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Translation Service Guide - Literary Translation and Why it is Important

Translation Service - Literary Translation
Translation Service Guide - Literary Translation and Why it is Important
on February, 03 2015

Translation Service - Literary Translation

One of the primary reasons why literary translation is important is because it allows literature to be enjoyed by more people worldwide. Book translation makes readers enjoy novels, short stories, fiction, non-fiction, poems, prose and other literary works by foreign authors. Translating books is an art in itself and expert book translators should be lauded for opening up a new world for readers around the world.

Literary translation

There are four expansive translation categories, namely,

1. Business/commercial translation
2. Technical and scientific translation
3. Interpreting
4. Literary translation

Likewise there are specific fields, which include legal translation. With the Copyright Act, the term literary translation is not confined to classic literature alone; it encompasses all types of books, short stories, poems, plays, scripts, opera libretto, travel guide, school books and other written works.


A degree in Modern Languages would be helpful for someone who wants to be a literary translator, particularly if translation classes are included in the course. It is also helpful if the translator has other academic qualifications, aside from a diploma in languages.

Someone interested in this type of translation work should possess some specific qualities, such as a fascination and feeling for language, a deep knowledge of the source language, its regional literature and culture and a more than average knowledge of the subject that the literary work discusses. Being familiar with the other works of the author is also needed.

Creativity and skill in the target language is a must (being a native speaker will greatly help). The translator must also be able to quickly transition from one writing style to another, to convey the original work's meaning, and produce the text that reads and flows well without deviating from the theme and style of the source.


Translating a book allows other people who will otherwise be isolated through language to learn more about other cultures. A book reflects the values, ideas and thoughts of the author and possibly his community. When you read a translated book, you get to understand the actions, principles, traditions and thoughts of the people from another location. Without translation, people are deprived of other cultures' accumulated wisdom and ancient knowledge. Literary translation opens the door to a vast arsenal of literature that is traditionally unavailable to a far larger number of people.

When translating a book, recreating the original presents a big challenge since each language has its own distinct characteristics and features. It is difficult to keep a balance between what needs to be represented correctly and what has to be understood, which will depend mainly on the right choice of words without diverging from the author's main context. It definitely needs higher quality standards and skills compared to translating other documents, which requires the services of a qualified professional translator or translation agency.

Most translated literary works

Aside from the Holy Bible, some of the most translated books are well-loved classics such as:

  • Pinocchio (Carlo Collodi)
  • The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupéry)
  • Pilgrim's Progress (John Bunyan)
  • Andersen's Fairy Tales (Hans Christian Andersen)
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne)

Modern titles include:

  • Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist
  • J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series
  • Orhan Pamuk’s Turkish language novel, My Name is Red
  • Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code
  • Ismail Kadare's The General of the Dead Army, which is written in Albanian
  • Albert Sánchez Piñol’s Cold Skin by, the original language of which is Catalan
  • Patrick Süskind’s German novel, Perfume
  • Haruki Murakami’s Japanese novel, Norwegian Wood
Sean Patrick Hopwood

Sean Patrick Hopwood is a lover of languages, peace, progress, education, and positivity. Speaking 6 languages, English, Spanish, French, Arabic, German, Portuguese and Hebrew, he has shown a love of cultures since childhood. He is currently the C.E.O. of Day Translations, Incorporated. Follow Sean in Facebook, Google+, or visit his website at

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