02 May, 2011

Text revision and translation

Text revision
Text revision is basically the process of making changes in a text written by someone else. This could be a translation or an original text composed in a foreign language (or even the native language).
The term 'text revision' covers a lot of different procedures, as there are many things you can do to a text. The main purpose, of course, is to make sure that the intended idea of the text comes cross to the intended target reader.
1.     Correction of grammar and vocabulary (and spelling)
The most basic, and most essential, type of text revision consists in correcting errors in the text you're presented with. This is important for various reasons: some types of mistakes give rise to misunderstandings, others make the text almost impossible to read, and others again are just plain embarrassing.
2.     Minimization of implicature
We humans tend to operate with a lot of implied meaning (i.e. between-the-lines meaning) which is not directly expressed by the words used in the text. Now, we do this primarily because we assume that it is not necessary to spell out the implied information as we expect the reader to figure it out on their own (we assume common ground with the reader, so we basically think that the implied meaning is based on knowledge that the reader already has and shares with us. However, not all readers share common ground with us, and therefore it is a good idea to bring out the implied meaning into the open and express it overtly, so readers that do not share common ground with us will be able to understand the text completely.
Another reason for minimization of implicature is that some readers might infer implicit meanings from the text which where not intended. Some people just infer all sorts of meanings, because they have a tendency to (maybe they are paranoid and thus think all texts are full of hidden attacks on them), and there is not much one can do about that. However, if you scrutinize a number of texts, you will find that a lot of them contain formulations, phrases, structures and words which are ambiguous or which do suggest certain implicit meanings. One way to do that is to, through text revision, get rid of those, changing them into other, less ambiguous, structures.
3.     Text optimalization
You may be asked to optimize the text, which basically means that you have to streamline it, such that it conveys as much information as possible without being too long and clumsy. This often involves use of information structuring devices such as certain constructions and patterns of word order. You might even have to restructure the entire text.
Note that minimization of implicature is basically a type of text optimalization.
4.     Reader-friendliness
Maybe the text is simply 'reader-unfriendly' for whatever reason (poor writing skills, heavy diction, clumsy structures etc.), and you may be asked to change it into something more reader-friendly.
5.     Register transposition
Finally, you might be asked to rewrite the text into another register. There could be many reasons for this, such as:
• new target reader group
• register of original text outdated
• adapting the text to a new context
• change of purpose of the text
• the register is incompatible with the domain
• the text is too subjective (or not subjective enough)
• etc.
A register is basically a variety of a language that is associated with a specific situation or a specific context or a specific genre of discourse (these contexts go under the name of domains). For instance, some contexts call for formal English while informal English may be more appropriate in others. And when you talk computers with your geek friends, you use a specific jargon that you would not use when performing a religious ceremony. In some contexts, you may use a very objective variant of English, while in others a more opinionated, emotional, subjective one might be appropriate.
A lot of well established English registers even have names, such as Motherese, Technical English, Medical English, Journalese (there is even something called Headlinese), Religious English, Academic English etc.
For instance, if you are a politician who wants to persuade people into following you, you would want to deploy objective and scientific, and perhaps slightly formal language (without overdoing it) appealing to their sense of logic and rational argumentation with target reader groups consisting of academics, while you would use a more informal register, deploying expressions that appeal to emotions with target readers who have no education. Admitted, we are stereotyping here, but you get the point.
6.     The importance of text revision
Needless to say, text revision is vital. The whole purpose of an informative test is to convey information, and if the original writer fails to get it across, he or she will need someone to do it for him or her. Otherwise, people will not understand the text properly. Moreover, texts which are full of mistakes are difficult to read, and they also tend to lack credibility (people just do not trust people who cannot spell or who do not know proper grammar), and texts that are error-ridden often tend to become objects of ridicule.
Text Revision and Translation Kim Ebensgaard Jensen
Fall 2009 AAU, Almen Engelsk, 3rd. semester