Last week, I got a question about the reputation of a service called Author Translation. I’d never heard of it before, so I paid a visit to its website.
Logically enough, given its name, AT offers “literary translations for authors, online and worldwide.” The website doesn’t say which languages are AT’s specialty, but per its Twitter feed, that would appear to be Spanish only. Also not revealed: exactly who is doing the translations, and what qualifications they have. It’s said only that they are “literary translators, proofreaders, bloggers and reviewers with English and Spanish literature studies.”
The cost? $5 per translated page. This relatively low fee (good translations are expensive) was what attracted my correspondent, who would like to be able to sell her book into the Spanish-language market.
Unfortunately, I had to tell her that you tend to get what you pay for. AT raises a bunch of red flags. Not knowing who the translators are is the big one, because you have no way to investigate their qualifications and expertise–especially vital when you’re hiring someone to render your work into a language you don’t speak, and can’t judge the finished product on your own. Also: there are unsubstantiated claims (AT says it works with publishing houses, but doesn’t say which ones). Testimonials with stock images. And the website reads as if it were written by someone with an imperfect command of English–not really what you want to see in a translation service.
I decided to try and find out more about AT. So I emailed them, using my own name and my personal email address.
I’m interested in finding out more information about your company. Could you please tell me about your staff and their qualifications? Also, could you please let me know what publishing houses you’ve worked with, and provide me with some author references?
Thank you very much.
AT responded promptly (all errors are theirs):
thanks for your interest. I think you can find some of that information on our webpage, for example which publishing houses or authors. We have a samples page for that, but at this time we only have one example because our startup is very new and under construction. We are based on Spain and We don’t have staff but a group of freelance friends who are willing to lend a hand when it would be possible. As you may know the name of the translators rules are the same than the author’s names: they can be published or not, depending on personal choice.
Author Translation Team
This seemed a tad vague to me–not to mention confusing; that last sentence is a bit of a syntax-twister. I wrote back:
Thanks for your quick response. So I gather from what you’re saying that the people who do the translations are not professional translators? You can see the problem for the author, who wants their book translated into a language they can’t speak or read themselves, and has no way of judging the quality of the finished product–so it’s very important to know that they are working with qualified people.
I did look on your webpage, but I couldn’t find the names of publishing houses or authors other than the one testimonial. Is that the only client you’ve worked with so far?
Thank you for answering my questions.
Well, it appears I went too far, because the tone of their next communication was very different.
You seem to gather what you want to gather. I told you the translators publish their names depending on personal choice (you can be published or anonymous), why do you gather from this sentence that “they are not professionals” ? Maybe you need psychological treatment if you understand so badly. In addition, why do you say that ” a language they can’t speak or read themselves ” if I told you that we are Spanish? Are you crazy ? And why you say that “the author has no way of judging the quality of the finished product” if everybody can pass some few translated pages to any Spanish person in order to judge? Please, don’t disturb us any more, I answered you and I didn’t have any duty of doing that. I did it only because you seem to be part of a bigger organization, but your “watchdog” is the more stupid thing I have ever seen in my life. Go away you and your dog.
If I had a dog, I’m sure she would be crushed. Perhaps I should have let it go at that point, but I couldn’t resist.
Thank you. You’ve now told me everything I need to know about your service.
Imagine my surprise to receive this:
I warn you that slander anybody on the Internet is a legal felony; and if we see any of your liars out there we will report that to the police and our lawyers.
So now, dear reader, I think that you, too, know all you need to know about Author Translation.