Taking on a project already started by another translator - a good idea or not?
Thread poster: Sarah McDowell

Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:37
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
Aug 6, 2013

I have recently been contacted by an author who asked me to finish translating their book into English. It turns out that the project is already almost done and there are only a few chapters left.

The original translator has quit and they are in search of a replacement.

They have asked that the style of the original translator be maintained if possible. I already said that I cannot guarantee this as it is too difficult to translate and try to maintain someone else's style at the same time.

What would other translators advise in this situation? I think I would like to do it but it seems like it may be a very difficult situation to get involved in. Also, in cases like this, is the second translator listed in the credits for the book or just the original one?

Sarah

[Edited at 2013-08-06 21:36 GMT]


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:37
English to Polish
+ ...
My thoughts Aug 6, 2013

I don't like the idea of being asked to follow someone else's style. Style in itself is already a whimsical factor in reviewing, now what if you need to distill and follow one that belongs to someone else.

At a minimum, I would want three things in it for me: 1) payment for my time spent analysing the existing translation, 2) guarantee that there will be no silly stuff like claiming any sort of compensation from me on account of deadlines missed when they aren't happy with what they get, 3) guarantee that my payment is not subject to achieving the similarity in their opinion (and not overly subject to achieving it in anybody else's opinion, either).

Now, few clients would agree to it the way I said it, but you could communicate your worries in a concerned way without sounding too confrontational or unreasonable in your demands.

I'd probably accept – I always try to help agencies or clients in such cases. But I want something in return for being helpful. I need them to be accommodating too. My help in a tough situation in exchange for more safety for me.


 

texjax DDS PhD  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:37
Member (2006)
English to Italian
+ ...
One question Aug 6, 2013

Before even considering the proposal, I'd be curious to know why the original translator decided to quit.
Did they tell you?

Regards,


 

Blanca Collazo  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 01:37
English to Spanish
+ ...
translator's style? Aug 6, 2013

My first question is about style. Shouldn't the style be that of the author, not the translator's?
Then I would follow the recommendations by Lukasz. Sorry, I'm not sure what the first letter is, Lukasz. I hope I got it right.


 

Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:37
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes Aug 6, 2013

texjax DDS PhD wrote:

Before even considering the proposal, I'd be curious to know why the original translator decided to quit.
Did they tell you?

Regards,


Yes apparently the other translator is older and has some health problems in his family. They don't feel that they have the time and effort to commit to this due to other stresses at the moment.

(I can remove this if it is against confidentiality.)


 

texjax DDS PhD  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:37
Member (2006)
English to Italian
+ ...
. Aug 6, 2013

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your reply.

In this case, since apparently the translator left in good terms and without conflicts of any sort, despite the difficulties this might turn out to be a good experience for you.

As far as the credits, translation is intellectual property so I think that both translators should be recognized for their respective contributions.

I recently translated half of a scientific book and both I and the other translator were credited.

In your case, being the book almost completed, they might credit you only for the chapters actually translated.

Good luck!


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:37
Chinese to English
Sounds alright, can you contact the original translator? Aug 7, 2013

It sounds to me like a nice opportunity for collaboration. Particularly if you are able to talk to the original translator, you might be able to get a good feeling for their style. It's literature, right? Spending some time talking with a fellow translator about literary style sounds like bliss compared to the usual professional communication ("please consider paying a non-insulting rate").
I second everything Lukasz said, particularly where the client is the author. You have to be sure they're not going to throw an artistic tantrum because your use of the pluperfect is ruining their masterpiece. But assuming a decent working relationship can be hammered out, I'd do it in a flash.


 

Steven Segaert
Estonia
Local time: 08:37
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Read the translated part first Aug 7, 2013

I would first read the already translated parts - by themselves, not next to the original.

If it sounds like something you might have written as a translator, then why not?

But if it "reads like a translation", or if you sit there thinking "I would have done this differently", then stay away. In that case, you would be going against your own grain trying to maintain consistency.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:37
Member (2008)
Italian to English
POst removed Aug 7, 2013

.

[Edited at 2013-08-07 08:33 GMT]


 

Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
If you are free Aug 7, 2013

then you should do it. Why turn down work if you are not busy? You may even learn something from the other translator's work. It may not be the best translation job that you are offered in your career but hey...

 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:37
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Maintaining the style Aug 7, 2013

Hi Sarah,

perhaps you should ask your (potential) client to first be able to read the already translated chapters to see if you can pick up the previous translator's style (unless it's completely against your own).

As Phil has advised, it would be good if you could contact the former translator in case you encounter any style-related difficulties.

And yes, you should be credited with your portion of the translation.

In any case, I would follow Łukasz's guidelines, and once all terms are set, take on the job.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:37
Russian to English
+ ...
I think it is a horrible idea on the part of the author Aug 7, 2013

Literature cannot be translated by two or more different translators, unless perhaps it is a collection of short stories, or essays. I cannot imagine a novel translated by two different people. I think you could tell him that, and then if you still want to do it, it's up to you, but the whole work may turn out slightly strange. It has to be at least edited by one person.

[Edited at 2013-08-07 10:51 GMT]


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:37
Russian to English
+ ...
Aug 7, 2013



[Edited at 2013-08-07 10:52 GMT]


 

Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:37
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes. Why not? Aug 7, 2013

I don't really believe that the style is an issue. As a translator, you should easily be able to modulate your style. After all, you don't write in the same way when you're translating sales copy as you do when you're translating a contract do you? So why should you not be able to mimic someone else's style?
Just as a book can be written by more than one author, I think that a book can be translated by more than one translator without affecting the quality of the final product. In fact, as long as the communication lines are open, teamwork may even enrich the final product.
Equally, I don't think that reading the rest of the book to capture the existing translator's style is any more hassle than "normal" research as long as the pay for the translation is sufficient to justify taking the time to do so.

In your shoes, I would be open to this idea with the following caveats:

1) I would want to have the first translator's contact details to be able to consult this person on terminology and ideas.

2) I would want to see the text already translated before agreeing to the job. There's no point accepting that you'll mimic someone else's style if that person's style is "rubbish translator".


 


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