Translating other peoples' work
Thread poster: Amanda Haste

Amanda Haste  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:20
Member (2012)
French to English
Aug 20, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

I specialise in academic translation (FR-EN) and I would never undertake a translation unless I knew that the work was the intellectual property of the client. However, three times in the last three months I've been asked to translate work that patently obviously doesn't belong to the client.

The first prospective client asked me to translate a journal article. I asked him for the document and the word count, but he could only estimate the number of pages and couldn't provide a Word doc); neither could he confirm what he wanted the translation for. [I admit that I tested him by asking him whether it was to identify the gist so he could identify source material for his own research, or a complete translation that would read as if it were originally written in English.] Yes, I was leading him on a bit but frankly, it stank.
Worryingly, the client is a bona fide academic with a good publication record in the field....

The second wanted me to translate an entire book (written by someone else). I simply quoted him my rate per word and proof of IP and (surprise, surprise) never heard from him again.

The third, received today in English, is for translating two books on the same esoteric subject (he has kindly given the links on Amazon), and he didn't even give any more than his forename. I'm not even bothering to reply.

My question is, why is this happening? Intended plagiarism of other people's work? Maybe paying for a ready-made journal article is quicker and easier than doing the research, analysing and interpreting data, and clearly something appearing in another language stands little chance of being picked up by anti-plagiarism software.

Or is this (at least are the last two) a scam/scams, luring translators into accepting a large job under false pretences, as translating a whole book (or two) is not an insignificant amount of work.

Your thoughts would be most welcome.


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:20
Chinese to English
No need to assume bad faith? Aug 20, 2015

You know your market, of course, and it sounds like each of these "clients" was flaky, so it's fair enough that you ignored them. But I don't think you need to assume bad faith. A client does not have to own the IP to a paper (for example) in order to have it translated, as long as the translation is for their personal use only.

It sounds like you're reading the signals accurately, so it's not going to be a business problem for you. You won't get caught by the flakes and the plagiarists, so just don't worry about them. Of course they exist, in academia as in every walk of life.


564354352 (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:20
Danish to English
+ ...
Lack of understanding of the source language Aug 21, 2015

I would have thought that academics in particular would be keen to read material written by peers within their own research fields. If they don't understand the language a text is written in and no translation exists, what else would they do than commission a translation? I can't see anything wrong with that at all.

We all translate 'other people's work' all the time, don't we? Never once have I thought of asking for proof of IP rights. What the recipient does with the translated work is entirely their own responsibility. I'm not the IP police.

However, if you smell a fishy business deal for any reason, don't touch it.


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Translating other peoples' work

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