Only 3% of the books published annually in America and Britain are translated from another language

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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:02
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
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Not as bad as it seems Jul 25, 2012

If instead of looking at percentages, you look at absolute numbers, the picture is more encouraging. In the US, around 300,000 books are published per year. If 3% are translations, that is nearly 10,000 new translated books a year.

In contrast, in Germany there are around 100,000 new books a year, of which around 12% are translations -- around 12,000. In Spain, around 90,000 at 25% -- so around 22,000 new translations.

Two conclusions –- still an imbalance, but not as bad as the percentages imply. And either way, that represents a considerable amount of work for us translators.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:02
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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In Spain Jul 25, 2012

In the case of Spain, the Federation of editors summarises the market's figures here.

As you can see, copy sales did not go down from 2005 to 2010, although the number of translated titles published did go down, from almost 26% in 2005 to just ver 22% in 2010.

The lower number of translated works can mean many things, but my interpretation of it is that there is a contraction in the number of different titles, and hence in the number of translations.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:02
Russian to English
+ ...
This is really sad, isn't it. Jul 25, 2012

I am planning in the future to translate some older books into English - some were already translated but I don't like some of the translations. Some translators just don't feel the book. Some of the books are real gems, but they seem such a waste in another language. I would love to translate some Swedish books as well, but this will take me more time to decide. There are great things there, and I am not sure what their translations look like. Does anybody know how you go about publishing a book that you want to translate, or rather the book in translation, the copyrights of which have long expired? I only translated a few books for alive authors. Some other things too, but mostly for competitions.

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not surprising Jul 25, 2012

If they can't say it or write it in English then it's not worth hearing or reading.

Ethnocentrism.


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:02
Member (2007)
French to English
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I am not surprised either Jul 25, 2012

Perhaps there are more authors who write in English, who knows?

Also, I wouldn't be surprised if there were few good translators of literature in any case.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 18:02
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
They're missing out on a lot Jul 27, 2012

liz askew wrote:

...
Also, I wouldn't be surprised if there were few good translators of literature in any case.


Why?

I suspect that potentially there are a fair number, but maybe in some languages they don't get paid enough to do it full time. Unless you mean translators into English - I get the impression (and the CIoL is not my only source...) that British schoolchildren are seriously learning far fewer languages and to a lower level now than we did 50 years ago. Which is amazing, considering how much more accessible travel and resources are today!

While I don't know the percentages, the proportion of books translated into Danish is quite large, and reviewers also consider the quality of the translation when they come out. Here literary translators are often good. Reviewers may well be sufficiently familiar with English at any rate, and sometimes other languages, to have an idea of how well or badly the translator has captured the essence of the original.

Outside present company, not everyone is lucky enough to be able to read several languages comfortably, and even then there are vast amounts of world culture that will only be accessible to any individual in translation.

Only reading one's own 'native' literature must give a very narrow perspective on the world.

I must read some French and German on my holiday!


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xxxS P Willcock  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:02
German to English
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Self-publishing, perhaps Jul 30, 2012

LilianBoland wrote:
Does anybody know how you go about publishing a book that you want to translate, or rather the book in translation, the copyrights of which have long expired? I only translated a few books for alive authors. Some other things too, but mostly for competitions.
It's an intriguing question, and one which I have been thinking about idly for a while now. My one attempt to interest a commercial publisher in out-of-copyright work did not lead to anything, since even rip-roaring adventure yarns in the Robert Louis Stevenson mode would apparently need an arts subsidy grant to allow the publisher to pay me.

I have been considering self-publishing ventures along the mode of Kickstarter, Lulu or Indiegogo, which allow us to raise the initial pledge capital from interested readers who sign up for a copy of the book once it is done. Don't hold your breath though to see me get the pledges up-and-running...


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