For the sake of standard literate English!

My first clinical trial project came across my desk 8 years ago. The files were straightforward and came with a nice TM. My confidence was up and I had been getting great feedback from project managers and editors. “I can totally do this.” I submitted a translation I was proud of.

A few days later, I received the editor’s revisions in my inbox. You could hardly see the target text for his comments diatribe. I remember heading for my French press in the kitchen, completely swept over by anxiety and imposterism. But back at my desk, as I read through his comments, the stress and imposter syndrome started to recede. I had made some rookie mistakes, one more obvious than the others. His revisions were without a doubt beneficial to the target text, but his comments were so loaded with vitriol and condescension that I could only just blink in disbelief:

— Under “Risks and discomfort”: I’ve changed “you may experience a slight discomfort” to “you may experience slight discomfort,” for the sake of standard literate English.
— In the Consent section, “prendre connaissance” cannot be deemed synonymous with “read and understand.” “Read and become familiar with,” yes. But “understand” is a bridge too far. The subliteracy is getting to me…

Complaining. Berating. Onomatopoeia of the exasperated noises he made while revising my translation included in comment fields.

In my response to the editor and project manager, I expressed my appreciation for his work and noted a specific example of where his changes made the translation much better. I said that I took notes on his revisions and would keep them close at hand for the next project, and then closed by saying that I hoped to work with him again soon. 100% positive attitude.

I didn’t expect another job from the agency, but I got an email a few days later. “…more trial documents, but you’ll be working with a new editor. I’m no longer sending work to (name redacted).”

What I learned from this experience is that professionalism trumps perfection. Translators make mistakes. The best thing I can do is acknowledge my mistakes, accept improvements graciously and present myself as someone who is pleasant to work with.

And brush up on my terminology. “O’Doyle, I have a feeling that your whole family is going down. But right now, I have to study.”

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