Can one be a co-translator of a book, if he does not know the language that the book is translated into? made me realize I have a very similar question.

I was translating an extremely slang heavy book from A to B. I had a pretty good grasp on a more formal version of A and native in B and at the time at least I was knowledgeable about the slang of B. Now comes the helper person who doesn't speak B but explained slang A. UrbanDirectory in A, so to speak. What's this helper, then? At which percentage of slang does his work turn from 'explain a few phrases' to 'basically he translated the book from slang-A to A for me'? Is that even the relevant question here? (The translation never got published and this was twenty years ago.)

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    It seems like the top answer there fits here. Do you disagree?
    – wetcircuit
    Apr 5, 2019 at 11:17
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    Feels like the question here is different than the linked "co-translator" question. Here we're talking about someone who is serving as a dialect interpreter or something within Language A, while the other question seems to be reference someone serving more of an organizational assistant role of some kind. Apr 5, 2019 at 19:37
  • I of course agree with @TheLuckless
    – chx
    Apr 5, 2019 at 22:01
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    It seems to me that your assistant isn't so much a translator as an expert on a particular element within your translated work - no different (in a sense) from an expert on military aircraft, or surgical procedures, or 1920s culture (including slang), or court processes, or deep-sea diving. Many writers seek out and rely on such expert advice as a necessary research process in preparing their work, and the top answer in the dupe question covers how you might acknowledge such a role. Apr 5, 2019 at 22:47

1 Answer 1


Your assistant helped you in your research for the translation. But you did the translation.

A translation requires an understanding of what is being said in language A, but the process itself is based on finding the proper words in language B. If your assistant had translated the slang into language B and you would have used this translation and maybe edited it slightly, then he/she would have been a co-translator. But since he/she only explained the slang to you in the same original language, there is no translation going on, so he/she is not a co-translator.

Of course, you should leave an acknowledgement if possible. "[Assistant] helped with the translation of [slang] by offering valuable explanations."

Side note: This hinges on the legal viewpoint that slang in language A is still fundamentally language A. However, some slang is so sophisticated and grammatically different that it could technically be a new language. The reason why it isn't is not linguistically motivated, but politically. The people speaking the slang/dialect do not have the political power and/or will to have it recognized as a language.

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