Types of language services
English language consultants come from many different disciplines and backgrounds, and offer a variety of professional services, broadly classified as editing, translating, writing, interpreting, training, coaching and project managing. They may combine several roles in a unique blend, and they often specialize in a subject in which they have prior academic and work experience or professional interest. Some language consultants also do research on aspects of their work, publishing their findings and insights in professional or academic journals.
English language consultants who work for nonnative English clients require additional skills. An ability to correct and standardize the English (to American or British) is not enough. Skilled language consultants are able to recognize and deal effectively and sensitively with their clients’ cultural and linguistic proclivities.
Editing refers to the modification of a document or audiovisual prior to its publication (or use), to improve its presentation, style, accuracy, usefulness, etc. There are many levels of editing, depending on the type of document, its purpose and the client's needs. Simple copy editing is a standard pre-publication process which entails correcting and improving the spelling and grammar and applying the agreed house style. In substantive editing, the editor performs a comprehensive check regarding internal consistency, information flow, logic, legibility, numerical and statistical sense, terminology, content organization, etc. Substantive changes are then made, as necessary, by adding, removing or modifying the content; this type of editing requires linguistic knowledge that is sensitive to meaning in specialist documents. Author’s editing requires a mix of linguistic and content expertise and familiarity with publication strategies, and often involves close collaboration during the writing process.
Translation editing for quality assurance is a service that clients are concerned about. We expect to see more discussion of this service as new standards for the translation industry (EN-15038) take effect in Europe. Under those standards, revision refers to checking a translation against the source text for accuracy while review refers to evaluation, by a bona fide user of the text type, of the appropriateness of expression in a translation. It is not yet clear what the scope of such editing processes would be. Therefore, for clients who want editorial improvements during a translation process with quality assurance, we advise that this be explicitly discussed with the provider.
Translation is more than simply changing a text from the source language to the target language. A skilled translator is a skilled writer, ensuring that the new text is faithful to the original and equally effective. Translations can range from critical (for external communication or publication in highly specialized areas) to simple (for few readers, usually for internal communication). Some high quality processes may include the concept of revised translation (checking of content and style by a second expert translator — see the previous paragraph on translation editing). Some translation jobs require cultural adaptation, such as localization projects, advertising, or research instruments that must be validated.
While a translator renders text into a new language and an editor improves a text prior to use, there are times when the best communication strategy is to directly employ a writer. A writer gathers and selects key information and synthesizes it into an effective original text. Writers may specialize in grant or funding applications, drug authorization requests, production of content for the Web or for magazines and brochures, preparation of company literature or advertisements, etc. A skilled writer is also familiar with the structure and form of the document to be produced.
Interpreters mediate spoken communication. Simultaneous interpretation involves conveying the idea in another language at the same time as it is being spoken, with the audience listening principally to the interpreted speech through headphones. Consecutive interpreting takes place in face-to-face meetings (press conferences, business negotiation, court settings, medical visits, etc.); it is sometimes called dialog (or community) interpreting if the linguist translates into both languages.
Training and coaching
This broad category usually refers to language consultants who help clients produce well-delivered oral presentations but who may also help with print or audiovisual texts. This is typically a mid-to-long-term approach in which the client’s goal is to develop autonomy. Trainers may be instructors of written and oral communication, publishing consultants (who provide strategies rather than editing services) and public speaking coaches.
Recognizing that many communication projects require the intervention of more than one type of specialist, some language consultants operate as project managers by selecting and coordinating a team of other consultants. For example, project managers may handle multilingual translations of a source document for international use, they may coordinate the communication aspects (scientific, administrative, public) of large or international research projects, or they may handle quality control on large translation projects.