Poetry translation - European fees
Thread poster: ellan

Oct 13, 2015


I am a Hebrew-Danish-English translator as well as a poet, and have been offered to translate a poetry book from Danish to Hebrew.
I know Israeli poetic translation prices per line or per poem, but I need to consider the fact that there are more than 50 poems in this book.
Also, I have no idea what the going rate is in Denmark. I tried to find some sort of translators union or organization, but cannot seem to find a price list.

Does anyone here have an idea?


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Shelagh Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:14
Member (2007)
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Cheaper for 50 poems? Oct 13, 2015

I honestly can't help at all with pricing, ellan - sorry.

However, I do wonder why the number of poems makes a difference. If you're translating 1,000 lines of poetry then surely the job will take you 1,000 times the length of time that one line would take, won't it? So you'll charge 1,000 times the amount. There aren't likely to be any useful repetitions and fuzzy matches, after all. I suppose you'll get a little into the style of the poet and that might help save a little time, but I'm not convinced.

I guess what you're worried about is that this poet will have heart failure when s/he sees your 4-figure quote. Well, that's business! Entering the international market calls for investment. It isn't up to you to subsidise that.
ellan wrote:
I know Israeli poetic translation prices per line or per poem, but I need to consider the fact that there are more than 50 poems in this book.

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DLyons  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:14
Spanish to English
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Not commercially viable. Oct 13, 2015

Poetry translation is incredibly slow and a labour of love. Very satisfying, but doesn't put bread on the table.

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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:14
Member (2009)
English to German
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Your client Oct 14, 2015

As DLyons stated, translating poetry is mostly a matter of passion. It also requires the feeling for translating the poems into the target language without losing any of its meaning or fevor. The time you will spend on the translation also depends on the requirements of the poet, whether they should be rhymers or not, whether you must adhere to the metrics or not.

The main factor, however, is who your client is. Is s/he a publisher, an agency, or a poet seeking publication in another country? Poets usually don't have much money to pay you a good per line rate. Consequently, payment can vary between 20 cents per poem to up to 2 or even 3 Euros per line.

[Edited at 2015-10-14 10:45 GMT]

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Poetry translation - European fees

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