Literary Translation

By Translator Thoughts
In Literary translation
Dec 26th, 2013

Literary Translation – Guide to Propelling Your Career to New Altitudes!


Literary Translation - Translator Thoughts

Literary translation is easier said than done. Literature includes the various genres of art that include: prose, novel, poetry and movie scripts etc. These forms of literature have definite style which makes them apart from each other. So unless you are familiar with these essentials, you will find it hard to translate a piece into your target language.

Literature is a subject that has the most complex use of grammar and words. As a translator, it is sometimes difficult to translate a form of literary work into the language you require. You will find many obscure words and phrases that will test your ability as a translator. Collectively, all these genres cater to a more high-brow audience who will notice the subtle nuances in a work that include syntax, word usage, style and tone.


  1. 1.      Read Different literary Genres

To establish yourself as a successful translator, you must have a good taste in literary books. Build a collection of different genres in your target languages and read them whenever time allows. Develop a sense by noticing the fine points of literary writing – metaphor, pun, wit and sarcasm etc. Reading makes you aware of different styles in literary writing and their connection with modern literature. This will help you develop a sense of literary genres and, thus, help you translate any script using the most suitable words.


  1. 2.      Be Skilled In Your Mother Tongue

Unless you possess the sensibilities as a native writer, you cannot justify your job as literary translator. For success in literary translation, you have to convey the true spirit of a word to your readers and if you lack this skill you will fail in literary translation. That is why majority of the professional translators are also established writers.

Write pieces in your favourite genre to hone your writing skills in that specific domain. Make sure that you apply the best practices to become proficient in that particular genre. The regular sessions of literary writing of a genre will familiarized you with its different shades and will help you in your next translation projects.


  1. 3.      Research The Author And Work

Research the background of an author and his work. Get information about his previous publications and their connection with the work in question. Get into the frame of mind of author when he created that piece of writing. A thorough analysis of the work will provide you with a better understanding of its audience, tone and style and enable you to interpret it for your readers and not yourself.


  1. 4.      It Takes Time Before You Master The Art

Translating a literary work may take time. Similar to writing a draft, your skills will improve with time. You have to get command on prominent literary elements of your source script before you convert it into a different language.  As you develop your script, you will become more aware of the tone and connotation of words.


  1. 5.      Edit Before You Submit It

Like any other document, it is equally important that you edit a translated script. You must be sure that you have not just translated words but the real essence of their meanings. Your script must put across the cultural, semantic and societal aspects presented in the work. Ask an expert or professional writer about the overall meaning and significance of the text. A second pair of eyes will help you identify any shortcomings.


Want to learn more about literary translation? These are some interesting readings:


Author Bio:
Henry Macsen is a little laid-back yet eccentric writer from somewhere you don’t want to know…These days he’s working for an academic writing service,, helping learners get the most out of their education.

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TranslatorThoughts is a blog about Translation, Interpreting, Languages and Freelancing. Featuring articles from a variety of authors, interviews, tips and much more. If you want to contribute, write an email at

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