Towards a unified methodology – An overview of existing surveys on translation flows and buying and selling rights in Europe

Translations are essential to promote the diversity and pluralism of the European culture through the circulation of works beyond linguistic borders. The exchange of translation rights plays a fundamental role to enable the circulation of works and the internationalisation of the book sector. An EU-wide analysis of translations trends in Europe could provide a useful guidance on emerging languages and literatures and to plan targeted actions to support the development of activities in this filed: however, at the present time, national surveys collecting data on translation flows (i.e. the number of translated works) or data on selling and buying translation rights, are carried out with different methodology which makes it difficult to have a comprehensive view on  of the phenomenon.  The first research in this field launched by Aldus Up – here summarised – aims to investigate whether and how these data are collected, trying to identify possible areas where a common methodology for the collection on data on translations at cross-country level could be developed. The data collected concern 23 nations. The survey also considered the availability of grants in Europe, being them a crucial incentive to promote translations.

The research “Translations in Europe: state of the art” was carried out by the Italian Publishers Association (AIE) under the coordination and with the contribution of the book studies department of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The network of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), gave a valuable support to access the sources.

Translation flows

National surveys on translation flows look at the existence of data concerning the number of works translated from a certain language, or country, into others, and the other way round. Aldus up research shows that these data are more often provided by public institutions as National libraries and National institutes of statistics rather than, for instance, publishers’ or translators’ associations. They cover a wider sample and, mostly, they are recent, but they are not always able to go in depth and to offer granular information. The analysis of translation flows on the basis of the languages of translation (as opposed, or complementary, on the basis of the country) is the most widespread practice, though there are some exceptions. There are also substantial differences among the surveys regarding the literary genres and market segments considered: fiction, popular non-fiction and children’s/YA are the most monitored. As a last note, data collection is mostly intended to be a service done for sharing knowledge in the interests of the publishing industry.

Buying and selling rights

Surveys on import-export of translation rights are fundamental for the interpretation of market trends, as they collect data concerning buying and selling translation licenses and commonly collected by publishers’ associations. The research showed that there are less surveys active in Europe addressing this phenomenon; however, they can offer more meaningful results on translation trends in Europe, being designed by publishers in line with the business practices of the sector , and contribute to assess the success of the national literature production abroad in terms of sales of translation rights.


One of the most notable aspect highlighted by this research is that almost every country offers translation grants. As it is easy to imagine, there is great diversity in the grants mechanism around Europe, starting with the beneficiaries and the suppliers of financial resources, not to mention the aspects covered by grants (translation, production and rights, to mention only the most common ones).. The research has highlighted some worthwhile initiatives which may become positive examples for other countries. Regarding grants and funding opportunities for translations, Aldus Up provides book professionals with the global directory of translations grants ( ).

Next steps

With a view to future cooperation among partners towards the adoption of more harmonised criteria for national surveys, a focus on surveys concerning import-export of translation rights seems preferable. The fact that this is the area where, according to the state of art, several countries didn’t collect data yet, is not a limit but rather an opportunity to develop common criteria for a European methodology. The next steps will explore more in depth the surveys on buying and selling rights and the possibility to harmonise data collection in this field. In the first place, it will be necessary to identify possible areas where a comparative analysis can be performed and possible criteria that can be proposed to make national surveys more homogeneous and comparable. In particular, the language criteria is not sufficient to detect emerging trends in those regions whose language, such as English, Spanish or French, is spoken in more than one country. Then it will be possible to define a model that could be proposed for implementation also by publishers’ associations in the countries that don’t perform this kind of research yet, with the objective to extend the survey on translations to an increasing number of European countries.


Download the Survey on Translations in Europe: state of the art