What's the going rate for vetting a translation?
June 3, 2011 5:23 AM   Subscribe

Compensation for a help in non-commercial translation job?

Friend of a friend (why do I get involved?) is finishing up a translation of a hopelessly obscure text which she hopes some university press might be interested in. Text runs about fifty thousand words. She has doubts over about 1,500 words serious enough to ask help from a professor who cheerfully agreed.

Of course this is worth a few bottles of wine, and he will get them if he comes through.

Question 1 - does a few bottle of wine sound about right?

Question 2 - what would be suitable recompense for vetting the entire work?

Question 3 - how does she broach the subject of question 2?

Bear in mind, this is a labor of love only and even if it does get published it will never make money or wind up on screen.
posted by IndigoJones to Work & Money (4 answers total)
Professional translator here (French-English).
1. Yes, a few bottles of good wine sounds about right for checking 1500 words.
2 & 3. This needs better definition. Is it a proofread? Proofing a translation means you don't check it against the original unless you have serious doubts. There's little to no rewriting, either. Or is it a copyedit? That means comparing to the original, and can mean a lot more work than proofing, depending. Once defined: ask the professor if they'd mind proofing/copyediting the text. Mention that you know it means a lot of work, so you want to compensate them for their time, and if prof agrees, "we should discuss options so I know I'm compensating you fairly." That way you reach a mutually satisfying agreement.

The main thing is to define the role (proofing? copyediting?) clearly, as well as the compensation, and then follow through. I did some work for a friend who had offered, of their own will, to compensate me with bottles of nice wine (woohoo), spent two full work days on their specialized chem vocabulary, delivered a great translation... and never saw a drop of wine. Not cool. I've also done volunteer work for non-profit orgs where, obviously, no compensation is the norm. Since it was mutually agreed from the start, that's fine. I went into it knowing I'd be happy to do the work, it makes a difference for people (for instance, agricultural handbooks for farmers in India, with special sections for women – pretty neat stuff). The key is to come to an agreement you both agree is fair, then follow through.
posted by fraula at 6:10 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fair enough. Lets assume both scenarios.

What would be a reasonable starting point, compensation wise, either way?
posted by IndigoJones at 6:36 AM on June 3, 2011

Well, the reason I recommend they work it out between them is that there are too many unknowns to be able to recommend a set starting point. Proofing and copyediting of translations have different turnaround rates and are priced differently based on language pair, text complexity, length, repetitions (or not), obscurity (need for additional research), quality of the original, quality of the translation, subject area... Your friend-of-a-friend and their prof are the best placed to work out those questions.
posted by fraula at 9:07 AM on June 3, 2011

Good enough to wash my hands of it, in any event. Many thanks. (Any other thoughts welcome.)
posted by IndigoJones at 3:47 PM on June 3, 2011

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