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7 Worst Mistakes of a Literary Translator

Common mistakes a literary translator should watch out for

Literary translations are extremely difficult as it is essential to capture emotion and feeling as well as meaning. It is possible to translate a book accurately but lose what some refer to as the “soul” of the work.

A good translation will have the same emotional impact as the original. To do this successfully requires an experienced literary translator with an affinity for the work they are translating.

Here are some common mistakes made in literary translation by inexperienced translators or those that don’t have a real feel for the literature being translated:

  1. Literal translations: This may be the worst mistake a translator can make. Translating a script word for word is almost sure to change the meaning of the translation from the original. A good translator will translate for meaning so that the finished work conveys the same message as the original.
  2. Exaggerating the meaning of words: Some translators may make the mistake of giving too much importance to a particular word. An effective translation shouldn’t over-emphasize any word so that it alters the intended meaning. Translators have been known to agonize for hours over a word or phrase in a translation, in an attempt not to change the feeling that the original create.
  3. Depending too much on translation programs: Translation programs are a nice tool that a translator has at their disposal but literary translation programs are only a tool to make the job somewhat easier. They don’t perform the job. Software programs can’t always determine context, or recognize tones or determine emotional states. They are prone to mistakes in very straight forward translations and the number of mistakes is multiplied rapidly in difficult literary translations.
  4. Misunderstanding the context of a word: There are words in most languages that will change meaning depending on the context in which the word is used. In some cases a literary translator will have to decide what the original author intended from several different possibilities. If they misunderstand the context that a word is used in, they will translate the word differently which then alters the original meaning.
  5. Getting the tone wrong: Literary translation must take into consideration the tone used by the original author. For example the writer may state something in a sarcastic tone. If the translator fails to catch the sarcasm in their translation then it can completely change the effect that the writer intended. It is very difficult to accurately convey the tone used as it can change constantly, but it is essential to do so if a translation is to remain true to the original.
  6. Ignoring cultural differences: Translating without considering cultural differences can result in uncomfortable or even offensive situations. Accurate best translation online is impossible if the translator is not very familiar with the different cultures involved. Reading about a culture is not the same as living in it and it is easy to miss something that could impact a translation if the translator is not intimately familiar with it. Something that was meant to be funny may be extremely offensive in another culture.
  7. Over-confidence: Getting a second opinion on a translation or having it proofread is not a bad reflection on the skills of a translator. Over confidence can be the downfall of a translator. Regardless of the skills and abilities possessed, mistakes are always possible even among the best. Not having work proofread is not only over-confident but also foolish. The best writers have their work proofread and so should the best translators.

To get a good literary translation the best alternative is using a professional literary translation company to translate for you.

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