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Proofreading

An essential step in guaranteeing a great German translation!

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

For professional translation agencies, proofreading is an essential step before any translation is sent to the client.

Ideally, it will be carried out a second translator 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 a German translation 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 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 proofreading job depends on the quality of the original translation.  So translators should look at the text carefully before quoting a definite figure!

Proofreading charges by hour – not line!

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

Plus, 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.

And don’t underestimate the work that goes in to proofreading – when a text is presented to a fresh pair of eyes, they effectively have to start from scratch.

The proofreader's work involves:

  • 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

TIP! Save time & money with by ensuring the proofreader only needs to focus on the language, rather than formatting. Texts supplied as straightforward Word documents are much quicker and easier to correct and adapt than PDFs, PPTs or graphics - which means saving money. 

What does proofreading involve?

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

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

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.

Disclosure: If you buy from a link below I get a small commission. There is no extra charge to you. I link only to products I either use, or believe can help you with German translation or working as a German translator.

But English is beautifully subtle and nuanced - just take my favorite example, the Lynne Truss sentence from her book Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation:

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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Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna,  Austria.  I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?

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Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna,  Austria.  I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?