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How much should I charge for translating a musical?
Thread poster: Morena Rose
Morena Rose
Israel
Local time: 16:46
Oct 16, 2013

Hello everyone! I was recently contacted by an an americam productions company. they wanted me to translate a musical fron english to hebrew. I have no idea what to charge. It will take me about 4 months, and the piece contains 44 pages of 250 words.

Thank you very much for all your help!


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Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:46
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Some considerations Oct 16, 2013

Morena Rose wrote:

Hello everyone! I was recently contacted by an an americam productions company. they wanted me to translate a musical fron english to hebrew. I have no idea what to charge. It will take me about 4 months, and the piece contains 44 pages of 250 words.

Thank you very much for all your help!


This sounds like it could be a very fun project for you! I see a few important considerations:


  • Make sure you can understand the source well! Musicals can be full of jokes, puns, and cultural references. I would make sure you get to review the source before quoting to see how well you understand it and thus how much research will be required.

  • Dialogue might be easier / harder than straight translation. Making things sound natural in Hebrew will take some work even when you understand the source perfectly well. Maybe others can comment on their opinion of literary dialogue vs. non-literary prose (which is a lot of most of our work)

  • You still aren't done when you have a quality draft translation of the song lyrics - you still need to set them to music. This can involve a lot of re-writing, re-thinking, moving around, changes to syllabification, etc. I don't really know how much time this will take compared to the translation, but I would think hard about it.

  • You will want a very very good Hebrew-native editor / proofreader to work with you, ideally someone with writing experience, even if it might be in radio, television, etc. Ask your client if they can provide someone or if you need to find this person. In this as always, you get what you pay for!



Good luck!


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:46
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
5,400 USD Oct 16, 2013

Gerard

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DLyons  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 14:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
For 4+ months work? Oct 16, 2013

Gerard de Noord wrote:

Gerard


Some $16,000 p.a. in other words? Not buying any Chateau on the Loire for that

[Edited at 2013-10-16 20:31 GMT]


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Four months sounds like an awfully long time. Oct 16, 2013

It's only 11,000 words, which is about four or five days' work. If you double that to take account of the extra work required of a musical, that's ten days. Maybe Gerard's suggestion isn't so wildly unrealistic...

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Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:46
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Part time? Oct 17, 2013

philgoddard wrote:

It's only 11,000 words, which is about four or five days' work. If you double that to take account of the extra work required of a musical, that's ten days. Maybe Gerard's suggestion isn't so wildly unrealistic...


I suspect the OP is planning on working part-time.


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:46
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
It depends Oct 17, 2013

It depends on the circumstances: Is it an "off-broadway" show, or will it be performed by a major production company? In any way, this is artistic work, and for a major production, the company will probably be prepared to pay a high 5-digit or even a 6-digit sum in USD for good work from a good and experienced translator/writer, while for an off-broadway show the figures will surely be much lower. Obviously, your experience in this field is limited, so you will probably not be able to position yourself in the first group.

In other words: It depends.


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:46
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Literary translation Oct 17, 2013

philgoddard wrote:

It's only 11,000 words, which is about four or five days' work. If you double that to take account of the extra work required of a musical, that's ten days.


If you take this work seriously, your estimation is nowhere realistic - not by a long way. This isn't the same as translating user manuals for hairdryers


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:46
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
why don't you charge Oct 17, 2013

your usual hourly rate?

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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 16:46
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Are you experienced? (Jimmy Hendrix) Oct 17, 2013

I would leave that job for someone with prior experience. If you do not know how to charge for such an assignment you probably have not the right experience.
At least you should form a team with someone who has theater background.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:46
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
And the songs? Oct 17, 2013

I imagine you're just translating dialogue, not the songs. If they want you to 'translate' the songs, then translate isn't at all the right verb to use. There's a massive amount of creative work in producing lyrics that give the same message as the original song but also fit the music perfectly. I have personal experience of well-translated lyrics, with the same number of syllables etc., being totally unsuitable as it simply wasn't possible for a native-speaking singer to sing them (my husband is a musician who wrote a song in French which was then translated into Dutch but never performed).

Even if it's just the dialogue, I think you need to think carefully of whether this is a job you can handle on your own. I know it sounds fun but your reputation is on the line. OTOH, if you're an experienced literary translator then I hope your quote is accepted, and lucrative, and you really enjoy the job.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:46
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Musical vs. manual Oct 18, 2013

Your best bet is to charge your hourly rate. Take a look at the script/video to estimate the hours you will be needing to translate the dialogue and/or create the proper translation for the song lyrics, if these are part of your assignment.

Even though these are "only" 11,000 words, this type of work cannot be compared to "regular" translations, e. g. manuals, technical or medical reports, etc. If you fully understand all the puns, cultural or local references and the subtext-meaning of the songs, you still need to add the time needed to create the spoken/sung segments in Hebrew, reflecting the same meaning and intensions as the original.

This creative work can take much longer than one might assume. I once translated Russian poems (based on a draft English translation) into German, and found that some lines came easily to me, being a poet, while it took nearly an hour or more to turn some 20 words into naturally flowing and rhyming German poetry.

For you to translate this musical 4 - 5 months are a sound estimate.


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DLyons  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 14:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
Musicals are much like poetry. Oct 18, 2013

Thayenga wrote:

... it took nearly an hour or more to turn some 20 words into naturally flowing and rhyming German poetry.


I averaged out at about 5 words/hr for some publishable quality poetry "translation". It's not really something that can be done on a commercial basis.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
It also depends why they want the translation. Oct 18, 2013

I've done a couple of musicals (one was a back translation of a foreign version of Starlight Express), and in both cases the customer said the translation was for information only, not for performance. It could be that they're pitching the musical in Israel, and it will be completely rewritten by a specialist writer. I have to say that although I specialise in the arts, I found them very difficult.

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Texte Style
Local time: 15:46
French to English
What is the translation for? Oct 19, 2013

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

If you do not know how to charge for such an assignment you probably have not the right experience.
At least you should form a team with someone who has theater background.


I agree throroughly with you Heinrich, (although it's Jimi actually ) if the translation is to be used for the actual performance, it needs to be translated by a gifted, experienced translator, who obviously wouldn't have needed to ask the question.

If it's to be used just to pitch, then selected passages would probably suffice. I have often had people asking me to translate a whole work, without any idea of how long it would take or how much it would cost, because they need to show it to potential backers. When I give them my estimate suddenly a couple of pages is enough!


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