One book, two translators
Thread poster: Juniper Tale (X)

Juniper Tale (X)
Local time: 09:41
Chinese to English
+ ...
Aug 10, 2017

Hi everyone! So lately I've received a rather unusual request. It is a book translation, but apparently half of it had already been translated by another translator.

Asides from quality concerns and the book sounding like it had been written by two people, I feel like the situation also makes this more like a regular, work-for-hire business translation than a book translation. I wouldn't put my name on the book as the translator (since I wasn't the only one to translate it), and the author/publisher will gain full rights to the translation.

Has anyone else ever come across something like this, and how did you / would you recommend to handle it?



Teresa Borges
Local time: 14:41
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Well... Aug 10, 2017

It’s a rather unusual situation! When I worked in-house some very large projects were usually split between several translators but everything was very well organized with a project coordinator, several proofreaders and at least one reviewer. We also had a terminology unit, what in my opinion is essential to avoid never-ending discussions about what’s the best term solution. After I retired from my in-house position, I have coordinated a few split projects with a team of translators I trust and I took part in one huge project with my favorite proofreader/reviewer. These projects are always time-consuming as you have to agree on terminology and style. I don’t think I would agree on translating this book if I didn’t agree with the part already translated and couldn’t change it…


Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:41
Italian to English
Subject matter? Book type? Aug 10, 2017

Unfortunately the reality is that many translations are just that - "regular, work-for-hire business translations" instead of the "artistic" endeavours we like to think they are.

You don't give many details. Is it a novel? Or a scientific publication for neurosurgeons? The fact that half of it has already been done by another translator isn't necessarily bad. Ask if you can see an excerpt of what this other translator has done, this will give you a better idea of what you're getting into, in terms of need to remain consistent on terminology or style.

Be wary, but don't dismiss the idea on principle. Best of luck with your decision.


United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Not unusual at all Aug 10, 2017

As Fiona says, it depends on the genre. But I've co-translated several nonfiction books, things like art and gardening, and provided you're both of a similar standard and the book is well edited, it's not a problem. Some books are simply too big (and in some cases too boring) for one translator to devote months of their life to.

Why don't you want your name on it? I'm perfectly happy to share the credit with someone else.

[Edited at 2017-08-10 18:06 GMT]


Juniper Tale (X)
Local time: 09:41
Chinese to English
+ ...
a reply to replies Aug 10, 2017

Thanks for the repliesicon_smile.gif

It is a self-published non-fiction.

> Why don't you want your name on it? I'm perfectly happy to share the credit with someone else.

I am expected to re-assign the copyright to the writer-publisher in its entirety, so that would include the right to modify the translation as they see fit. I feel like I wouldn't have any control over what is being published 'in my name' and don't really feel comfortable with that.


Tina Vonhof
Local time: 07:41
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Your name Aug 14, 2017

I would never accept translation of a self-published book, unless you know the author or there are more books by this author already on the market, so you'll know this is a serious venture.

You should have a chance to communicate with the other author, since you would be working together and to draw one line in regard to copyright and having or not having your name in the book. As Phil says, it is not unusual to have two names and that in itself should not be a problem. By working together I mean that you should have a chance to read each other's work and make comments in track changes, so that the writing style, word use, terminology, etc. are consistent throughout the book. The reader should not be able to tell any difference.

You could explore it a little further, ask a lot of questions of both the author and the other translator and see how you feel then but don't rush into it.

P.S. Even if it is a work for hire, you could still have your name in it.

[Edited at 2017-08-14 15:02 GMT]


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One book, two translators

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