How to charge for poetry translation
Thread poster: Jurate Janaviciute

Jurate Janaviciute  Identity Verified
Luxembourg
English to Lithuanian
Mar 20, 2013

Hello everybody,

I have just translated my first poem in my life! It was a short and funny poem, a surprise in a test translation. I had not translated poetry before and I didn't even know that I could do it. However, I cannot even begin to describe the amount of fun I had translating it! If I pass the test and if such opportunities arise in the future, I would not want to refuse it. It is very likely that poetry will be just a small part of this project.

However, I have no idea what I should charge. On the one hand, I am inexperienced in this type of translation, on the other hand, it takes me half an hour to translate 4 lines.

Any ideas?

Jūratė


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Alexander C. Thomson  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:07
Dutch to English
+ ...
By the hour? Mar 20, 2013

Hi Jūratė,

A recognizable situation for me! Personally, I think charging by the hour or part thereof is the fairest way (for both parties) to charge for intellectually and creatively intense translation of a brief text such as a poem. I see from your profile you concentrate on business translation, so perhaps your client(s) would be quite amenable to time-billing as a standard concept in their way of doing things anyway?

An alternative might be a fixed rate per poem, but that does take us rather into the realm of mediaeval bards (who got an item of gold jewellery per poem in some parts of Europe, those were the days).

As a sobering consideration, I read in the Telegraph today that Oscar Wilde, no less, advised a budding writer that "the highest form of literature, Poetry", never paid for itself and you must "make sacrifices for your Art and you will be repaid" …

Best of luck with it!
Alex.


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marisa_pacilio
Austria
Local time: 19:07
German to Italian
+ ...
it's a creative work Mar 20, 2013

Translating poetry is not properly translation, I would say. It rather creating the same emotion and atmophere in another language. Of all kind of translation work I think it should be the most paid, I am afraid to know it is the worst paid...

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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:07
English to Polish
+ ...
Per hour Jun 15, 2013

Per hour, forget per word or per character according to standard rates.

This said, I don't know what the actual professional standard is, and I suspect it might still involve a unit of text rather than time, but I believe per hour would be appropriate here.


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Alexandra Schneeuhr  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 20:07
Member (2012)
English to Russian
+ ...
Flat rate Jun 16, 2013

marisa pacilio wrote:
Translating poetry is not properly translation, I would say. It rather creating the same emotion and atmophere in another language. Of all kind of translation work I think it should be the most paid, I am afraid to know it is the worst paid...


I can't agree more with this post! Especially since I happened to be on both ends, both as a translator and an outsourcer.

I believe there are no set rules or price-guides when it come to such intangible matter as poetry. It all depends on what the ordering customer is ready to pay and whether he understands what it takes one to deliver a well-rhymed and precisely-rhythmed source text which would convey the original message by same or very similar linguistic means... You may charge per word, per line or by hour, but in the end both parties have to come to an agreement on the final total sum, so they may as well start with discussing the latter. F.eg., a 12-lines text could take one anywhere from one hour to two days to translate, so by-hour approach wouldn't really work; you should decide what fee you are going to be happy with, and if it is $120, you can quote either $120 lump sum or $10 per line (of course, the numbers given are just an example).


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Alexandra Schneeuhr  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 20:07
Member (2012)
English to Russian
+ ...
Error corrected Jun 18, 2013

Alexandra Schneeuhr wrote:
a well-rhymed and precisely-rhythmed source text which would convey the original message


Sorry, this should read 'target text' of course ))


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urbom
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:07
German to English
+ ...
In the UK Jun 19, 2013

The Translators' Association in the UK suggests a "minimum rate" for poetry translation of £1.10 per line for poetry (with a minimum of £32 per poem).
See http://societyofauthors.org/translators-association


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How to charge for poetry translation

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