Smile… your text has been rejected!

by Katia Sabathianaki


By signing up for the translation “game” you have to abide by the following rule: your translation is likely to be judged, processed, corrected, modified, trimmed, shrunk-to-fit, customized (and then customized some more) definitely more often than it will actually be praised or acknowledged. Unfortunately little time is spent in the academic theatres on what I like to call the “failure management”.

DISCLAIMER: the following line of considerations only applies to high-standard translations and does not cover the glaringly hectic texts, which are found wanting in syntax, grammar or basic understanding of the ST.

This article serves as an “emotional bandage” for any translator whose text has been rejected or highly contested, with or without substantiated arguments, with or without good reasons, with or without the chance for rebuttal. The scope of the article wishes to cover the “blurry” lines of what a translator considers to be a decent day’s hard work and what the reviewer sees as a “failure”. You know what I mean, don’t you?

Let’s be honest:

Review and editing are two vital branches of the translation industry and as such they should be treated with the utmost respect and professionalism.

Respect however, is a two-way road leading to professional integrity.

A translator, let alone a professional translator, must always abide by the instructions of the reviewer, and proceed to all due corrections, as long as the reviewer has properly substantiated his/her points of view and does not act based on personal taste and/or spite. Most of the times, translation agencies and publishing houses hire professional reviewers and editors, in which case the “rejection” is well-documented and substantiated either the translator agrees or not.

It is often the case however that firms, organizations and public services do not have a person who is professionally trained to work as a “reviewer”. Instead, many of the translations delivered are hastily corrected in the sidelines of other tasks a person may be vested during the day.

Raise your hands those who -at least once in your professional life- have been given an unfair review by a person who simply ignores the basic policies, choices, dilemmas and ultimately methodology of translation! 

Oh but it hurts!

“Failure is a bruise not a tattoo!” wrote Jon Sinclair and this is just one quote amidst thousands I chose to describe the thin psychological line a translator (and any other professional on that matter) must pass in order to transcend the feeling of rejection and failure. I know exactly what you’re about to say!

It is as if someone attacks you, your background, your ideas, your culture, your education, your very being!

But is it all drama, dear colleague? Of course not!

A rejected translation is nothing but a single point in space and time. The same text can be welcomed by another reviewer or client in another period, another geographical location, or another context. Most of the times it doesn’t even mean that you are a bad translator, but rather that your text is less fitted for the here-and-now needs or requirements of the organization in question.

But the reviewer has been very strict with my translation!

Well… as you got remunerated to translate a text, it is someone else’s job to judge your work. Do not be afraid of a good critique especially when it comes from a person with acclaimed linguistic skills that will only do you good in the long-run.

As long as the reviewer treats your mental property with respect there is no reason for you to go ballistic and turn down all corrections. When two professionals cross each other’s path, the truth is always somewhere in between.

Alas, the person who corrected my text doesn’t have a clue on the translation procedure!

If your translation has been rejected by a person whom you think to be less of a reviewer or whose linguistic skills are inferior to yours, you may escalate your movements, in compliance with all fair practices, and codes of conduct governing the translation stakeholders. For instance:

  • You may set off a rebuttal procedure;
  • you may consult the reviewer in person in order to discern and find out his/her logic and error analysis tactic, while laying down your own translation policies and methods;
  • you may ask for your Association’s assistance in similar dead-ends, or learn from the past experience of other colleagues by talking about your adventure, provided that you are careful enough NOT to expose any names, or companies until the matter is tackled.

Stoic as I may sound, we should always keep in mind that sometimes, “unfair” reviews simply reflect the human nature per se, let alone the “unfairness” of the world we live in. A world governed by Subjectivity and Relativity that often puts to test even the bravest of us!

Do not be discouraged by a bad review, a bad day at work or a rejected translation just because we have never been trained to welcome “failure” as part of the process.

Fortify yourself and defend your work with decency, pride, integrity, and determination, but do not be torn apart when your voice is not heard.

Be calm and consistent even if your “boss” did you wrong. Try again.

A good translator is never lost. Neither a competent and objective reviewer!

And when all else fails, remember:


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