Literary translation is the translation of creative and dramatic prose and poetry into other languages.
It includes the translation of literature from ancient languages and modern fiction so that it can reach a wider audience.
Why is Literary Translation Important?
Literary translation is of huge importance. It helps to shape our understanding of the world around us in many ways.
In a fast-paced world where misunderstanding and confusion are so common, the efforts to share knowledge and experiences across cultures are very important.
What Makes Literary Translation so Difficult?
The translation of literature differs greatly from other forms of translation.
One of the key challenges of literary translation is the need to balance staying faithful to the original work with the need to create something unique and distinctive that will evoke the same feelings and responses as the original.
As literary translators will attest, a single word can be extremely troublesome. The author of a work of fiction has chosen that word for a good reason, so the translator must ensure that it is faithfully delivered in the target language.
Translation novels is a challenging task. It’s about recreating the atmosphere of the original novel without translating it word for word. Humour, irony, plays on words and plotlines revealed by implication rather than explanation all serve to make this even harder.
A further complication is the assumed knowledge of the reader. References to customs, practices and traditions may be easy to understand when reading a novel in one’s own language, but it is a very difficult task for a translator to deliver that level of built-in knowledge to a reader in another country who may be unfamiliar with the original language’s cultural quirks.
What Skills does a Literary Translator Need?
Clearly, literary translation requires a very particular skillset. The translation of literature is a far more creative art than many forms of translation. When translating a pharmaceutical product information leaflet, for example, it’s essential to deliver text that is a word for word interpretation of the original. However, for the translation of prose and poetry, creative writing ability is just as important as linguistic prowess.
Confidence in one’s ability is also essential. It’s fine to get bogged down with how to truly represent the meaning of a sentence – or even a single word – but the translator also needs to know when it’s time to make a choice and move on.
The ability to deliver continuity is also essential, especially in long novels. Remembering facts and details of the characters’ stories take much effort and concentration to keep the plot coherent through the whole novel.
If you’re an author or publisher looking to release literature in a different language, contact our team to discuss what you’d like to achieve.
We will be able to put you in touch with the perfect linguist who’s ready to be your voice in the target language.