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Translator, writer, magician…


Literary translation deals with the translation of creative and dramatic prose and poetry into other languages. Apparently, in this field, creativity and writing talents are just as important as linguistic prowess.

It may seem fun, just like reading a book in a spare time. But in fact, literary translation belongs to the most challenging types of translation since it is as complicated as our spoken language and our inner world put together. Things are far from being straightforward, which is one of the major challenges: a great number of expressive means in the source language should be rendered into the target language.

Challenge #1: Translators need an in-depth understanding of vocabulary usage in both the source and target languages, as sometimes translation appears to be “mission impossible”, e.g. jargon, dialect, and slang units are culture-dependent, meaning they cannot be translated “as is”, and there is an urge to find appropriate alternative expressions, natural for the target audience.

Challenge #2: Well-developed writing skills are a must. A word-by-word method may work in legal or technical translation, but cannot be applied to this field at all.

Challenge #3: Humor is used to amuse readers — meanwhile it can possibly cause a lot of confusion. For instance, hilarious English jokes might sound foolish for a Russian speaker in case they have been put without attention paid to conveying the sense and not just words.

Challenge #4: Characters must stay in a particular setting and time chosen by the author: a cultural breath of an epoch should be preserved. We should know much about the history of the selected era, as we cannot put our common spoken language into a Medieval monk's mouth.

Literary translators know how much it hurts sometimes. The thing they also know is the pure beauty and excitement of the moment they’ve managed to come up with а perfect linguistic trick. After all, it feels incredibly rewarding.

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    Read more Managing Director, Kotoba Translation Gabriel Francesch