Client has asked me to translate a previously translated work
Thread poster: Gail Bond

Gail Bond  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:03
Member (2009)
French to English
Sep 16, 2010

A client has sent me a large text, constituting chapters from a book by a well-known French author (a classic, in fact). A quick search on the internet confirmed my suspicions that this work had already been translated some years ago, and is widely available to purchase as a published English-language edition. I pointed this out to the client, who passed this info on to the end client, but they have now come back to me asking to translate it anyway!

After much thought, I have declined the job on the grounds that re-translating a previously translated book is pointless, and I'm not prepared to simply copy and paste (besides going against my principles, surely there would be copyright issues?)

What do you think - have I done the right thing?


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:03
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Maybe Sep 16, 2010

Gail Bond wrote:

this work had already been translated some years ago


It's quite common to re-translate literary works to bring the translated version more "up to date" in its use of language.


 

Grace Girouard  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 08:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
Don´t second guess yourself. Sep 16, 2010

Even though, as the gentleman pointed out, that literary works are redone to bring them up to date, I agree with your decision. If something doesn´t feel right about the job you have to go with your gut feeling. There might be other issues that you aren´t aware of. Stick with your integrity.

 

FarkasAndras  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:03
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Why didn't you ask? Sep 16, 2010

Once the communication got this far, I would certainly have inquired further.
Did they want a new translation because they weren't happy with the existing one (dated terms or quaint style)?
Did they just want the translation of the relevant chapters served up to them in an easy-to use electronic format? This would mean that your task may be to procure an electronic copy or scan a hardcopy and possibly align it with the source text. Easy money, I say:)

Usually, one would use the existing translation instead of retranslating, e.g. if they will be citing from the text, it's really poor form to retranslate if there's a widely accepted "default" translation already.

If the translation is old (I recall 50 and 70-year limits in the various countries) then there is no copyright on it so it's fair game.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes, I would have done the same! Sep 16, 2010

The customer probably was not aware of the existence of the other translation. Yes, I would have done the same thing.

 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:03
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Maybe it was a scam? Sep 16, 2010

Is it possible that you were targeted with yet another (but recently popular) version of the Nigerian-scam, where you get a large translation job, for good rates (sometimes too good to be true) and then paid in advance an amount that is greater than the agreed, and being asked to send back the difference?

It seems to me that creating a false job with a piece of text found on the internet is a possibility in this case.

Katalin


 

Amy Duncan (X)  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:03
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Hmmm... Sep 16, 2010

It doesn't seem strange to me that someone might want to have a classic work re-translated. I haven't actually done the research, but it seems to me there must be plenty of classic books (and even non-classic) that have had more than one translation. You should just check it with the person who wants to hire you. You'll be able to tell if it sounds fishy, which I rather doubt.

 

Fiona Robson
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:03
Member (2005)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Why not another version? Sep 23, 2010

I agree with Amy. Lots of classical works have several translations. Perhaps the client just wants another version which they can distribute or sell without infringing the existing copyright. Best thing would be to ask the reason.

 

FarkasAndras  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:03
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Well... Sep 23, 2010

Amy Duncan wrote:

It doesn't seem strange to me that someone might want to have a classic work re-translated. I haven't actually done the research, but it seems to me there must be plenty of classic books (and even non-classic) that have had more than one translation. You should just check it with the person who wants to hire you. You'll be able to tell if it sounds fishy, which I rather doubt.

It's quite normal for books to get retranslated, but the publishers usually don't hire translators out of the blue for this sort of stuff... they tend to have long-term relationships with known literary translators. And they certainly don't normally do it chapter by chapter, and the OP got just a couple of chapters, not the whole book.
This was something more unusual than just a publisher having a book retranslated.


 


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