How A Translation Looks On Babelcube



We were talking about royalty share book translation site Babelcube last week and I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at some of the work being done on that site. The following excerpt is from a book originally written in English and transcribed into Spanish. It took about two months to complete a 72,000-word manuscript and it’s pretty close.

Below you will find a sample of the original book followed by the Spanish translation. Keep in mind that this is just one of the many language experts on that site—but it will give you an idea of the quality you can expect from the site.

The English Sample:

Rebeccah Johnson met Leon Samuels her junior year when they were both in college. They were at a big party and were very much attracted to each other, which soon led to a steady dating relationship. One fateful summer night as the young couple celebrated Rebeccah’s 21st birthday, too much wine temporarily clouded their judgment. Three weeks later, a home pregnancy test confirmed what Rebeccah suspected; she was pregnant.

Leon and Rebeccah were both Christians. So, not having the baby was never considered. However, as far as Rebeccah was concerned, the timing could not have been worse.

A Sample of the Spanish:

Rebeccah Johnson se reunió con Leon Samuel en su tercer año, cuando ambos estaban en la universidad. Estaban en una gran fiesta y se atrajeron inmediatamente, lo que pronto llevó a una relación estable. Una noche de verano fatídica, cuando la joven pareja celebraba el cumpleaños número 21 de Rebeccah, demasiado vino temporalmente nubló su juicio. Tres semanas después, una prueba de embarazo casera confirmó lo que sospechaba, estaba embarazada.

Leon y Rebeca eran cristianos. Por lo tanto, no tener al bebé nunca fue considerado. Sin embargo, en lo que respectaba a Rebeccah, el momento no podría haber sido peor.


What do you think? If you are a natural, or learned, Spanish speaker then you may be able to tell the quality of the translation. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Next week we will take a look at marketing ideas for a foreign language book. I can’t wait to tell you about it!


One thought on “How A Translation Looks On Babelcube

  1. I am not bilingual, but I know enough Spanish to know that the syntax is all wrong.

    Translations from English to other languages rarely work when they are “word-for-word” in the same word order, as this one attempts to be, because other languages do not sequence their clauses, phrases, types of words and parts of speech the same ways as English does; in fact, English as used in different English-speaking countries would not all agree on a translation from English to English, so to speak!

    Furthermore, the rhythm of language, the word choices of the author and the word order, length of sentences, places to breathe, etc., are completely lost in poor translations. I shudder to think what this program would do with a poem….

    For those who write “literary fiction,” or even those of us who do plan our writing for particular uses of language, this type of conversion would be a nightmare, one that few of us could even identify as “bad.”

    Bummer. We so wanted this to work!

    Thanks for posting! Best to you,


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