English is spoken in German-language countries.

It’s not surprising really: English is the main foreign language taught to kids at school, from the age of 10 onwards and often from the age of 6.

The radio is full of English songs, most of the web is English, and most professional careers demand an excellent command of English. English is simply an accepted part of daily life. (All very impressive to a Brit from a monolingual culture!)

But spoken and written English are two different kettles of fish.

In some of the texts I get to proofread, the words are properly spelt, the sentence structure is correct - but the meaning is indecipherable.

Tactfulness is required here. After all, who likes being told they’ve written nonsense?

Especially people with important jobs or in important positions. And quite right, they have enough to do without having to be able to express themselves perfectly in written English as well.

But English is beautifully subtle and nuanced - just take my favorite example, the Lynne Truss sentence from her book “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”:

The judge said the defendant is mad.
The judge, said the defendant, is mad.

There you go, 2 commas = 180° change in meaning!

If you enjoy Lynne Truss on punctuation, try the German version: Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod, by Bastian Sick who writes a column in the German news magazine Der Spiegel, on common German grammatical errors.

I hope you find these tips on proofreading German to English translations useful!

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