Literary Translation in 9 Steps
Literary translation is not a regular work - it's more similar to an art. It involves transposing and interpreting the most creative texts – novels, poetry, drama, short prose, film scripts or comic strips – form one culture and language into another. Moreover, it may require more intellectual and academic knowledge and some insight in literary history and criticism. Without literary translation we wouldn't have access to the greatest books and thoughts, from The Bible to works of Einstein and Freud. Are you interested in that subject? Learn how to translate literature in 9 easy steps!
- Be an avid, intimate reader in each language you know. If you want to become a creative translator, you have to know how to read between lines. Read the genres you like the most and try to build an intimate bond with the writer, message and nuances of culture and thought. For instance, if you translate poems from Norwegian into English, let's read as many poems in these languages as you possibly can. Keep on top of chosen languages – they change and evolve with time!
- Improve your writing skills (especially in your mother tongue). Do you know that most literary translator translate only into their native language? The reason is pretty simple: it is much easier to express yourself in mother tongue. Translating a book is like writing one – that's why writing skills are so important.
- Get educated. Look for a professional guidance within academic institutions. Try to get at least one degree in linguistics, languages or comparative literature. Literary translation is also offered through creative writing courses. Academic training is always a good idea – it allows you to meet mentors and use the best libraries and sources. At least teach yourself using books.
- Research both the work and the writer. Every text is a piece of its author. To interpret it correctly, you ought to know something about the writer and conditions for the book's creation. Think about the context: what surrounded the author at the time he was writing? Are there any references from other texts present?
- Know the risk. Consider the weight of piece of literature that you're working on. Depending on the statement of the text, it can cost you your life. Translations has already sparked wars and revolutions...
- Accept that you won't be perfect! The moment you render one sentence, its original is already lost. Instead of finding equivalents, try to reconstruct the basic version as it was primarily written in the target language. You'll lose some of cultural concepts and shades of meaning anyway – just accept it use footnotes if it's necessary.
- Find your publisher. Approach publishing houses, research them, share your samples with best ones, and negotiate. Weigh your options carefully and don't forget about the federal grants!
- Join professional organizations. No matter where you live, you can find some professional translation organizations (maybe even literary ones). Such membership enables you to network, use training opportunities and fight for translation prizes.
- Don't stop practicing! Translate for at least 15 minutes a day. Maintain a regular schedule, work hard and accumulate your professional skills.