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Quotations and references in academic books
Thread poster: Tim Drayton

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:17
Turkish to English
+ ...
Sep 12, 2006

I have had an initial interview with an academic with a view to my translating a book of his. I have agreed to translate the introduction as a sample and then, if he finds my work adequate, we will discuss translating the whole book.
The book is in Turkish and examines the development of Turkish and Greek nationalisms in the context of the development of the modern Greek and Turkish nation states, and the way these developments have shaped the world view of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, resulting in the current state of impasse on the island. I believe that the book is very balanced and offers a deep insight into one dimension of the Cyprus problem. I am enthusiastic about translating it into English so that it is available to a wider audience and realise that the rates for this kind of work are very low, so my motives for taking on this assignment are more ideological than material.
However, working through the introduction I realise that dealing with quotataions and references from other works is going to be a major problem. The book contains about 560 footnotes, virtually all of which make reference to other works.
I see the following issues looming up ahead:
1 Quotations that were originally in English
Simply translating back from Turkish into English won't work. In every case, I will have to find the original work and use the orginal quotation verbatim (thank goodness there are page references for these quotations). In quite a few cases, the original documents are British Commenwealth Office documents and I don't even know how easy it is to obtain these!
2 Quotations taken from published Turkish translation of works that were originally in English
I think here I will have to go back to the original books, find which page the quotation is on and again use the original words verbatim.
3 Quotations taken from works in Turkish
Well, obviously I should be OK just translating these myself, but what if some of these books have published English translations? Should I make reference to the translated version of the book/article and take the quotation from here in the interests of consistency? Again it is going to take a long time just to identify which page quotations come from.
4 Quotations taken from works in other languages
Again, if there exist published translations of these books or articles, do I have to track these down and quote verbatim from them?
5 References to terminology
A lot of the footnotes do not refer to quotations but summarise arguments presented in other works. Here I think that to do a really professional job I need to access the orginal works, if these are in English or there exist published translations into English, so that the terminology I use is consistent with usage in the work to which reference is made.
I have never undertaken a translation of this kind before, as you can probably guess, and I am suddenly feeling daunted by the task of dealing with these references. The book itself is written in very clear prose and I feel comfortable with the main translation work. I just wonder how long it will take me to deal with the issues I have mentioned above. I can see no alternative but to spend weeks if not months in libraries tracking down all the books and articles, locating quotataions and searching out terminology, all of which will have to be written out in longhand. This will also involve travel as there are no libraries locally that keep this kind of material. I am hoping that the author will be able to give me some assistance, but I don't know how much. Can anybody with experience of this kind of work tell me if I will have to follow all the steps that I have listed above and if there are any useful shortcuts. How much time will this add to the whole project?
It has been an ambition of mine for some time to work on a book translation, but I really wonder if the game is worth the candle.
Thanks in advance for your assistance and thoughts.

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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:17
English to German
+ ...
Let the author do this work Sep 12, 2006

Hello Tim,

if this is more idealistic than paying work I would ask the author to give as much assistance as possible or just not do it.

I would offer to do the translation work, leave the author with the quotations and references and work together on the terminology.

As a real job you would have to receive extra research payment for the quotations. Since you already stated that there is not much money for this project, letting the author deal with the quotations seems like the practical approach to me.

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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:17
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Caution Sep 12, 2006

Hello Tim,

I think you have summed up very well what you would need to do and it is indeed a daunting task. I agree with Claudia that you could ask the author to do much of this work himself, particularly since, as you say, the pay is going to poor.

However, before you consider it any further, I would advise you and the author to do your homework. There is no sense translating the book if the author has not found a publisher first. He needs to write (and you could translate) a book proposal to "sell" the book to an appropriate publisher. You should approach publishers who have published other books on academic topics, politics, history, and current affairs. The author also needs to contact the Turkish publisher of his book to see if his contract with them allows this and if they might be able to help.

The book proposal should answer such questions as: why is this book interesting, what English-speaking audience(s) will it appeal to, what other books are there on this topic and how is this book different. You need to add a timeline for the translation, the table of contents, and your sample introduction. There are some very helpful books on writing book proposals on the market.

If the author has not already done this preparatory work, the whole plan may fizzle out and I caution you not to get carried away by idealism and spend oodles of time on it before the groundwork is laid.

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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
some other ideas Sep 12, 2006

First, I agree with everything that Tina and Claudia have cautioned you about.

If no publisher is waiting for the book already, don't discount NGOs and foundations as potential publishers or sources of money to cover the publication costs.

If (or when) a publisher is involved, you MUST ask them for their style guide so that the notes will be in the format that they want. Using a style guide should also make your job easier because you won't be wondering as you look at each note how to style the bibliographical information.

I have done a lot of this sort of translation work, and I find that the Internet is very useful for tracking down information--I've even found a direction quotation that happen to have been cited by another author in the original language.

On one project, I hired a colleague to do all the notes for me. There is a drawback to that in that this person still needed to read the source text at points to be able to understand the note, but when it was really a bibliographical note, it was very straightforward. If the author himself is bilingual, he might be able to do most of the notes for you.

But it is time consuming work, and I would ask for a per-hour rate for any part of it that the author is unable to do himself.

Good sounds like a fascinating project!

[Edited at 2006-09-12 16:46]

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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:17
English to Turkish
Don't touch quotations Sep 12, 2006

Hi Tim,

As far as my experience is concerned, in an academic work, you ought to leave quotations as they are. I remember this rule very well, because I had learned reading Greek thanks to it (later forgot, of course): it was a hardcopy academic work on Byzantium, in English, there were Greek quotations in footnotes, and I had to input them in the softcopy translation one by one. Alternatively, you can provide your own translations in addition to the text of the quotation as entered by the author - of course, stating that it is your translation.

But you may consult with the author, first. And if he insists that quotations should be translated, then Claudia's suggestions would work; i.e.


I would offer to do the translation work, leave the author with the quotations and references and work together on the terminology.


As a real job you would have to receive extra research payment for the quotations.

Apart from this, if you need any help with Turkish resources in the course of your work, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2006-09-12 23:48]

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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:17
Turkish to English
+ ...
Thanks Sep 13, 2006

Thanks for your comments.
I am going to voice my concerns to the author when I return my sample translation later this week. He has experience of this kind of work himself so he should be able to give me some advice. Your feedback has been helpful in shaping my own attitude towards this project.

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