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Should you translate your own books?

What’s the worst nightmare of a polyglot writer? Translating their own novels. This is not a joke – this is reality. (At least in my case.)

Reasons why you might want to translate the book on your own:

  • You are guaranteed that the book won’t lose its soul after translation. If you are highly critical of any changes applied to your text by the editor, and think that anyone other than you will probably do your text more harm than good, then you should translate the book by yourself.
  • You will save money. Translations are costly, and the longer the book, the more money its translation will need. If you can’t afford a translation, you have only two options: either translate it yourself or somehow find the money for translation (e.g. fundraisers, seeking sponsors, taking part in contests etc.).

Reasons why you might consider to ask a translator’s help:

  • Translating is rewriting your book in another language. All the worries you had about using the right words will resurface with even greater power. You might start questioning the text and feel attempted to fix it. If you give in, you will never translate it till the end. When you translate, you must conquer the inner author and become a translator and editor, which is not always that easy.
  • Translating is time consuming. The time you could spend on writing a new book is spent on translating. In addition, experienced translators are much more efficient than newbies, and use professional software that simplifies the translation process. Unless translating is your “real job”, you probably don’t have enough experience and appropriate tools to do it correctly.
  • Post-translation editing is optional in case of a professional translation. The translator has to make sure that the text they are translating is readable. This means that you don’t need to worry about language correctness. What you need to worry about is the structure and transparency of the text – it should be edited at least once before being seen by the translator. If you translate on your own, however, you might need to have someone edit your text before and after translation.

Here are some additional matters to consider:

If you are translating on your own:

  • You might feel tempted to give automated translators a chance and this… is a good idea. Two heads are better than one. It’s always easier and faster to correct a translation that’s already done rather than translating on your own word by word.
  • Be sure to divide the work in chunks: know how much you need to translate per day and stick to it.
  • Be very patient. Don’t make erratic goals like “I will finish next month”.

If you have hired a translator:

  • Keep in mind that if you are trying to save money on translation, the quality of the text might not be very good.
  • If you are asking to translate more than 50 pages it’s a good idea to ask the translator for a discount.
  • Ask the translator if they are familiar with punctuation in the foreign language. If not, post translation editing is required.
  • It is ok to ask about the progress of the work, but do not rush the translator. They are doing what they can.
  • Keep in mind that if the text is difficult, the translation will be slower.
  • If there is anything that the translator should pay special attention to, tell them before they start their work.
  • Keep in mind that for the translation your book is not as special as it is for you; don’t expect them to put it on the pedestal and ignore all their other projects because they have your book.
  • Always pay the translator for their work and do it on time. It might seem shocking, but yes, there are people who pay the translator three months or even half a year later. Don’t do it. It’s really a source of frustration for the translator.

I hope that this article helped you decide whether you should translate your own books or let someone else do it. Remember that there are no wrong choices. If you have translated the half of your book and are tired, it’s ok to contact a translator to finish your job. I generally believe that indie authors don’t need to do everything on their own and should delegate others to help them. And what is your opinion? 🙂

Stay inspired!

Author:

Hi! I am an author. I've published my debut novel in 2015 in Poland ("Dokąd teraz popłynę?"). My main genre is fantasy and magical realism. I often discuss socially difficult topics in my works and try to pass on a message of hope. I am always inspired and I never stop writing. My writing inspirations are Bruno Schulz, Pablo Neruda, Kiran Desai and Haruki Murakami. In my private life I am a polyglot. I believe in the Law Of Attraction and I write about it on UltimateManifester at Wordpress.

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