Children’s Literature Translation
How I started to translate childrens’ book as a freelance translator
Post by Nilla Meri
I’m a Finnish to Turkish freelance translator, specializing now in children’s literature translation. At the time I received my first proposal to translate children’s books from Finnish, I had been working as a freelance translator for the Embassy of Finland for over a year. That was an exciting change! Children’s literature translation was certainly different than my typical translations. The publishing company told me that I had been recommended to them by the Embassy and they wanted to work with me. They had already bought the rights of a children’s books series from Finland. So, they just needed a qualified translator.
I was very excited, as I was still a newbie in children’s literature translation. I’ve always liked children’s books, so I decided to give it a try. The book I had to translate was, by coincidence, the first book that I read fully in Finnish as I received it as a Christmas gift the year I moved to Finland.
Soon after, the publishing company sent me the book and asked for a sample translation. I returned it very quickly, as it was a piece of cake for me, or at least this is how it felt to me. I was working as an embassy translator after all, and a simple children’s book had to be easy to take care of.
I received an answer from the publishing company telling me that my style was not good enough for translating children’s literature and I should try adult books instead. I was using complicated sentences, according to the editor. And if I wanted to be a children’s literature translator then I had to read children’s books and simplify my language.
I was really disappointed. Later that day, I ordered some famous children’s books and read them all. I could notice now the complexity of the language I used in the sample translation. So, I tried to fix those mistakes and did the same translation once again and sent it to the editor. Success! She told me that it was great and she enjoyed reading it immensely. So, I was chosen for the translation of my favorite children’s books writer.
I translated two books. I enjoyed the translation process a lot. It was different than translating a text for the embassy. I had to use my imagination, play with the words or even create new words. I had to talk to children and ask them how does it sound when I read them the story. I changed the translations over and over again until I could feel like a child and enjoy the stories I was translating.
Both of the books got published and I received very good feedbacks from little literature lovers. Nowadays, among other translation tasks, I continue translating children’s books as a freelancer. My best translation technique? Remembering what it was like to be a child.
Translating children’s literature is a hard job. It is different from all the other types of translation. It teaches me not to forget my inner child, and reminds me how it was like to be a child.