Staff Translation Tips!

Personal Works of Non-Fiction

Working for an interpretation company that also handles occasional translations has shown me a number of obstacles in having one’s work translated from English to another language. Below is my top five list for any author of fiction books to consider when having their personal work translated into a second language. Best wishes as you explore expanding your market into other cultures! --Sandy

  1. What’s your genre and where will it sell? Translating a Christian novel into Spanish makes sense. But remember that there are different idioms for Spaniard Spanish than for Salvadorian Spanish. Romance novels tend to do well in Germany.
  2. Plan on double the time and double the effort. Period.
  3. Style and nuance vs. verbatim translation. Rather than having your book translated word for word or even conceptually, it’ll be a better product if you hire someone who can replicate your style and nuances using that other language. Adaptation is a plus! You want the translator to use a frame of reference common for the readers. Calling someone a beanpole in the U.S. is better stated as an asparagus in France. Really.
  4. Use more than one translator. Once you get the translated copy, ask a second translator to translate back into English. What concepts stayed true? What needs work? Who checks the typeset text? As to fees, the second translator would typically be paid about half of the initial translator’s fees.
  5. Rates and expectations. Typical rates will be per word (check if that’s per English word or per word count in the translated document), based on the language being translated to (is it a common language or a more diverse one), and experience of the translator. Agreements should include reasonable deadlines and revision schedules. Provide 2-4 pages of your work and ask for a sample translation (typically at no charge) to help you choose between vendors. Ask to see other samples of work product and run samples past a trusted, native language speaker (perhaps check with an instructor at a local college or research possible assistance through a local diversity group). A vendor who asks more questions and a writer who can clearly communicate his or her expectations and intent will have a better working relationship and end product. An added bonus is to find a translator who enjoys reading the same or similar genres as your writing material.


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