What does it take to be a literary translator?

These days, it’s becoming more and more common for translators to specialise in a given field. It’s a sound strategy: after all, the better you understand a particular subject, the easier it will be to comprehend relevant source texts and render them fluently in your native language. It’s a way of ensuring that your translations are as natural and authentic as they can be – and from a business perspective, it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd in this competitive industry.

In this article, we’re going to look at one specialist subject in particular – literary translation. It’s an often-overlooked specialisation, but in truth it’s up there with the most demanding specialist fields, like legal, medical or highly technical translations. Unlike these fields, however, literary translation is rooted in the arts instead of the sciences. It calls for a very different mindset, and a very different set of skills and experience. So what exactly does it take to become a professional literary translator?

If you’re thinking of specialising in this field, the first thing to do is to consider the skills that are required. Among other things, you will need a truly flawless command of your native language. That might sound like a skill common to all translators, but if anything, literary translations require you to go above and beyond even the level demanded by many other fields. It’s not enough just to know every stylistic and grammatical rule in the book – you also need to know when those rules can be broken, and how, and why. You need to understand the effect that every word, even every piece of punctuation, will have on the reader – and you need to use all of these tricks to faithfully translate the text you’ve been given.

Doing so requires another skill: …

You can read the full article in our ebook The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Successful Freelance Translator.

1 Comment
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    January 6, 2017

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