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US$ 0.04 a word for editing a poem AND translating it?!
Thread poster: Colin Ryan (X)

Colin Ryan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:59
Italian to English
+ ...
Nov 3, 2010

Without mentioning any names, I saw a job posting this morning on Proz to not only translate poetry, but also edit it in the original language (something I would kind of expect the poet to do), for the insanely low rate of 0.04-0.05 USD.

As a sometime translator of poetry myself, I am well aware that no-one makes a living out of this, but if you're going to post that job here, i.e. on a professional website, then you jolly well need your head examined. Translating poetry isn't like
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Without mentioning any names, I saw a job posting this morning on Proz to not only translate poetry, but also edit it in the original language (something I would kind of expect the poet to do), for the insanely low rate of 0.04-0.05 USD.

As a sometime translator of poetry myself, I am well aware that no-one makes a living out of this, but if you're going to post that job here, i.e. on a professional website, then you jolly well need your head examined. Translating poetry isn't like translating a novel (although that is hard as well, as I know from experience). It can literally take weeks of ruminating to get a single line right.

I think I'd rather a percentage of the publication royalties instead of a flat fee for a job like that. True, I'd probably make even less money that way, but at least the arrangement between poet, publisher and translator would be more honest and equable.
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Vadim Kadyrov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 05:59
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
You are right, still... Nov 3, 2010

Every price will find a person to match. You either accept the price or do not accept it. That is the market here.
And I believe that they will get their job done. For the price they mentioned. IMHO


 

Alison Sabedoria (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
French to English
+ ...
Yes, I saw that too! Nov 3, 2010

I was surprised to see that the job poster has a fairly good Blue Board record, so ought to know better! Both the budget and the timescale were so far "off-piste" for poetry as to be laughable.

The budget might just about cover editing in the source language, but as that would need to be done in very close consultation with the author, it would probably take an age. I have a feeling a fair bit would have needed rewriting - so who would have been the poet in the end?!

I
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I was surprised to see that the job poster has a fairly good Blue Board record, so ought to know better! Both the budget and the timescale were so far "off-piste" for poetry as to be laughable.

The budget might just about cover editing in the source language, but as that would need to be done in very close consultation with the author, it would probably take an age. I have a feeling a fair bit would have needed rewriting - so who would have been the poet in the end?!

I wasn't sure that the quality of the poetry (to judge from the sample) warranted the effort of suggesting that the client came back with a more realistic proposal, though I admit I was tempted. I went a made a nice strong coffee instead.

I love translating poetry and know how long it can take. I've been wrestling with a couplet for weeks that just won't "settle" - at least it's not part of a paid job! Maybe one day... (huge sigh)
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Colin Ryan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:59
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I know how you feel... Nov 3, 2010

Wordeffect wrote:
I love translating poetry and know how long it can take. I've been wrestling with a couplet for weeks that just won't "settle" - at least it's not part of a paid job! Maybe one day... (huge sigh)


Ah, don't I know the feeling. Each canto of Dante takes me an average of four months to get "right". I'm currently on Inferno IX. At this rate I should finish the Commedia in about, um, the year 2040 or so...


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:59
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
The Blue Board doesn't always tell the whole story Nov 3, 2010

Wordeffect wrote:

I was surprised to see that the job poster has a fairly good Blue Board record, so ought to know better!
***
I think it important to recognize that the Blue Board is of limited utility. Many of the ratings and comments there are based on a single job, are posted by translators happy to work for low rates, are actively solicited by the agencies in question, and seem to arise as a result of an implied quid pro quo (i.e., "I will say nice things ab
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Wordeffect wrote:

I was surprised to see that the job poster has a fairly good Blue Board record, so ought to know better!
***
I think it important to recognize that the Blue Board is of limited utility. Many of the ratings and comments there are based on a single job, are posted by translators happy to work for low rates, are actively solicited by the agencies in question, and seem to arise as a result of an implied quid pro quo (i.e., "I will say nice things about you in the hopes that you give me more work.").

For this reason, the main value of the Blue Board is that it does a decent job of identifying non-payers and slow payers. Yet even this is not always the case. I personally know of one instance where there were no negative postings regarding an agency with a longstanding record of very slow payment (i.e., more than six months in arrears).
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Colin Ryan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:59
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yeah, I know... Nov 3, 2010

Vadim Kadyrov wrote:

Every price will find a person to match. You either accept the price or do not accept it. That is the market here.
And I believe that they will get their job done. For the price they mentioned. IMHO


I know all that, it's been said a million times. It just bugs me that my membership fees are paying for a platform for advertising cheap jobs. I mean, say what you like, but it costs the agency in question NOTHING to post a job.


 

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz (X)  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 04:59
English to Polish
+ ...
constructive Nov 3, 2010

ryancolm wrote:

I know all that, it's been said a million times. It just bugs me that my membership fees are paying for a platform for advertising cheap jobs.


It's also been said a million times that this wouldn't be a problem if people didn't accept these rates - proz doesn't create the problem. Indeed, what you're saying also has been said a million times

I mean, say what you like, but it costs the agency in question NOTHING to post a job.


I agree wholeheartedly. There is usually a cost of bidding (if nothing else, the membership fee), unless the outsourcer chooses to be contacted by e-mail. I don't understand why it costs nothing to post. It's like proz.com is begging to attract the low end of the market, outsourcer-wise.

On the other hand, since proz does not create the cheapness problem, attempts to "regulate" rates would be futile. The thing to do, as I see it, is to charge outsourcers.


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:59
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It bugs me too Nov 3, 2010

Ryan Colm wrote:
It just bugs me that my membership fees are paying for a platform for advertising cheap jobs.

**

I thoroughly agree. Beyond the rationalizations, the clear evidence that there certainly is a low-end market that these jobs cater to, that I know that I can take it or leave it, or even set my "dashboard" so that the offending jobs do not appear, this solitary fact continues to disturb me.

Interestingly, a number of months ago, Henry D.
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Ryan Colm wrote:
It just bugs me that my membership fees are paying for a platform for advertising cheap jobs.

**

I thoroughly agree. Beyond the rationalizations, the clear evidence that there certainly is a low-end market that these jobs cater to, that I know that I can take it or leave it, or even set my "dashboard" so that the offending jobs do not appear, this solitary fact continues to disturb me.

Interestingly, a number of months ago, Henry D. himself seemed to concede that the Jobs Board of this site primarily caters to the low-end of the translation market.

See:
http://www.proz.com/forum/prozcom_job_systems/176923-facing_facts:_coming_to_terms_with_the_limitations_of_the_jobs_board.html



[Edited at 2010-11-03 12:14 GMT]
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Colin Ryan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:59
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Some things we can change, and some we can't. Nov 3, 2010

As the old prayer goes, "Lord, give me the strength to change the things that I can, the grace to accept the things that I can't, and a great big bag of money." (*)

Well, I think the Proz jobs board should be one of the things we can change.


(*) I saw this version of the prayer in the "Money" exhibit at the Millennium Dome in London in 2000. Loved it.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 04:59
Member (2009)
German to Serbian
+ ...
I bet that.. Nov 3, 2010

.. whoever formed this price never read a poem in their life, let alone comprehended it or received a catharsis from it.

 

Alexandra Taggart  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 06:59
Russian to English
+ ...
Chinese strategy Nov 3, 2010

Dear Ryan,
In such instances, I would apply Chinese strategy in business. China is a producer of goods of the highest quality imaginable, as well as of the lowest quality imaginable - all depends how much the client is prepared to pay. You have raw material you have to work with, do machine translation via Prompt, make it look like a poem (add one word of your choice at random at the end of each line to make better rhythming play; forget about making sense, let it fail. The client cannot a
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Dear Ryan,
In such instances, I would apply Chinese strategy in business. China is a producer of goods of the highest quality imaginable, as well as of the lowest quality imaginable - all depends how much the client is prepared to pay. You have raw material you have to work with, do machine translation via Prompt, make it look like a poem (add one word of your choice at random at the end of each line to make better rhythming play; forget about making sense, let it fail. The client cannot argue that they're not already translated and improved verses. And we should ask the site to put him on the black list across the web, if he refuses to pay.
Seriously, I wouldn't pay attention to such, because, if you even ask a street guitar player to do a small part of this job for this sort of money - he would only laugh.
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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Just out of interest... Nov 3, 2010

How do you charge for poetry? Is it possible to make good money, or is it a labor of love?

I've seen Ryan's translation of Dante, by the way, and it's brilliant.

[Edited at 2010-11-03 20:27 GMT]


 

Alexandra Taggart  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 06:59
Russian to English
+ ...
charging Nov 3, 2010

Translating a novel, say costs 15-20 cents a word. I charge more, or make discounts after a short examination of suggested text before I started. Sentence after sentence, chapter after chapter, altering, chopping off, adding to and moving, moving forward. A good translation of poetry doesn't come out this way, your work cannot be judged by applying the same principles, though it's charged similarly. Provided I make no claim for completeness, I present to the client everything I have done, as it ... See more
Translating a novel, say costs 15-20 cents a word. I charge more, or make discounts after a short examination of suggested text before I started. Sentence after sentence, chapter after chapter, altering, chopping off, adding to and moving, moving forward. A good translation of poetry doesn't come out this way, your work cannot be judged by applying the same principles, though it's charged similarly. Provided I make no claim for completeness, I present to the client everything I have done, as it can be improved endlessly and every version can be equally good. Normally, it is a fixed amount for the whole masterbit. You charge for your psychic activity to vibrate in a certain way, not for translating when precision is infeasible.Keeping both writing style and freshness of the fruit is a very special cookery and your skill of preparing a gourmet concoction is more time consuming than labourious. One day you're chained to it and the next day you don't want to look at it.Collapse


 

Colin Ryan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:59
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I'm blushing! Nov 4, 2010

philgoddard wrote:

How do you charge for poetry? Is it possible to make good money, or is it a labor of love?

I've seen Ryan's translation of Dante, by the way, and it's brilliant.


Well, thanks for the compliment, Phil! The cheque is in the post!

As regards charging for poetry: I get about one or two paying jobs a year, and as you'd imagine, it basically doesn't pay at all. Any real poet will know that translating a poem will take about as long as it took to write the poem in the first place. (There is even a magazine called Modern Poetry in Translation, Google it; you can download a free issue. It's fascinating. Did you know that there is poetry "written" in sign-language, for example? Quite a lively scene, apparently.)

So, getting back on topic. It would not so much be a price per word as a price per poem, i.e. I would read the work and then make an offer to the poet. The price would depend on how many days, or hours, I would spend on it. But at the end of the day the money is always symbolic, I mean, I always end up spending way more time than I estimated. If I actually charged for my effective time, I think the poet would have to take on a second job to pay for me.

It is, in other words, a hobby, and not work per se. The buzz I get when I successfully translate a piece, preserving the metre, rhyme and so on, is something like the way one might feel if one 'gets out' a particularly difficult Sudoku. It puts a smile on your face for the rest of the day.


 

Alison Sabedoria (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
French to English
+ ...
Per item Nov 4, 2010

As Ryan suggests, a price per poem (or group) can only be quoted once the translator has some idea of how long might be needed to attempt the project. It's a bit like building work: see what the client can afford, then explain what you can do for that (I quote for quite a few general jobs on that basis).

Not many poets manage to make a living from their poetry, so there's not much hope for us translators. I've been translating song lyrics for years as part of my work as a singer - b
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As Ryan suggests, a price per poem (or group) can only be quoted once the translator has some idea of how long might be needed to attempt the project. It's a bit like building work: see what the client can afford, then explain what you can do for that (I quote for quite a few general jobs on that basis).

Not many poets manage to make a living from their poetry, so there's not much hope for us translators. I've been translating song lyrics for years as part of my work as a singer - basically how I learnt the craft. I translate poetry now because, as a poet myself, working equally in English and French, it's what I do anyway; so much the better if some enlightened being chooses to pay me for it. That said, it's a matter of honour not to take on ill-conceived jobs at insulting rates - I'd rather carry on translating poems of my own choosing for free.

Ryan, I can really relate to the sudoku image: the tougher they are, the more I enjoy the challenge. But I admit I'm still struggling with Dylan Thomas: trying to shoe-horn the French language into places it really does not want to go! My boyfriend just rolls his eyes and shrugs his (very French) shoulders.

I'll add your Dante to my "must read" list. At my current rate, I'll be reading it at about the rate you're translating it.
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US$ 0.04 a word for editing a poem AND translating it?!

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