Editing non-native English: academic editing

eCPD Webinars’ follow-up to Editing non-native English with Joy Burrough-Boenisch looked specifically at academic and scientific texts:

With so many non-native-English university students, academics and scientists expected to write in English there is huge demand for proofreaders and authors’ editors to make their texts fit for purpose. The presenter will discuss the nature of this work: what it entails, methods and techniques to use, and resources to deploy. Attention will also be given to the ethics of editing texts that are to be assessed by academic institutions and/or are intended to be published in pursuit of academic or scientific kudos.

To recap, typical ‘non-native’ features that need to be corrected include learner English problems and transfers from the author’s language and culture.

A growing number of non-native English (NNE) higher education students are required to write in English because they are studying in Anglophone countries or their courses are being taught in English (not always by native English speakers). Scientists are publishing more in English than in their own language.

Both individuals and companies offers editing help. See American Manuscript Editors, who offer to “correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. He or she will also improve the flow of your paper, eliminate any awkward sentences or phrasing, and ensure that the writing is clear and concise while meeting the formatting requirements of the targeted journal”. This is not just copy or language editing, and could be considered invasive.

This term proofreading, which historically the term only applied to the final check of galley proofs against marked-up text, is now used for checking final or near-final version of text and rectifying minor shortcomings. How minor is minor? See True Editing’s Academic Services for details of what they will do.

educateIf the text is to be graded or assessed, there are ethical issues, as writing skills may be part of the assessment. Editing hence entails correcting wrong or strange English, plus addressing other shortcomings.

If the text is an article for a peer reviewed journal or similar the usual aim of editing is to give that person a credible voice in the academic community, and hence editing entails correcting any wrong or strange English and non-Anglophone conventions, plus addressing other shortcomings.

You can choose to edit to educate – the third circle of the Venn diagram.

Ethical editing for students involves fixing language-related errors and flagging errors you think the student should be able to fix. Consider teaching via comments, either via marginal comments or as inline comments inserted in the text, forcing the author to engage with comments and remove them manually.

A further issue is plagiarism – keep an eye open for unexpected changes in style.

Universities are starting to develop policies on proofreading aka academic editing, eg LSE’s Statement on editorial help, Essex on proofreading, which bans noticeboard ads from proofreaders and has developed a register of proofreaders, with regular meetings for ‘control’. Their policy includes, for example, reformatting only a section of a bibliography as an appropriate level of intervention, but rewriting sections, reordering paragraphs or correcting factual errors as not. Substantive or structural editing is the role of the student’s supervisor. (Lots more on this plus examples in slides 57-62. See also Guardian article.

Professional organisation are also beginning to offer guidance. See the Institute of Professional Editors (PDF; 2001; see IPEd) in Australia and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), who have published a guide to checking the language of theses and dissertations.

Bottom line: the editor’s contribution should always be acknowledged. It should be clear whether the editor was responsible for the final or near-final draft. (Authors may ‘improve’ the edited manuscript without consulting the editor.) Examples on slides 65-68.

To edit academic texts you should:

  • be familiar with the jargon and discourse conventions of the given field of science (the ‘tribal language’)
  • know the style and conventions of the text genre (eg research article, grant proposal)
  • for journal articles, be acquainted with the journal’s instructions for authors

Google Scholar (dansk) can be used to check that words and phrases are acceptable jargon in both the SL and the TL. If it is only used in the SL try Google Translate. Alternatively a specialist corpus such as Springer Exemplar can be used – it shows the country or usage, over time etc. (Sometimes words do make it out of the SL into broader usage.) If this does not resolve the issue, ask the author!

From the Q&A:

  • to calculate how long it might take, translate 1K words and add on a margin – if it takes 4 hours, you are going to have to re-examine your level of edit and find a compromise; JBB goes with four double spaced pages of text/hour + 1 page wriggle room
  • state that will charge less if takes a shorter time; what if more?
  • the PhD issue – technical translators don’t usually have PhDs in the subject; you can be self educated due to an interest and gain background knowledge cf Karen Shashok, the main thing is to be linguistically gifted, there are techniques you can use; once you specialise in a field you start to feel comfortable with the ‘tribal language’
  • can’t they get away with dodgy English? – one country’s NNE may not be understood by NNSs from another country, the whole thing will get lost in translation; an international norm is needed which is understandable to all; lowering the bar perpetuates errors and may well lead to dodgy English getting into a corpus, or becoming the norm for a tribe, see EU English

Clearly the further you move up the editing scale the more you can charge. Academic proofreading prices range roughly from £16 for a 2,000-word essay to £600 for a doctoral thesis (from ghostwriting article), but Harwood found offers varied widely, with some charging by the hour and some by the word. JBB charges by the hour for editing, but by the word for translating. EASE allegedly charges £29.60/hour (low), while Libro charges (2014) from £6 per 1000 words (standard) and £9 per 1000 words (urgent).

Links:

See also my post on academic writing, which includes some English for Academic Purposes and style links.

Who does it?

Editing non-native English

eCPD Webinars’ introduction to editing non-native English took place at 12:30 CET on 10 February:

The many types of non-native written English have common characteristics that academic language professionals tasked with editing or proofreading should know to look out for. Focusing mainly on European languages, the presenter will give examples of non-native-English textual features and explain why authors produce them. Understanding what drives the author is only part of the story, so we will also look at what drives the editor or proofreader to change text. Though aimed primarily at novices, the presentation will also benefit more seasoned practitioners, by consolidating their knowledge and enabling them to put their editing in perspective.

Led by Joy Burrough-Boenisch (LinkedIn), who doesn’t look like a novice, so I gave it a whirl, along with ~27 other attendees. It still feels weird to pay for a webinar, but this one was interesting and thought provoking.

I’ve worked as an editor for many a year so I was interested in what would be highlighted as specific to editing non-native English, as opposed to poor English, or even English written in a different style from that required. And what are the particular pitfalls in editing the English written by someone whose language you do not know? (That sentence could do with a little help.)

Like me, but unlike most of the webinar participants, Joy came into translating via editing. She stated however that the translation angle gives you a different way of looking at things.

Useful skills:

  • subject knowledge – gives you access to jargon and ‘tribal usage’
  • cultural knowledge – but bear in mind how personal and other factors can affect your editing, including your knowledge of a language (cf going Dutch)

From old friend NASA’s Levels of edit (1980):

[the levels are] not applicable to editing copy by a foreign born person who is not familiar with idiomatic English usage

Traits of non-native English:

  • typos, inaccuracies, omissions, redundancy, poor writing – ie the same as in native English, which can be a comfort to the non-native author
  • learner English problems, not always picked up by spelling and grammar checkers
  • transfers from the author’s language and culture, such as idioms, ‘airing cupboards’ (cultural things which need explanation), The Egg of Columbus
  • language transfers – spelling a word according to how you ‘hear’ it
  • convention transfer – punctuation, eg Danish comma rules, overuse of !; Dutch/German paragraphs (incidentally, are English paras universally still indented?)
  • limited vocabulary, leading to overuse and repetition
  • formal vs informal
  • US vs UK English
  • false friends
  • differing usage of Latin words – someone’s probably written a paper on that
  • different writing cultures – sentence length, linking words (English uses lots, eg moreover, in addition), ways of emphasising words
  • absences may also be transferred – in/definite articles, tenses, gender pronouns, lack of a precise word

Strategies for problem solving:

  • consult web resources on common errors made by writers sharing your author’s native language
  • think laterally
  • back-translate – Google Translate can help here

Usage of corpora was bigged up. Ideally the corpus should cover the area you are editing, but you can always create your own. (See my #corpusmooc posts, esp on language learning, using AntConc and using CQPweb. A year ago already!)

Next up, Joy’s article on editing non-native English.

Translating architecture

Spotting that eCPD Webinars (@eCPDWebinars) were offering a series on translating architecture I signed up for the first session on architexts. The series was led by Pierre Fuentes (@ArcTranslations | Proz), a qualified architect living in Edinburgh.

The webinar used GoToWebinar, and took place at 15:30 CET, closing at 16:50. Now I’ve attended any number of webinars for free, and my issues with the format are well documented – see in particular Video video, The webinar experience and In class. I’ve also participated in any number of MOOCs. Clearly as a priced product eCPD’s webinars have a different economic model, and not least need to be rather more closed than a MOOC, however I do wonder if more interactivity could be built around the sessions, particularly as in this case they took the form of a series. While there were opportunities to interact at the start and beginning in the form of polls, it was not a social event – there was no chat during the session and no invitation to take things forward afterwards.

The session took the form of a lecture, with much of the time spent on the presentation of slides with bulleted lists of (fairly basic) information, lacking pace and drive. (As they say on R4’s Just a minute: “he’s listing again!”) These could have been sent to participants beforehand, allowing more of the session to be spent on substantive issues actually related to translation and the skills required in this particular field, or even to go into more depth on some aspects of the information – it’s a waste of a webinar to use it mainly for knowledge transmission (what rather than why), and the end result is not very engaging. I switched to surfing with half an ear mode after about 15 minutes.

Post webinar I received an email with the slides and a four page list of resources to cover the whole series, mainly relating to French, with two pages taken up by a list of texts about architecture from Plato’s Republic onwards. Hrmph. In total I received six emails relating to the webinar, from four different email addresses.

Following an email exchange with eCPD Webinars I decided not to attend the rest of the series, which didn’t seem to be what I was looking for. I will however be giving the webinar on editing non-native English next week a go – stand by!

Below is an overview of the #archiseries gleaned from the website and Twitter.

Architexts

Building on translation studies theory, we will look at who ‘writes’ architecture and what text types they produce. Some particular genres, which occur more regularly in the workload of translators, will be looked at in more detail.

Translation is “about guiding the intended co-operation over cultural barriers enabling functionally oriented communication”. This quote from guru Jeremy Munday’s Introducing translation studies (2001/13) from Holz-Mänttäri (1984:8) is useful, as it encapsulates an issue around both translation and non-native English – cultural differences may get in the way of what you are trying to say.

Different types of texts (or genres) are shaped by three functional characteristics, ie the purpose of the text:

  • informative – content focus
  • expressive – aesthetic focus
  • operative – reader focus, reactive

All three may be present, but one will predominate. See diagram presenting how different text types relate to this classification:

diagram

See also Katharina Reiss’ ‘Type, kind and individuality of text: decision making in translation’, in L Venuti, The translation studies reader, London: Routledge, 2000.

The webinar was informative, where it could have been more operative : D To offer more meat Pierre could have started with the diagram and then moved on to how different linguistic devices relate to the process of translation.

Translating graphic communication is an issue – this uses tight and particular language aka jargon and specialised terminology, with lots of acronyms and abbreviations.  One to one literal translations will often not do. It may be presented as a PDF, which is a pain, or worse! as a drawing, requiring special software. (No hints offered on what to do about this.)

Architechnics

What is this ‘technicality’ that translators are all talking about? What does this term imply for texts related to architecture? We will identify the links between architecture and technical fields such as engineering, design, law, property, sustainability, etc – from fancy pedantry to essential jargon. A picture being worth a thousands words, we will also discuss how to translate drawings (or not).

The mother art

Architecture and translation are both about design, but there is a fine line between skills and style. Using architects’ favourite figure of speech, the analogy, this presentation will look at recurrent stylistic problems and how to approach them.

From proportion to moderation: a brief history of architecture

Architecture is older than literature. It has shaped human life as soon as the human soul sought means to protect its cell, the body. It has shaped the dimensions of the chairs we sit on as well as the borders between some of our countries, sometimes more radically than nature itself. Through a brief history of western architectural theory, this final presentation will define what architecture has meant, means and might mean to people.

More useful was an article on terminology found on @sandersonkim’s website:

  • source text (ST): a 1911 German dissertation on Le Corbusier’s writings on German urban planning sources for a client in New Zealand – so that’s how and where requests may come from!
  • how far should your target text (TT) be country specific, in particular if you don’t know the jargon aka canon of specialist vocabulary in that country? and bear in mind the time the text was written in – in this case the TT should not sound too modern
  • have the texts referred to been translated before? usage may be established in this way
  • what to call the discipline itself? In French ‘urbanisme’, in German ‘Städtebau’, while in English there is a choice between town/city/urban, planning/design – again, what is/are the convention/s?
  • ditto re ‘ville’ or ‘Stadt’ – UK English tends to favour ‘town’ and US English ‘city’ planning, while ‘urban’ covers both
  • do ‘rues’/’Straßen’ translate as streets or roads? do the two English terms cover different ranges of meaning? checking usage in architectural texts can help
  • ingenuity and lateral thinking may be more important than deep subject knowledge and technical expertise – architects tend to creative use of language, making architrans where ‘art’ meets ‘technical’ translation

The city as translation zone

Cities have the potential to make us more complex human beings. A city is a place where people can learn to live with strangers, to enter into the experiences and interests of unfamiliar lives. Sameness stultifies the mind; diversity stimulates and expands it.

Richard Sennett in A flexible city of strangers, quoted at the start of the introduction of the special edition of Translation Studies on The city as translation zone. Also cited is Aristotle, who “contended in his Politics that similar people could not bring a city into existence. The city could only be the creation of different kinds of people who come together to found a community where they can live in common”, and Judt’s Edge people:”I prefer the edge: the place where countries, communities, allegiances, affinities, and roots bump uncomfortably up against one another – where cosmopolitanism is not so much an identity as the normal condition of life”.

Below are my notes from the introduction by Michael Cronin, author of Translation in the digital age, and Sherry Simon, author of Cities in translation looking at four linguistically divided cities (Calcutta, Trieste, Barcelona, and Montreal) and Translating Montreal, written from the “perspective of a walker moving through a fluid landscape of neighbourhoods and eras”. It relates to my thoughts about the developing international literary community in Copenhagen, as well as to other themes I am exploring in my writing.

Much is written about the visual character of today’s cites, but rather less about their auditory aspects. To what extent is language a “vehicle of urban cultural memory and identity, a key in the creation of meaningful spaces of contact and civic participation”? While multilingualism may evoke a “space of plurality and diversity” translation proposes an “active, directional and interactional model of language relations”.

Four elements through which translation can be considered a key to understanding urban life:

  • the sensory landscape – to refer to the city or street by its former name/s projects a different historical view; “City streets are renamed as old heroes are disqualified, as new icons are glorified. Sometimes entire cities are covered over in a new language, as though the decor were being changed.” -> Trieste, Piran; also seen with changing ideologies
  • translation zones – an analogy with Pratt’s (1992) “contact zone”, social spaces where disparate cultures meet, clash, and
    grapple with each other, developed by Apter (2006): a “broad intellectual topography, a zone of critical engagement” that is not restricted by the boundary of the nation -> international literary scenes may consist of mixed and polyglot communities, places of interaction and exchange across divides, a hybrid ‘intercultural’ network where diverse cultures and languages overlap; not so much source and target…
  • cultural mediators – quoting Certeau (1983): “intermediaries, shifters, connecting agents, translators and dispatchers are the ‘anonymous heroes’ of communication, making “social space more habitable”
  • digital connectivity – the uses of translation in digital contexts is various and growing in the ‘smart’ city, creating a new translational order; whereas previously living overseas involved an often decisive break with the language, culture and society of the place that was being left behind today staying in touch is simple, although there may still be pressure to “translate oneself into the dominant language of the host community” and there may be a disconnect between the public, physical spaces of the city and the privatised, digital spaces of communication

The introduction also includes an overview of the changing nature of the university within the city plus summaries of the five cities covered in the issue (Antwerp, Lviv, Istanbul, Tampere and New Orleans), focusing in particular on their translation histories as a lens for investigating their social and cultural histories. It concludes thus: “the multicultural and multilingual nature of large cities becomes the unacceptable face of a modernity that threatens unitary narratives of nation and community…the city becomes a central part of the
narrative of national decline as espoused by identitarian populists” as reflected in language tests for entry or citizenship.

Translation zones are the hub of a resilient society, the clearing house of possibility:

As any one culture will only provide a subset of all the possible responses to a situation and generally these responses are tailored to meet situations that have already been encountered, societies that are beholden to the monocultural have immense difficulty in dealing with the unforeseen or the unexpected. What constitutes resilience for societies in the liquid modernity of the contemporary world is precisely the availability of a large repertoire of cultural responses and different world views that feeds into a creativity of imagination and an inventiveness of action.

Postscript: from an interview with Sherry Simon:

  • civic plurilingualism can be a powerful creative driver, affecting the flow of new ideas across the city
  • all cities are multilingual; in translational cities their is directionality
  • translators can influence this – explore spatial aspects, eg where do they live, what are they doing, do they have a ‘cultural project’, what are their relationships
  • language relationships change over time:
    • ‘distancing’ – where communities develop their distinct independent identities – > tolerance, cf multi-culturalism and a limited form of belonging
    • ‘furthering’, the cultural encounters that are a pervasive force in modernity -> (terms of ) engagement
  • can translational practice shape the literatures of cities? what are its creative dynamics?
  • the practice and the consequences of reading one language, writing in another, ie using one language to introduce new ideas to another
  • the role that self-translation can play in the development of an author’s voice as well as the contestation of their legacy
  • using one city (your ‘home’ city) to describe another; you are prescribed by your home city

In a feature about Paul Celan in Politiken (1 Feb) Uffe Hansen (KU; retired) is interviewed about Galicia. He praises the “cosmopolitan community” of the Hapsburg Empire, where all nationalities and languages had the same rights, allowing a rich cultural climate to blossom. “A homogenous population does not create culture”. Asked whether the cultures were blended or lived parallel to each other, he definitely goes for the latter: “no one demanded integration, and definitely not assimilation…there were many disagreements, but the groups had respect for each other. They practised diversity without enforcing common denominators (fællesnævner), thus making each cultural tradition stronger.”

International literature in the city: Berlin

Berlin is best understood through its paradoxes. It’s a world class cultural centre for music and galleries, but not for fashion. It’s a terrible city for dining out, but a great one for going out. It’s international but not cosmopolitan…It is a great city for writers, but sufficiently low density and international for there to be no cohesive writing scene. (Economist)

Berlin has a healthy expat/international writing scene, which has spawned all sorts of related bits and bobs. Copenhagen – not so much. I’m a German graduate (traditional literature based degree) so I’m drawn to all things German, plus I’m attracted to the literature of place, so let’s take a closer look.

A sense of place:

Literary Berlin:

Journals, publishers and writing support: 

To get up to speed with the latest literature in translation see New books in German, which has lots of additional resources, or simply sling Love German Books in your feedreader and start with Katy’s 2014 selection. World Literature Today has a great piece on German literature since the fall of the Wall.

Finally, here’s some links on support on offer from the Goethe Institut:

#longreads: exploring longform with WordPress

Following on from Writing with WordPress in the autumn we have the latest Writing 201, Beyond the blogpost on longform writing. Four weeks focusing on a different kind of piece, from interviews through instructional pieces and opinion pieces to the personal essay or memoir, supported by the editors at Longreads (you can also use #longreads on WordPress to flag up your posts). No assignments, lots of peer support. Here longform is defined as writing that’s 1500 words or more. (Longform or short story? Just sayin’.)

See also Longform layout tips.

It’s interesting how #longreads came in around the time writing for the web advocates stressed the art of being concise. I looked at the topic in 2012, in a post called Loving long form and attempted some #longreads in the shape of Contents Magazine, which now seems defunct. And don’t most people want less, not more?

(Incidentally…long reads/long-reads/longreads…longform pretty much dropped?)

Length just feeds my drafts habit – better to keep most posts tight, rather than trying to cover too many ideas, with longform (ie writing rather than blogging) reserved for more worked up pieces?

(243 words)

Engage 2014: a conversation on #some

Three sessions at Engage 2014 focused on research communication and dissemination:

  • A Conversation with the public
  • Social media communities: challenges, lessons and opportunities for engagement with science
  • Attributes of digital engagers: academic identity and role in engaged research online

First up, A Conversation with the public. The Conversation (@ConversationUK) is a current affairs website offering “academic rigour and journalistic flair”, targeting a niche in the market with “in-depth, research informed, academic-led insight”.

Articles are written by experts, ie the individual researchers, with editors for eg Scotland. It’s fast moving, with eg a rolling response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. Owned and governed by a trust, with a range of funders.

I’ve just signed off the newsletter (it’s been in ‘too much’ corner for a while, although the editor’s note is well done) and taken a proper look:

  • RSS feeds at faculty level
  • topics in abundance which you can follow via RSS or as a reader, but not controlled, limiting usefulness
  • bunging in Denmark brings up nine results, inc the usual suspects but rather deeper than the mainstream press; duly RSSd
  • republishing is invited – this is probably key
  • is there much conversation? you need to be registered as a reader to comment; on the blog (no RSS) there’s a weekly off topic space for general discussion, that must keep someone busy…have to wonder how much it is the same people talking to themselves

The Danish equivalent, Videnskab.dk (Facebook | Twitter) looks very similar, with faculty or higher RSS and topics, RSS hidden for those, but should work if you bung them in a reader. They also offer courses on research communication and formidling (~dissemination). Trying out the newsletter for now. Again, looks like overload, and wonder about usage levels.

No English spotted, but turns out there’s also something called ScienceNordic.com (Facebook | Twitter), set up in partnership with a similar service in Norway and covering a pretty broad definition of science including the ‘human sciences’. Duly newsletter’d for now, with an RSS feed for the society & culture section. If you prefer to engage aurally, there’s also Pod Academy.

Next up, Social media communities: challenges, lessons and opportunities for engagement with science with Oliver Marsh (@SidewaysScience). Social media offers a range of opportunities for public engagement, but what role should researchers play in these emerging spaces, and what skills and support might they need to engage effectively? Are gatekeepers still needed?

Finally, Attributes of digital engagers: academic identity and role in engaged research online - the potential for digital forms of communication to support and create opportunities for engaged research, with Trevor Collins (Open) and Ann Grand (@ann2_g). The session involved a Visitors and Residents mapping to explore how people engage in online places – see blog post for more.