I have come across a situation that I'm not entirely sure how to handle and am curious if there are any norms in the United States for it.

I teach in my university's foreign language department. A colleague in another department approached me to see if I could assist in translating an article for a book that he was working on. The article is in the language that I specialize in and also very closely related to my research area.

If it were just a paragraph, I would of course do it without question. However, given its length (about 13k words), I'm not sure how to approach. He has offered to pay, but is it normal to charge the same amount as I would were it a private business? Or is it expected to offer a reduced rate in the name of "service"?

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    @AntonioVargas perhaps it's different in other fields, but oftentimes things like editing/reviewing are indeed considered part of service to the academic community, but generally not paid (I figure maybe in the sciences where people pay –per page even– to publish that things are different). That's more or less the root of my conundrum. Feb 16, 2017 at 16:04
  • translation is not really scholarly work-it is just work-would it help if you included that in your tenure case? Would you approach the accounting professor to do your taxes or a computer science professor to program something? This sort of thing is not part of normal academic service so it is totally appropriate for you to settle on a price and do the work as any other translator would.
    – Ukko
    Feb 16, 2017 at 16:19
  • @Ukko: "translation is not really scholarly work" - but arguably, working on or helping with an article for a (presumeably) academic book is. Feb 16, 2017 at 17:17
  • @O.R.Mapper it only counts if it is the academic part of the project. If there is something about the translation itself that is of academic interest they I would agree. If you are just providing cheep labor that would have been contracted out, then it doesn't count. Would you feel like a translation service that did the work should get a co-author on the resulting paper? If not then there is most likely no academic contribution going on.
    – Ukko
    Feb 16, 2017 at 18:41
  • I think it is appropriate that you accept compensation given that it is a sizable chunk of work. I also do not think you should be giving a family and friends discount for actual work unless they are actually family or friends.
    – Compass
    Feb 16, 2017 at 18:58

1 Answer 1


I imagine the answer here is slightly subjective, but my personal thoughts are that you should charge whatever you feel your time is worth. The industry price is probably a good starting point -- don't undervalue your time for sure. And remember the time and energy that went into developing your language skills too, not just the time it will take you to translate the article.

That being said, the industry price is just that -- a starting point. If you want to reduce the price for a colleague, you can certainly do so. You may have political reasons for doing so (you want their support on something within the university), or they may have services to offer you in return (as in a barter economy). I'd caution you against reducing your price too much -- you don't want to be inundated with requests like this in the future.

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    Thanks. I ended up offering a slight discount over my normal rate (about 20%). The article/chapter will be published in a well-regarded press and while it won't count at the same level as a paper I developed and wrote, talking with my dept head and one of our endowed chairs, it will be seen somewhere between an article and a conference paper. (Conferences for us are not worth much on the CV ha). Feb 23, 2017 at 1:22
  • @guifa: Thanks for sharing the outcome -- makes this site all the more valuable :)
    – tonysdg
    Feb 23, 2017 at 6:41

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