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Is there a Chinese translation scam?
August 26, 2014 8:00 AM   Subscribe

I've been approached via email by someone I don't know describing himself as a Canadian with a Chinese wife who runs this language service center, offering to translate one of my books into Chinese. The offer is unsolicited and it does not specifically mention the title of my book. Is it a scam that I haven't heard about yet?

Here's the content of the letter:

My name is Paul XXX, I'm a Canadian who lives in China with my Chinese wife Gentile (Chinese name: Zhou, XXX). We run our own language service center in Hangzhou, China. (www.shantzservices.com) and my wife is looking to get into the translation business.

Specifically, she is looking to translate very interesting books (like yours) into Chinese. We've been looking around the internet for a good project to start her off with and after finding your book my wife asked me to reach out to you.

We both seem to think that there would be a big demand for your book in China and there are several sites where you can put up your book for sale. Also, Amazon has a Chinese mirror site that many Chinese people use to buy books.

My wife has a lot of translation experience, she has done all the translation for our own language center. All the course materials, legal papers, leases etc. She is an avid reader and wants to start translating books.

Since this would be her first book, we would be quite flexible on the rate, as the main purpose is to get her some experience. We would just ask that you be a little flexible on the timeline since it might take her a little longer to get over the first time hurdles. We can guarantee a very quality product once it’s finished, but it may take us a little longer to get there.

After the translation, if you would like we could put the book on Chinese sites for sale as a free service and a way to say thank you for letting us translate. We also have some connections with agents and publishers in China and could make introductions for you if you wish.

If you're interested, we would love to hear from you. I can be reached at XXX@hotmail.com. We could set up a time to chat over skype so you could get to know us a little bit.

Take care and hopefully we hear from you!
posted by sixpack to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Yeah, I would ignore it. It may not be a scam, but they'll probably charge you more than their service is worth, and they likely have no means of publishing their translation, so I don't think it's worth your time to respond.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:04 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


As someone who has done a few unsolicited translations (of long-dead authors, mind), I don't think it's necessarily a scam, but the fact that they don't even mention your book by name probably means they sent this email to as many people as they could find. I would ignore it; they clearly don't mean to do a serious job of publishing or marketing your book, which is what really counts.
posted by Behemoth at 8:11 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Seems pretty boilerplate. Also seconding Behemoth ... they clearly don't mean to do a serious job of publishing or marketing your book, which is what really counts.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:25 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Scam.
posted by Slinga at 8:25 AM on August 26


There's a lot about this that definitely does not make sense if it is legit:

- Literary translation doesn't really pay compared to commercial translation
- She is "very experienced" and yet this would be her first book—which is not impossible if she's got a lot of commercial-translation experience, but why not keep doing that?
- "We would be quite flexible on the rate." There's the core. You would be paying for this, and unless you paid to have an outside party review the translation, you'd have no way of knowing if it was well-done or just run through Google Translate.

I'm pretty sure this is a translation variant on self-publishing scams.
posted by adamrice at 8:27 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Thing that pinged my scamometer: which Chinese language? Mandarin? Cantonese? I'm assuming Standard Chinese, but if we're translating, I'd feel more comfortable if that was spelled out.

Also, if you're published, if your publisher determines if the book would be viable in China, and PAYS FOR THE TRANSLATION.

I'd give it a miss. It doesn't pass the sniff test.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:51 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


your publisher determines if the book would be viable in China, and PAYS FOR THE TRANSLATION.

Yes, this, exactly. And before any translation happens, your publisher would negotiate an agreement for the rights to your book with a Chinese publisher.

That aside, this...

We would just ask that you be a little flexible on the timeline since it might take her a little longer to get over the first time hurdles.

...is what specifically waves a big red flag to me. My immediate thought is that this is designed to throw you off guard when they miss their first (several) deadlines -- after all, they asked you to be flexible, and you agreed, right? But, of course, you will have already paid them a deposit on her "work"... work that will either never materialize, or will be useless. They may even go the whole Nigerian Prince on you and ask for additional money to compensate her labor as the project "progresses," because of course it will turn out to be more complex than they anticipated.

So yeah: ignore.
posted by scody at 9:37 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Thing that pinged my scamometer: which Chinese language? Mandarin? Cantonese

Mandarin and Cantonese are different spoken languages, not written. So that's not really an issue. (the difference would be in traditional or simplified characters, but that's not really a huge issue, just a difference in looks, and she would surely be translating into simplified characters since she is in the Mainland).

As a Chinese translator who has lived in China, to me this feels not necessarily like a scam but as someone who is not very experienced in translation just trying to get jobs. I would be a little bit doubtful of her skills if she does not have a degree in English or other real, related experienced. It all reads very amateurish to me.
posted by bearette at 10:01 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Since this would be her first book, we would be quite flexible on the rate, as the main purpose is to get her some experience. We would just ask that you be a little flexible on the timeline since it might take her a little longer to get over the first time hurdles. We can guarantee a very quality product once it’s finished, but it may take us a little longer to get there.

My guess is that they will translate the book together.

Again, I don't think it's a scam, but I do think she is inexperienced (esp. with literary translation) and that he will be doing it with her.

If you are at all interested, you could ask to see samples of her previous translations.
posted by bearette at 10:14 AM on August 26


Written Chinese is standard everywhere regardless of spoken dialect.

I'm with bearette--the letter sounds more inexperienced than scammy, which is reason enough not to work with them. You could try involving them in a detailed discussion about your books to see how familiar they are with your writing to at least gauge their sincerity.
posted by peripathetic at 12:40 PM on August 26


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