Branching Out From EFL With Proofreading Work

One way EFL teachers branch out is by getting involved in proofreading work. (Other possibilities include becoming an examiner.)

Occasionally proofreading work comes through schools, but generally personal contacts are important. I got my first proofreading work after I got involved with an internship with a researcher in Sarajevo – a 60-page report he’d worked on had been translated and he was looking for someone to proofread the English version. I got further work – including my biggest single piece, a 300-page compendium of speeches and articles on economics – by knowing someone with a colleague who needed proofreading – in fact the “someone” was one of the translators who had worked on the first text with the researcher.

I usually print out the text and make my corrections by hand, then use track changes in Word to alter the original. I also generally add quite a lot of comments or questions for the translator. It is very much not an auto-pilot type job – you have to think about meaning and context and notice the details. It isn’t uncommon for me to go through a document three or four times, finding 80-90% of the errors the first time around, but still continuing. The most challenging work I’ve done was, I think, a 200-page directory of Tibetan medicinal herbs: first of all I suspect the translation was rather informal and not done by a professional translator, and second, much of the vocabulary was specialist and new for me.

What’s good about proofreading work: it can be satisfying to perfect something, or at least come close. Most importantly, this kind of work can be done remotely.

What’s not so great: proofreading work is hard to come by and often unreliable. Many – if not most – people would find it boring and tedious, not to mention time-intensive, to locate every minute error made by a professional translator.

If this is something that interests you, consider volunteering your services once or twice to see if you like it and build up contacts. Translators Without Borders is said to need proofreaders from time to time. Of course keep in mind that language work like this comes with quite a responsibility depending on the type of document, so if you’re not sure about something, ask!