Practing translation while respecting copyright laws
Thread poster: Bookwyrm

United States
May 25, 2018

Apologies if this isn't the right forum to post this in, or if the question’s been asked already. I couldn’t find it. My question is this:

I’m a novice translator, currently doing it as a hobby but wanting to branch out into making money. I need to get better and practice to do that, I know. And what I really need is practice. But while I could work on a book in my source language(German), I can’t upload it or send it to be proofread by anyone without breaking copyright law, even if I don’t make money from it. I’m almost certain of this. And just translating alone won’t help me improve because it’s like grading your own math test; I won’t catch my mistakes. Where can I find something to freely take and translate outside of Wikipedia, or writing that’s so old that it’s public domain, but also outdated? How did you guys get started? I'd like to use literature if possible, and I'm not confident enough to contact an author about a full-length novel yet.


Jessica Glanz  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:50
Member (2018)
German to English
+ ...
Newspapers and volunteering May 31, 2018

You're right about the copyright law--I was about to suggest Project Gutenberg for out-of-copyright books to practice on, and found it has been blocked in Germany for perceived violations!icon_frown.gif

One way I practiced for the DipTrans was using newspaper articles that already had an English translation. That way, I could translate the German, and then check whether it matched the paper's own translation to pick up any mistakes. While the "official" translation doesn't always match the original as slavishly as would be expected in an exam, it's still good practice, and you can't really get much more current! On, for example, you can search for "English version" and it'll bring up a list of recent articles with existing translations.

You could also offer to be a volunteer translator for an organisation and ask whether they're happy for you to ask a friend to check your work--if it's something like blog posts, they'll probably be delighted to have the extra pair of eyes. While it's not literature, you may get things like stories from refugees or people who have travelled to volunteer, which are also fairly narrative.


United States
Thank you so much! Jun 5, 2018

I didn't know that a website existed that had news in both languages. I've been using OmegaT to work on articles and I love it. Also I'm not in Germany so copyright isn't a problem with Gutenberg, but the wording is just very old fashioned.


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