What Advice Would Literature Experts Give for Translating Works While Preserving Their Tone?


    What Advice Would Literature Experts Give for Translating Works While Preserving Their Tone?

    Translating literary work is an art that demands not just linguistic skill but also a deep understanding of the original tone and context. We've gathered insights starting from a seasoned Writer, Translator, and Editor who emphasizes the importance of reading your translation aloud, to additional answers that include modernizing with cultural touchstones. Together, these perspectives offer a tapestry of advice for preserving the essence of the source material in translation.

    • Reread Aloud After Translating
    • Adopt an Editorial Mindset
    • Translate Idiomatic Expressions Creatively
    • Study Author's Style and Era
    • Incorporate Historical Context
    • Balance Text Loyalty with Cultural Relevance
    • Modernize with Cultural Touchstones

    Reread Aloud After Translating

    My best advice, once the actual meaning and tone of the work are understood (therefore, after having read it completely to grasp the 'voice' of the authors), is this: Translate it, and then reread it out loud. Only then can you understand if you succeeded in capturing the tone of the original writers or not.

    Matteo MolinariWriter, translator, editor, MaJaMa Productions

    Adopt an Editorial Mindset

    Approaching the task solely as a translation and not as a type of editorial can be a common issue. Often, literary translations require an editorial approach due to the inevitable lack of unity between linguistic systems, especially when reimagining local metaphors and colloquialisms. Because language is so closely connected to narrative, and because words can imply different meanings, as well as gestures and the use of silence, translating literary work requires a thoughtful and considered approach. Continued re-reading of any source text increases a translator's chance of serving the original author.

    Luke Shipman
    Luke ShipmanDirector and Founder, The London Ghostwriting Company

    Translate Idiomatic Expressions Creatively

    When translating literature, capturing the essence of idiomatic expressions can be more vital than clinging to literal wordings. Idioms are the soul of a language, infusing a unique cultural flavor that straightforward translations may dilute. Therefore, a literature professor might stress the importance of understanding the underlying meanings and emotions conveyed by these expressions.

    The task is to find a balance, striving to keep the original sentiment intact for the reader. Explore the phrases that resonate similarly in your own language, and replace them with care and creativity, encouraging translators to dive deep into the nuances of both languages.

    Study Author's Style and Era

    A literature professor would emphasize the need to retain the author's original style by studying similar works for guidance. Understanding the stylistic choices the author made and their significance to the period and genre is crucial. This involves delving into the types of narrative structures, character development, and language use prevalent in the author's era and literary circle.

    Such an approach can offer a framework for preserving the stylistic integrity of the translated work. Immerse oneself in the literature of the time, and approach the translation with the intent to maintain the voice that has spoken through the ages.

    Incorporate Historical Context

    Researching the historical context of a literary piece is highly recommended for achieving an accurate tone in translation. A literature professor would know that nuances of the time period affect both overt meaning and subtle suggestions within a text. This knowledge can inform translators of why characters speak or act as they do, or why certain events unfold in specific ways, all of which are essential to the work's texture.

    By understanding the context, translators can make better choices about language and phrasing that align with the tone of the original piece. Engage with history, absorb the context, and let that understanding inform every sentence.

    Balance Text Loyalty with Cultural Relevance

    A prominent piece of advice for translators would be to balance loyalty to the text with the ability to relate to the target culture. Too strict an adherence to the source language can lead to a rigid, alienating translation, while too loose a rendition may betray the original's essence. It's about weaving the old with the new, creating a bridge between cultures that allows the reader to cross effortlessly.

    Thinking of translation as an artful representation rather than a mechanical conversion can lead to a work that is loved and understood across languages. Envision how the material can speak to both its original audience and its new one, and stride forward to merge the two worlds with sensitivity.

    Modernize with Cultural Touchstones

    Modernizing certain elements, such as dated references, is key to helping contemporary readers connect with translated texts. A literature professor might advise using familiar cultural touchstones to translate obscure or outdated elements, grounding the work in a context the modern reader can grasp. These analogs can serve to illuminate the original intent and preserve its relevance without altering the core meaning.

    It is a delicate dance of respect for the old and embrace of the new that brings life to a translated work for today's audiences. Find the timeless threads in the literary tapestry and pull them through the fabric of the present.