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Finnish Literary Translators: Low Income
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 03:37
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Jan 5, 2009

According to a EU-wide survey only their Italian colleagues earn less per annum then Finnish literary translators. Average gross income was 14500 Euro. The highest income have colleagues in UK and Ireland.


The survey was done 2007/08 by http://www.ceatl.org/
The survey can be downloaded there. It contains a wealth of information about literary translators in the EU.

Regards
Heinrich


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Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:37
English to Spanish
+ ...
Very interesting! Jan 5, 2009

I didn't know anything about literary translators other than they were being paid peanuts... and this just confirms it... As they say in the conclusion.. "It's time to act!"

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Alfredo Fernández Martínez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:37
English to Spanish
+ ...
Great Link - Sad News Jan 5, 2009

Heinrich,

Thank you so much for your info!

By the way, if I may ask...How did you came across it?

And, quite rightly, it is a sad fact, if, according to this very thorough servey, you guys upthere in Finland, in a country with the Euro, and surely not a cheap one, you have to make a living on a rather low income.

Let us stand up for our rights!


All the best,

Alfredo


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 02:37
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
the differences in rates are huge Jan 5, 2009

... factor >10x between Slovakia (3eu / page) and Norway (31€ / page). That is (ball parking) 0.005 to 0.05 € per word. Which again is a huge difference to rates, discussed (and realised) here.

Re "standing to our rights" etc - the report involves literature translation (or "fiction", as put in a stricter sense in my Slovenian case, so no technical translations etc, just publishable material).

Its sad indeed: it does not pay to translate Joyce (or Handke in my case). I mean it does not pay in the monetary sense.


[Edited at 2009-01-05 17:30 GMT]


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Joanna Wachowiak-Finlaison
Malaysia
Local time: 09:37
English to Polish
+ ...
It's a hobby Jan 5, 2009

I certainly treat the literary translations as a hobby. A time and resources consuming hobby. You cannot treat it any other way considering the rates.
At least my current book is entertaining. My last one drained me emotionally.


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Pilar Díez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:37
English to Spanish
+ ...
Enlightening! Jan 5, 2009

Thanks for the link! It was really nice to see all that "wealth of information", as you said.
It is indeed, very sad, and it's true that when we, because I also translate fiction, decide to accept rates even lower than those in the survey, we do so knowing that it will be personally enriching but not worthy money wise. I've already translated two novels, and am about to begin the third one. Then, from time to time, you do something better paid but not so interesting. I suposse that it all depends on our own personal circumstances.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
playing into their hands Jan 5, 2009

Pilar Díez wrote:

Thanks for the link! It was really nice to see all that "wealth of information", as you said.
It is indeed, very sad, and it's true that when we, because I also translate fiction, decide to accept rates even lower than those in the survey, we do so knowing that it will be personally enriching but not worthy money wise. I've already translated two novels, and am about to begin the third one. Then, from time to time, you do something better paid but not so interesting. I suposse that it all depends on our own personal circumstances.


No criticism intended, Pilar, but sadly, by taking work becuase it's "more interesting" at a poor rate, you are playing into the publishers' hands:-( Spain - and even more so Catalonia - is way down the league as far as rates go. In a way it's almost understandable as far as Catalonia goes, as it's a small market (absolute max 9 m people live in CAT-speaking regions, but many of them don't read novels in CAT), but it's difficult to justify such poor rates for a country with over 40 m inhabitants and with a potential market of many other millions.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 01:37
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
"Rearranging the World" Jan 5, 2009

That's the title of a contemporary anthology of literature in translation which I discovered recently in my partner's library and read. Aside from the excepts themselves, what I found very interesting was the "Translators' Details" section in the back, which described what the translators actually do for a living. A very large portion of them are academics of some sort with a "secure" salary, so there is no need to live from the income derived from translation. Indeed, even in Germany the statistics seem to suggest that one can do almost as well working in a sweatshop call center.

What a contrast with technical translations and other specialist work.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 02:37
Member (2009)
English to Croatian
+ ...
An input Jan 5, 2009

Literary translators are often academics and authors with a rich erudition and a plenty of text-related work done in their career. Otherwise, they couldn't be literary translators. Not just anybody can be in this category. There is a strict selection. They must be proven in the academic world, this way or another, which is logical, considering the vocabulary span they have to deal with in literature. Only opera singers can sing opera, right ? Other voices will squeak. Common sense.

So yes, they have been proven both academically and thus financially, and translation is never the main and only source of income for them.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 03:37
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I don't quite believe that Jan 6, 2009

That literary translators are working mostly part-time.

When you look at the survey more closely, you see that the average output is roughly 1000 pages (1 page = 1800 characters).
Last year I did about 700 pages of mostly technical nature. I could have translated twice of that easily, if only they had sent me more jobs. But even with that amount of work my gross income was 25000 euro.

So if literary translators in my country translate 1000 pages and get paid 14500 euro, they simply charge too little. One has to remember that literary translators get also public funding and royalties. I always expected them to earn quite well.

Most translators in the Northern countries of course are academically qualified, but work full-time as translators.

Regards
Heinrich


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Taija Hyvönen
Finland
Local time: 03:37
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Low indeed Jan 6, 2009

I have never heard of anyone here actually living on the rates they get for literary translation. As already pointed out, it forms only a part of their income - they get grants and scholarships, write literature themselves (on grants and scholarships), teach or research in the universities and so on.

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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 03:37
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Grants, royalties were included in the survey Jan 6, 2009

Taija Salo wrote:

I have never heard of anyone here actually living on the rates they get for literary translation. As already pointed out, it forms only a part of their income - they get grants and scholarships, write literature themselves (on grants and scholarships), teach or research in the universities and so on.


And I know personally literary translators that live exclusively on their translation work. On average some 4000 euro came from grants out of these 14500.


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