Even though technical and legal documents require a thorough knowledge of the field, they are easier to work on than literary works. This is true because it’s a lot easier to retain the same meaning and convey explanations since the terms are not flexible. After all, the translation for the word ‘lug nut’ makes reference to the same object in any language!
But how do you define abstract notions from one language to another without losing the original sparkle? This is why translating literary works is a tougher project and requires the attention and care of a well-seasoned translator.
The How-Tos of Translating Literary Works
While it Is difficult to wrap your brain around novels or short prose, it’s poetic literary works that will have a translator looking for the meaning of life!
In translating such works, it is almost impossible to find rhyme without losing the original spark of genius. Sure, you can replace a word or phrase to correct the rhyme (if the language provides such an option), but different words bring a whole new problem into focus. The translation is no longer accurate, and the reader won’t be able to grasp the wit and fluency of the writer.
So how do we avoid that?
Translating literary works requires the ability to read between the lines. Therefore, the translator who works on creative works such as drama, novels, poetry, short prose, comic strips, or film scripts must be accustomed to the genre. They must be proficient in understanding the author’s unique view on the subject discussed, and the only way to do this is through study.
However, literary works aren’t limited to the ones mentioned above. We also work with intellectual and academic works such as physics papers, literary criticism, psychology publications, and more. So, there are cases when we can’t learn more about the author through his/her other works.
In these situations, the best one can do is get as accustomed as possible with similar works written in both the original language and the one used for translation.
Read, Understand, Repeat
Experienced translators never stop looking for new and challenging ways to learn more about their favourite genre and authors! This continuous exercise enriches their vocabulary but also helps them get a better grasp of the style, subtleties, and soul of the language.
Even more, most translators who deal with delicate literary works, only translate in their mother tongue because it’s the only language they know perfectly. This way, they can deconstruct the original work and rebuild it using similar words and phrases.
They also know that languages are fluid and they change from one generation to another. So, it’s just as important to understand the target audience of the literary work they are translating.
Research and Academic Background
Most translators only cover a certain field because of the tremendous amount of knowledge and research it is required. But, translating literary works is more demanding than most fields, which is why we’re always looking for people with solid academic backgrounds and proven research experience.