Literary Translation vs. Technical Translation

Danilo Coviello

Literary translation is another form of translation that is entirely different. This is the type of translation that is used for things such as poems and plays. It is important to get this translation across properly with the correct tone and meaning. This not only requires a bit of technical skill in knowing both languages very well, but also understating literary tones and approaches.

There are many different types of translators.  Some translators simply understand and can speak more than one language.  Other translators can write in different languages as well as speak them. Technical translators write, speak and understand at a technical level and literary translators write, speak and truly understand underlying tones.  Tones can be a really hard thing to grasp when learning another language.  Writing in the right tone and stating the same message as the original writer can be difficult.  As a literary writer, trying to keep any sense of personal beliefs or feelings out the writing is important.

Literary writing is not interpreting the writing, it’s translating it.  For this reason, literary writers must be careful when literary translating.  Writing with an unbiased voice is crucial in getting the original message across in the same manner as the original writer.

Technical Translation

Technical translation is the translation of technical documents.  This is usually in the science and math areas such as engineering and biotechnology.   A literary translation, however, is that of the language area itself.  It will require more literary skills as well as an understanding of both languages on a very deep level.  Literature is a work of art and allows us to view the world through another person’s perspective.  It allows us to explore other cultures and times.  Because of this unique art spin, it requires the translator to really get into the piece they are translating and truly understand what the original author was trying to portray.

Great Authors

Think about all the great novels that have been translated over the years.  Works of William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and Marcel Proust are just some of them.  Most of the pieces that have been translated into many languages are recognized by everyone.  But, there are few Asian, Indian or South American great novelists known around the world.  This is due to a lack of literary translators for those languages into other languages.  Many people speak the languages of western heritage that use the Latin alphabet.

Because of literary translators, famous work has been shared all over the world.  However, other parts of the world have not had the exposure.  This exposure is what creates the need for literary translation.  Without literary translators, many great plays, poems, and novels would have been lost.

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Learning a new language is always fun and exciting.  But, taking that skill to the next level to fully understand a field in that other language is mastery.  To be good in a second language is easy for some people.  But, being a literary or technical translation writer is another level that combines language skills with writing skills and knowledge of a person.