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Translating for free as a hobbyist
Thread poster: Jenn1990

Jenn1990
United States
Jun 25

After looking into translation as a career and thinking about the pros of cons and freelance, I've decided that I'm pretty much a hobbyist. I don't have any credentials/degrees, and really I don't want to go back to school. Translating for me is like logic puzzles or knitting. It's something I enjoy as a hobby in my spare time. I feel like I would be more comfortable working for free on my own time for fun and personal accomplishment than making it about money and adding stress. Also my favorite area is literary translation, and I've found that apparently it's pretty notorious for not paying well.
I've found Babelcube and it looks great. I'd love to collab with other(better) translators and work on books of my choosing. But they pay royalites and want tax information that I'm not really okay with sharing for what could easily be >$10 a month. Is there a site that lets you do literary translation for free? Or is it possible to waive the royalties on Babelcube? Really the recognition alone is enough. And who's to say I wouldn't branch out later? Just not right now.


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 20:22
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
TED.com volunteer translation Jun 25

TED.com volunteer translation is the one I offer free translation for video subtitles. I felt waste of time. Reasons are: they have limits and preferences I do not want to provide, their expectations are on low grade translation, their response is not so cooperative etc.
(I could have written more if I did not use a smartphone to write now).

Soonthon L.
Bangkok, Thailand


 

The Misha
Local time: 09:22
Russian to English
+ ...
Shucks! Jun 25

Too bad you are not a dentist who "would be more comfortable working for free on my own time for fun and personal accomplishment". That would really help solve my dental implants issue and I'd give you all the recognition you wanted. Man, I'd even buy you a bottle of cheap scotch!:)

Vera Schoen
Tom in London
Vanda Nissen
Oleksandr Ivanov
Chiara Gavasso
Sabrina Bruna
Ester Vidal
 

Mlandman MBA  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 15:22
Member (2013)
English to Dutch
+ ...
And the question is? Jun 25

What is your question?

Tom in London
Chiara Gavasso
Jorge Payan
José Henrique Lamensdorf
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:22
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Bear this in mind Jun 25

Jenn, your post reminded me of something a former Italian colleague, a wise old bird, used to say:

"Ciò che non ha prezzo non ha valore".

You could start by translating that.


[Edited at 2018-06-25 06:48 GMT]


Sabrina Bruna
Ester Vidal
Teresa Borges
mareug
Jorge Payan
Jana Garnsworthy
José Henrique Lamensdorf
 

Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:22
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Post your entire statement on your profile ... Jun 25

Jenn1990 wrote:

Translating for me is like logic puzzles or knitting. It's something I enjoy as a hobby in my spare time. I feel like I would be more comfortable working for free on my own time for fun and personal accomplishment than making it about money and adding stress.


... and you will soon be flooded with work!


Jorge Payan
 

Katalin Szilárd  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 15:22
Member (2006)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Read behind the lines... Jun 25

I'm wondering who is Jenn1990. But I think the question is rather WHAT.icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2018-06-25 07:19 GMT]


Barbara Carrara
mareug
Jorge Payan
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:22
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Forgive us for not thinking the same way Jun 25

Jenn1990 wrote:
Translating for me is like logic puzzles or knitting. It's something I enjoy as a hobby in my spare time.

I imagine we all enjoy translating to a greater or lesser degree, at least some of the time - I would hope so, anyway. But this is a site designed for professional translators, not hobbyists, so I imagine most of us expect to be paid to translate. Many of us do some pro bono work, but the term means "for the public good"; not giving our time and skills for free so that someone else can make a profit. Most NGOs need experienced professional translators, not hobbyists, as their work is frequently not proofread and accuracy is often extremely important - even life-saving - to readers. I know that TWB rejects a high percentage of applicants' tests as I'm an evaluator. Volunteering for TED and Wikipedia are both possible avenues for you, though.

I don't have any credentials/degrees, and really I don't want to go back to school. I feel like I would be more comfortable working for free on my own time for fun and personal accomplishment than making it about money and adding stress. Also my favorite area is literary translation, and I've found that apparently it's pretty notorious for not paying well.

Your profile says you live in the USA. AFAIK, there's no requirement there to set up any sort of registered entrepreneurial status or pay taxes/social contributions if you don't earn anything, and no requirement for credentials/degrees. So there doesn't have to be any stress about being paid. OTOH, will someone aiming to be a top fiction writer (i.e. someone who would expect their work to be translated) really want a free translation from some hobbyist? Won't they want it done by someone with credentials and a great reputation? These authors have their own reputation to think of.

Is there a site that lets you do literary translation for free?

OMG, that's a classic icon_eek.gif ! We do often discuss whether the day will come when some clients demand we do translations for free, but I don't think we'd ever expect other translators to be up for it and even suggesting it.

If you're desperate, you could contact some of the Babelcube translators who seem to be doing well and see whether they'd like you to translate a book for them to revise. I'd expect them to refuse, but you never know. Of course, you wouldn't get any recognition - that would go to the person receiving the royalties.


Vera Schoen
Teresa Borges
Barbara Carrara
Henriette Saffron
Jorge Payan
Adam Jarczyk
Ester Vidal
 

Elif Baykara Narbay  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 16:22
German to Turkish
+ ...
As a hobby... Jun 25

... you can always translate for free. You don't even have to tell people that you are translating. Just pick a book and translate. icon_smile.gif

Mirko Mainardi
Emma Page
Annamaria Sondrio
mareug
Jorge Payan
Ester Vidal
Hedwig Spitzer Cáceres
 

Emma Page
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:22
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
Please, avoid any site where folks are trying to make a living through translation Jun 25

As this question will annoy people for reasons which should be obvious from previous replies.

But, nothing is stopping you from just "picking a book/poem/essay" and translating away, as mentioned above.
If you translate something and want to publish it, go ahead and contact the rights holder, get permission, submit it to literary mags etc.
Many don't pay, or pay pennies, so no need to worry about that.

Perhaps your question is more related to finding source texts. If that is the case, it's just a matter of finding stuff you like to read in your source languages. Subscribe to some lit mags! Read the book review section of a local paper/magazine/website!


Jenn1990
Jana Garnsworthy
José Henrique Lamensdorf
 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:22
German to English
Try non-profits/social service agencies Jun 25

Without knowing your target language, I might suggest that you try NGOs or other social service agencies.

 

Jenn1990
United States
TOPIC STARTER
More or less what I'm looking for Jun 25

Emma Page wrote:

As this question will annoy people for reasons which should be obvious from previous replies.

But, nothing is stopping you from just "picking a book/poem/essay" and translating away, as mentioned above.
If you translate something and want to publish it, go ahead and contact the rights holder, get permission, submit it to literary mags etc.
Many don't pay, or pay pennies, so no need to worry about that.

Perhaps your question is more related to finding source texts. If that is the case, it's just a matter of finding stuff you like to read in your source languages. Subscribe to some lit mags! Read the book review section of a local paper/magazine/website!


I was just wondering if there was a site dedicated to that. Authors who are starting out and may not be able to afford professional translators meeting translators who are not yet working with professional authors, that sort of thing. Like a pro bono Babelcube.
I know I can translate on my own, but it's hard to know how good/poor I actually am without posting it to be read or contacting the author. The next best thing would be having to buy both editions of an already translated book and comparing, which somehow takes the fun out even if it wasn't twice the money.
I'm definitely not a professional, and I don't think a hobbyist will ever be a threat to practiced professionals. To me that's a bit like saying knitting something and giving it away is a threat to professionals who make projects to sell. I just couldn't find a translation forum/site for beginners/hobbyists.
Thank you everyone for the replies. I'll look into magazines, they seem like a good place to start.


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 07:22
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
No way! Jun 26

Kevin Fulton wrote:

Without knowing your target language, I might suggest that you try NGOs or other social service agencies.


So you think NGOs and social service agencies and their clients should be satisfied with work done by a hobbyist with no credentials when they have no way of checking the quality of the work? Good or bad, they should be satisfied with what they can get for free? Does any organization or client of theirs deserve to be treated that way? Like Sheila, I do work for Translators Without Borders (i.e., for NGOs) and I review test translations of new candidate translators. The tests that are below par far outnumber the ones that pass and the consequences of letting these translators tackle difficult and important documents could be disastrous.



[Edited at 2018-06-26 15:18 GMT]


Michele Fauble
Kay Denney
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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:22
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
That's an amusing statement Jun 26

Elif Baykara wrote:

... you can always translate for free. You don't even have to tell people that you are translating. Just pick a book and translate. icon_smile.gif


and that is true.


Amel Abdullah
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
French to English
A couple of comments Jun 27

Jenn1990 wrote:
I was just wondering if there was a site dedicated to that. Authors who are starting out and may not be able to afford professional translators meeting translators who are not yet working with professional authors, that sort of thing. Like a pro bono Babelcube.
I know I can translate on my own, but it's hard to know how good/poor I actually am without posting it to be read or contacting the author. The next best thing would be having to buy both editions of an already translated book and comparing, which somehow takes the fun out even if it wasn't twice the money.
I'm definitely not a professional, and I don't think a hobbyist will ever be a threat to practiced professionals. To me that's a bit like saying knitting something and giving it away is a threat to professionals who make projects to sell. I just couldn't find a translation forum/site for beginners/hobbyists.
Thank you everyone for the replies. I'll look into magazines, they seem like a good place to start.


Authors don't need to afford professional translators. Translation rights are usually assigned to the publisher who will look for and pay a professional translator. I get the point you're making, however, which is that the authors in question do not have a publisher. There may be some good self-published works out there along with some excellent hobbyist translated versions of those works. There is a strong chance that none of the usual proofreading and review procedures be in place for either though.

Magazines usually work with professional translators too. Magazines often have a very specific readership and you need field knowledge to do a decent translation job. Further, they need to be able to have solutions if there are problems with the work. If you pay someone, that means there is some valuable consideration, that both parties have to agree to volume, deadlines and so forth. If you're not being paid, that means you can just decide to back out, something the magazine cannot afford to risk.

Posted with the aim of pointing out a couple of potential pitfalls, not with any negative critical intent.icon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2018-06-27 10:18 GMT]


 
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