Posted on: May 22, 2023 by admin
If you’ve ever read Alice in Wonderland, The Adventures of Pinocchio, or any of the Brothers Grimms fairy tales (like Hansel and Gretel, or Cinderella) in English, then you have benefitted from literary translation. All of these books and stories have been translated from one language to many others (including English) in order to reach a wider audience. What you will notice about each of these literary translations is that they are engaging to read and have the ability to evoke powerful emotions in the reader, which are typical signs of a well-translated literary text. Literary translation is widely considered the most complicated and difficult form of translation, due to the specific challenges it poses. Read on to understand more about how literary translation works and the special skills required to produce a high-quality literary translation.
Literary translation is the process of translating creative writing in the form of poetry, plays, novels, or other literary texts into another language in order to reach a wider global audience.
Literary translation is widely considered the most challenging form of translation and most who are familiar with the process would agree it is more of a creative and artistic endeavour than a technical one. This is because the translator doesn’t simply need to convey the information contained in the written text (as with other forms of translation such as business, medical or legal translation). In literary translation, the translator must create an entirely new text which evokes the same emotional response in the reader as the original, using their own mastery of the target language. The three main challenges of literary translation include:
While every translator requires strong written skills in both the source and target language, literary writers also require an additional specialised skillset. Considering the unique requirements of literary translation, a good literary translator will need the following skills:
Literary translation refers to the translation of any literary work, but the most commonly translated literary texts are poetry, novels, and plays. Each of these texts presents its own unique challenges.
Poetry is perhaps the most creatively challenging form of translation, as each word is very specifically selected by the author because of the way it sounds, the feelings it evokes, the cultural connotation it carries, and even the number of syllables it contains. Translating poetry is a deeply artistic and creative task, whereby the translator must fully absorb not only the meaning of the poetry, but also the feelings it intends to evoke. They must also attempt to recreate the rhythm of the original piece, despite the fact that translated words will often sound completely different. Even the way the written words of the poem appear is of integral importance, so the length of words will also need to be considered.
Novels are generally very long, and each word and phrase has also been carefully chosen by the author to convey a certain atmosphere, while humour, irony, puns, implied meanings, and cultural references also play an important role. The job of the translator is not only to stay true to the plotline but also to try to convey the moods, personalities, humour, and subtexts introduced by the original author. Considering that translated novels will often be read by an audience with a different cultural context, and direct translations often don’t exist for the specific language and phrases used in novels, the translator must be a skilled creative writer themself in order to produce a highly readable translated novel.
Translating a play presents very similar challenges to translating a novel in terms of the length of the text and the importance of capturing meaning, mood, subtexts, and humour. However, play translation also needs to consider the fact that the words are to be spoken out loud. Therefore the timing and rhythm of the text become integrally important. Translators usually continue to work with actors and directors throughout the process of workshopping the play in order to tweak dialogue during early rehearsals.
As you can see, literary translation is one of the most complicated forms of translation, requiring a mix of technical expertise and creative flair, as well as a sense of dedication to what can often be a gruelling and deeply challenging process. If you require a highly skilled literary translator, contact the experts at Speak Your Language today.