Poll: Have you ever been commissioned the translation of a book for personal use?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Apr 25

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever been commissioned the translation of a book for personal use?".

This poll was originally submitted by texjax DDS PhD. View the poll results »



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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Bit of politics Apr 25

Well there was that one time Kim wanted this book done he'd found in a flea market on one of his shopping trips to Gay Paris. "Nukes for Dummies" I think it was.

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:02
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
No, but... Apr 25

When I was about 13, I was using the adult library instead of the children's one, and I found a translation into French from Italian of some stories ("Contes") by Bocaccio, which were quite rude by the standards of the time. I knew enough French by then to understand them, and my parents (who did not know any French) were pleased to see me practising my school French in this way.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Apr 25

I have been commissioned to translate a book, yes, but I don't really understand the "for personal use" part of the question. It was a personal project by the author, but it was subsequently published and is cited in other subsequent academic works, as well as being available to the public.

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 06:02
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No Apr 25

I was recently commissioned a translation of a self-published children’s book on hidden diseases by its author but it will be available to the public (parents, teachers, psychologists…).

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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:02
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not for personal use Apr 25

I translated the doctoral thesis of a Mexican economist, Lorenzo Meyer, which was published by the Univ of Texas Press. The title is "Mexico and the United States in the Oil Controversy." It's a hiuuuuuge book.

A couple of years ago I was approached by a museologist who wanted to have a book in Portuguese translated into English for her use on a business trip to Brazil, but she got sticker shock when I told her what it would cost. I think she gave up. I had asked her if she could have it scanned and she didn't want to go to the trouble. She might have gotten more motivated if she decided to try machine translation.

[Edited at 2017-04-25 09:01 GMT]


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Denise Phelps  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Great expectations Apr 25

I think I know what the question refers to: twice I have been asked to translate a book written in English into Spanish for the client's personal use. One was a travel guide and one was a technical manual. Apart from the fact that I do not work in that direction, in both cases the clients had great expectations as regards how long it would take me (they assumed an evening or so) and what it would cost (they assumed about the same as the retail price of the original book, in one case, €10). Needless to say, neither commission worked out...

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Ricki Farn
Germany
Local time: 07:02
Member (2005)
English to German
With Denise Apr 25

I've had people think I could translate academic papers for them just so they would be able to consume the content, and they were surprised that it is not economically viable for most individuals to commission a translation like that. Translations, unlike socks, usually need to be used by many people to pay for themselves.

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Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 16:02
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
Impressive Apr 25

Jack Doughty wrote:

When I was about 13, I was using the adult library instead of the children's one, and I found a translation into French from Italian of some stories ("Contes") by Bocaccio, which were quite rude by the standards of the time. I knew enough French by then to understand them, and my parents (who did not know any French) were pleased to see me practising my school French in this way.


As a mother of a soon-to-be-12 one I would be pleased to see my son reading Bocaccio in any language, especially in a foreign one.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:02
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I get such requests every other day Apr 25

Thanks to my web site (yes, I translate books), quite often people write me asking for a cost estimate for translating books. The most typical cases are:
  • Books they'd like to read, recommended by a friend or relative
  • The instruction manual for using some complex apparatus they bought by mail
  • Books they must read for some graduate course they are taking
  • Self-help books on some personal problem they are trying to overcome

As I am geared for making quick cost estimates, I give them an actual figure, and explain that a publisher pulverizes the translation cost over a few thousand copies, so nobody notices that it exists. In most cases, translating ONE book may cost more than a good foreign language course, though the latter will take much longer.

I also explain that if they are knowledgeable in the subject, free online translation might work, though they'll have to cope with a lot of nonsense. Hiring a cheap amateur to translate, in most cases, will often provide them with some other kind of nonsense.

I have learned that if I don't give an actual cost estimate, some will insist, doubting that what I consider as "too expensive to be worth it" is less than they intended to spend, so I give this figure right away.

Personal use may have another meaning, too. Some people have written a book, which might have been successful or not in its original language. Either way, as the investment in publishing an e-book nowadays is quite small, they decide to go international.

I have devised a way of using book translation projects as "fillers" in the otherwise idle time between projects, while my translations are being reviewed by someone else, or even when one processor core in my computer is busy rendering subtitled video. I offer to translate books at a 30% lower rate, in exchange for the turnaround time being 4x longer. Some take it, others don't.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:02
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Not for personal use Apr 25

As others have mentioned, it takes much longer and costs more than people expect.

The nearest I have come is a family history, which probably is only for the family's private use, but I think they were quite a big clan to share the costs. There were several instalments, but altogether about 70 - 80 thousand words, nearly 100 000 in English. There were some fascinating chapters of late 19th and early 20th century Danish history, ending after World War II.

All the other books I have translated have been for publication, and I understood one sold 'quite well'. It was on psychology, so you won't find it at every railway station bookshop, but as long as the client was happy... She asked me to translate some shorter academic papers afterwards.

Edited to add - I prefer not to translate books - I run out of steam long before I've finished, and struggle to keep my standards up!

[Edited at 2017-04-25 12:42 GMT]


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Bruno Veilleux
Canada
Local time: 01:02
English to French
Yes except I'm not being paid! Apr 25

My mother has told me a few times I "should" translate this novel I read about autism because she'd love to read it (not in a nagging way, mind you). Since it really is an eye-opening book and I've been wanting to know if I had the mettle to translate novels, I decided to give it a shot as a side project. It should make a very nice personalized gift when I finish it, but it's certainly looking like it will take more than a year, and I can already tell I won't be looking for paid work of this nature anytime soon. Between RSI and having to put regular, long-time clients on the backburner for months if I take on such a large job, I think I would be shooting myself in the foot (or at least in both hands).

It's crazy the things I'll do for free given the right motivation, and never consider for money...

Denise Phelps wrote:

Apart from the fact that I do not work in that direction, in both cases the clients had great expectations as regards how long it would take me (they assumed an evening or so) and what it would cost (they assumed about the same as the retail price of the original book, in one case, €10). Needless to say, neither commission worked out...

That is positively crazy!

Ricki Farn wrote:

I've had people think I could translate academic papers for them just so they would be able to consume the content, and they were surprised that it is not economically viable for most individuals to commission a translation like that.

I have had that happen to me once, though it was nowhere near what I would consider book size. Maybe 30 pages, if memory serves. Since she was a friend's sister I told her I could give her a bit of a discount but she still wouldn't find it worth it. She didn't


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:02
French to English
Like it! Apr 25

Ricki Farn wrote:

Translations, unlike socks, usually need to be used by many people to pay for themselves.


Like!


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Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:02
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Agree Apr 25

Ricki Farn wrote:
Translations, unlike socks, usually need to be used by many people to pay for themselves.


I know there must be some people very interested in rare or uncommon or unknown books, who also have a lot of money to use in such a manner, but I was never lucky enough to find one such client. I have translated some books that were probably not very popular, and whose translated version was even less popular, but the author wanted it translated to other languages anyway, betting on their success. I wouldn't be surprised if I found out very few or even none were sold, but it didn't really make much difference on my job or pay.


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:02
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I just remembered Apr 29

A scientist wanted to understand what was in an academic paper, so I offered to summarize it for him. He was happy with the summary; it told me what he wanted to know.

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