English Proper. Translation, Proofreading, and Copyediting Services

Who We Are

English Proper was started by Brian Manning Delaney, an award-winning translator with many years of experience translating texts in the arts and humanities. It has since expanded to become a network of academics from all disciplines, writers, and poets who share a love of language.

We began by translating material in the humanities – often texts for art exhibition catalogues, or essays and articles intended for publication in academic journals. This eventually led to more and more translation work in the business sector, where a linguistic deftness is far more important than many non-native English speakers realize (though see below, "How to Save Money"). Most of our work is from Swedish or German to English, but we are equally competent at translating from Norwegian and French to English. In addition, there are many native Swedish and Norwegian speakers in our network, so we can translate into those languages as well.

In all cases, native speakers of the language into which the text is to be translated do the translation. Most of our native English speakers are Americans and Britons. But we believe strongly in the "the more eyes the better" philosophy of translation and copy-editing, so others will be involved in various stages of the translation process, many of whom provide a useful perspective precisely by dint of their not being native speakers of the target language.

Our Services

We translate, as well as proofread and copyedit.

Our strengths are, for the languages listed above, anything in the humanities, and, for all of the languages mentioned above aside from (as of early 2016) French, anything in the IT sector. So far, all of our customers are referred to us from other customers. In some cases, customers have come to us after having seen one of our translated texts. (Note: we do not insist on taking credit for translations; many people and businesses like to present themselves as "responsible for their English," which is fine by us. So many of our texts are not so to speak "knowingly seen" as ours!)

We can usually help find a translator, free of charge, if the job falls outside the area of expertise of those in our network, or if we can't take on the job for some other reason (for example if we simply don't think we can deliver an excellent translation in time to meet your deadline).

How We Work

The following might sound complicated, but in practice, it generally amounts to 1) a quick phone call or email exchange before we take on the job, and 2) another quick phone call or email exchange (or even Skype "chat session"1) shortly before we are ready to 3) deliver the finished text. If you wish to be more involved in the translation process, we gladly welcome your active participation. We are very proud of our abilities, but egos (ours) must be checked at the door if a translation is to capture what you want it to capture. If you say, "No, I'd like recondite here, not arcane," then "recondite" it will be!

(Note: For a variety of reasons, we prefer to communicate with you in your native language. However, we leave this matter up to you.)

  1. We communicate with you about the text to be translated in order to determine, among other things, whether we can take the job, how the text will be used, what sort of tone the translation should have (which includes which dialect to use -- itself a complicated matter, though if you have no preferences, we'll go with our belief that a slightly Britishized American English is the best choice in most cases).

    One very important issue to iron out is how "free" we are allowed to be in creating the translated, or, as the case may be, "interpreted" text. In many cases, the text we are asked to translate may have been written under a nerve-wrackingly tight deadline, and thus may be somewhat structurally weak. We are all excellent writers, and can easily offer suggestions about improvements. But what we generally prefer is to be given a slightly free hand. This of course amounts to very minor editing work. We do not charge extra for this, because the translation process is actually much easier when it leans towards "interpretation" instead of translation.

    Indeed, in many cases, the distinction between translation and interpretation is difficult to draw. For example, many non-English Germanic language invitations (say, an opening reception at a gallery) will end with "Välkommen!" (or "Welkom!", "velkommen!", et cetera). While a translation into English of the word välkommen would most often be the word welcome, the translation at the end of an invitation of välkommen most often should not be "Welcome!", for the simple reason that in many contexts, such as the concluding part of a gallery invitation, "Welcome!" is not what one writes. In English, one generally writes nothing at all in the concluding part of such an invitation, or, at times, especially if one wants a more intimate or informal tone, one might write "Hope to see you!" (with or without the exclamation mark), "Looking forward to seeing you!", etc. This is arguably a matter of translation, not interpretation, since translation is not about word-for-word substitution. But how much should a translator take into account the expectations of likely readers? How much should a translator recognize the "legitimacy" of a dialect of English spoken by non-native speakers? If non-native English-speaking northern Europeans tend to write "Welcome!" at the end of their English language gallery invitations, should it be considered "correct in that 'dialect'"? Correct or not, will your invitation seem cold to your northern European guests if it ends the way such invitations normally do in New York or London, with no "Welcome!" no "Hope to see you!" nor anything of the sort? Or will it rather seem cool, sophisticated, and international?

    These are, of course, very difficult questions!

  2. We receive the text to be translated or proofread, which we prefer to receive as a word-processing document, not as paper document, nor as an image or PDF computer file.

  3. We may contact you with a few quick questions about the text before we dig in.

  4. One of us does a "first-pass" translation.

  5. At least one other person in our group looks at the original text and the first-pass translation, and offers suggestions to the primary translator, as needed.

  6. When time permits, we then set the translation aside for at least a few days. This is important because certain infelicities and even frank mistakes can be missed without a certain distance from the text.

  7. We then read through the translation again, and make changes as needed.

  8. You are then sent two documents. One of them is what we regard as a finished translation. The other is the same text with various questions and comments imbedded in the text itself.
It might seem confusing to receive two documents, but we find it helps us work through difficulties in the translation.

For example, your translation.doc, a translation of a text that is, let us imagine, intended for a global audience might include the following passage:

Advertisements were placed in trade and professional journals, daily papers, and on the Internet. There were also advertisements on streetcars and buses.

The corresponding passage in the file your translation (with comments).doc (remember, this "with comments" file is for internal use between you and us, to facilitate dialogue about the translation) might look like this:

Advertisements were placed in trade and professional journals, daily papers, and on the Internet. There were also advertisements on streetcars [[spårvagnar -- "trams" might be misunderstood by most from North and South America; "trolleys/trolley cars" might be misunderstood by some Europeans; but everyone is likely to understand "streetcars"]] and buses.

We developed this method of translating after realizing that a translator can never be certain of all translation choices. We all keep a lot of internal notes about various translation choices we're reflecting on as we work. Some of these concern choices among various synonyms -- [[recondite, or arcane?]] -- but a few are questions we actually would like to pose to the customer. Our customers told us they greatly appreciate the comments and questions -- inserted into the text in double brackets, so that they are clearly separate from the actual text itself -- so it became part of our "routine." In addition to our internal reflections, and questions we'd like answered, we also add comments that we feel would help explain certain translation choices that might otherwise seem odd to non-native speakers. (Note, sometimes, especially when a translation is not done for an academic audience, translation choices that "seem odd" are a big no-no: the translation should be easily understood even by those whose grasp of English is relatively weak.) So you, the customer, can feel free to do what you want with the version of the translation that contains comments. If we chose recondite and you feel arcane would be better, just let us know!

One of us is translating the German philosopher Hegel from German to Swedish. He once commented, "I wish Hegel weren't dead. I'd be able to ask him how the translation of Wesenheit should differ from the translation of Wesen." Since most of our customers are in fact not dead, we can ask them what they mean by Wesenheit. This is a tremendous advantage, since communication is a key part of good translating.

We nonetheless recognize that some people just want the translation, with a minimum of fuss. They can just toss the Your translation (with comments).doc file. When there are critical questions about the translation, we will however be certain to take them up with you.

How to Save Money

You may be a young artist who has received several texts for an exhibition catalogue, or Ph.D. candidate writing an article about Proust for an academic journal. Such people may not be able to afford professional translation services. Many non-native speakers of English write English very well. Publishers, especially publishers of academic journals, often have in-house copy editors who are happy to correct imperfect texts written by non-native speakers. The publisher generally wouldn't charge you anything for this service. If you're uncertain of the quality of your English, you could also ask an English-speaking friend to give the text a quick run-through, which will bring the quality up to a level where an academic publishing house wouldn't balk at accepting it for publication, even if more work might need to be done. Note: if you ask your native English-speaking friend for a thorough run-through of your text, you might be asking for more than you realize, especially since native English-speakers in countries where English is not the primary language get asked to look over texts far more often than you might realize, and, after a while, generally tire of it.

It is also important to keep in mind that there are some cases where presenting a text to the world, or part of the world, in imperfect English may not be such a disaster. Europeans, especially northern Europeans, are generally much better at English that other non-native speakers. If you're giving a presentation that is exclusively for people in a country where English is generally not spoken well, perfect English can actually be intimidating, and, believe it or not, can even come across as a put down. Just keep the English simple and straightforward, and your meaning will be clear, and you will have saved money.

Our Rates

Our standard rate for short texts (1-2 pages) is 2 Swedish Crowns per word (about $0.23 – which, in early 2017 is about the same amount in euros).2 But in many cases we are happy with considerably less than this. We charge less, sometimes considerably less, for individuals, non-profits, struggling small galleries, etc. In addition, we naturally charge less for longer texts. We are also generally willing to consider a short text "long" if there is a promise of future translations on a regular, frequent basis. We are often willing to translate a book or book-length text (such as a dissertation) at a rate of $0.10/word.

We generally charge about half the rate per word that we would for a translation. In other words, a long text by a poor graduate student might be charged around half a Swedish Crown/word. However, in cases where the English is excellent, the rate would be even lower.

If you are interested in our services, please drop us a line at: info {chez} englishproper DOT com.

1. Since we and our customers are spread out across the globe, it is often convenient and cheap to communicate via Internet chat programs. While many of these programs allow free voice communication, in many cases it is actually better to use text chat, because we can cut and paste the passages we are discussing into the chat window as we discuss them. (Of course, both voice and text chat can be used simultaneously.)

2. We accept payment via one of two foreign firms, one based in Sweden, one based in the U.S. English Proper LLC is registered in the United States, so if you're in Scandinavia or on the Continent, no taxes or extra payments of any kind need be made.