What’s the best working dynamic between translator and editor?

For everything to work smoothly and deadlines to be met, it’s very important to set up a system for editing. Today we’ll look at the most common situation — we’ll deal with the relationship between editor and translator and discuss what set-ups are most productive. Nadezhda Lynova, director of INLINGO studio, shares her experience.

Who should edit localization: a native-speaker or a translator?

Translator and editor work as a team, and if we take a language pair and start translating, for example from Russian to English, then we’re immediately faced with the question: how best to proceed? There are two options: either a native speaker performs the translation and a Russian speaker with a good level of English checks their work, or vice versa, the Russian speaker translates and the native speaker does the editing.

In our business, we have tried both the first and the second options, and over time we have given up on the set-up with a Russian translator and native-speaker editor and moved completely over to having native-speaker translators and Russian editors.

Why is this the better option?

Establishing a consistent style, finding good creative solutions, and also matching the right translator with the right genre of text — that all happens at the translation stage.

For example, we have one translator who’s great at thinking up little names — for quests and skills — with puns, word games, or just a touch of humor. That’s the translator we get to write snappy titles, for example for the items and objects in a game world.

Another translator has a good understanding of the mechanics of games, and they work with the descriptions of skills and items: “+3 stamina” and things like that. Someone else translates the literary parts: the character dialogue, bits of lore, etc. And then there’s one editor who puts all that together.

Natives first

When you have a Russian translating, their range of skills and options is limited, as English isn’t their native language. When working with a text, the translator uses words, phrases, and constructions from their own knowledge of the language, and logically they choose from their own lexical store the words that they think fit best. Then the editor, as a native speaker, “sands off” the result. They rearrange and polish up the translation to make it sound more natural.

When a native speaker does the translation itself, they have a wider vocabulary — obviously, because English is their native language — and they translate straight into a style that suits the target audience. The only problem is with their understanding of Russian: a native speaker doesn’t always recognize some nuances of Russian slang or idioms, and can’t always reproduce them in translation. But these problems will always be spotted by a Russian editor. It’s immediately clear, for example, when there is a play on words and the translator has missed it and given a literal translation.

These problems are much easier to identify at the editing stage, point out to the native speaker, and say that, for example, here is a reference to some famous Russian comedy, then ask them to find a phrase from one of their comedies or some other little touch. Or there’s a phrase with a figurative meaning that they’ve translated literally, and you ask them to redo it.

As a result, you get the right style immediately, and at the same time, you avoid all sorts of translation errors. Plus a Russian editor will spend less time correcting that type of error because there are just fewer of them. Put simply, it’s much easier and quicker to catch and correct a few missed meanings and discrepancies than to remodel the style of a text and refine the language and syntax.

In the end, thanks to many years of experience, we came to the conclusion that this system is faster, and the final result reaches a better level of quality. If you would like to find out more about localization, write to us at order@inlingogames.com and we will answer any other questions you have.

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