Editors—We Speak (Some of) Your Languages

As editors in self-publishing, we work with a lot of different topics. From one day to the next we could go from non-fiction political history to saga set on Mars in 2423. This is part of why I like what I do—I never know what I’ll be working on, next. That keeps me on my toes and keeps me learning new things pretty much every day.

One thing we don’t really do is work on foreign-language manuscripts. We’re simply not set up for them. From not having the right keyboards and software for some of them, to just not knowing the languages, we’ve found it’s best to stick to English, and let other specialists work with the other languages.

This doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t get manuscripts in with foreign words or phrases thrown in. A novel set in Paris has to have streets and locations—and food—in it to make it believable. A study of the settlement of California is bound to have Spanish in it. So what do we do?

We can’t simply tell people we won’t edit their work because out of 75,000 words 150 are in Italian. So we caution authors about our limits, and then spend a lot of time searching the Internet for proper spellings and pronunciations—and meanings. But that only gets us so far. Which is why we rejoice in the fact that most of our editors are, frankly, word nerds.

You see, word nerds don’t stop with one language. We nerd out over any language where the words look cool, the meanings are frequently serendipitous—and they just sound . . . nifty.

I recently took a poll of all of our editors, and found that on a scale of 0 to 10 (with zero meaning “I can order food in a restaurant” and ten indicating fluency) we could dine out pretty much anywhere in this world—and a couple of places not of this world. Yep. Our editors can read menus in almost any European romance language, and are pretty sure they could maneuver most airports without causing international incidents.

Not to blow our own horns—but we’ve got some serious skills in French, Spanish, and German. And thanks to Downton Abbey and BBC America, we’re fluent in British, too. Looking for someone with Alsatian, Lithuanian, Vietnamese, Arabic, Chinese—or Klingon? We can proofread our way through some of that, too. Heck—we’ve even got someone with serious music skills, if you need someone to look over scores or notations.

Are we ready to promote ourselves as your one-stop translation headquarters for Alsatian-to-Klingon texts? No. Are we going to branch out into full foreign-language editing any time soon? No. But are we here for you when your characters vacation in Stuttgart or your archeological dig takes you to Beijing? You can bet your bottom Euro and yuan we are.

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