A Novel Approach To Literary Translation

12/04/17

When it comes to translating novels that are considered to be works-of-art in the literary world, you had better be sharp. Those who live for good literature want to read stories as the original author intended without a mishap, mistake, or mistranslated word. After all, Dickens would take on an entirely different meaning if the Ghost of Christmas Present became a ghostly image of a Christmas present.

Keeping It Close To The Original

Though it is not entirely impossible to produce an entire novel without a single misstep, careful considerations are made by experienced translators to ensure that very few words get a new meaning. If the translator has the protagonist flashing a grin instead of a grimace, it might not be detrimental to the plot. It’s when the husband is translated into the brother, or the Aunt into the lover, that things might begin to unravel.  The ultimate hope in any novel translation is that the new meaning won’t take away from the point that the author was trying to make in the original text.

Woman reading a book

More Meaning In More Than Words

Trouble comes when the translation of concepts, plot points, or relationships change. While the average reader might not be concerned about the changes, those who understand the original story and compare it with the updated version might take issue with the translator. This is what happened in the case of the South Korean novel Chaesikjuuija when it was translated into English as The Vegetarian.

When The Vegetarian won a prestigious literary award, many clamored to read this spellbinding novel; and it was then that the comparisons were made and translation mistakes were discovered. Beyond the casual errors in words (such as turning an arm into a foot), there are deeper translations that take the entire story to a new level.

Charse Yun writes that the translator of the work, Deborah Smith (who had only begun learning Korean 6 years earlier), “Inserts adverbs, superlatives, and emphatic word choices that are simply not in the original,” which changed the tone of the novel. She also left out nearly six percent of the original text. Though the translated novel was well received, when it comes to purity, the importance of proper translation is shown once again.

Deeper Issues In Deeper Texts

While the translation of a novel might afford more room for additions, subtractions, and simple speculations without causing a major shift in the time-space continuum, not every word that is translated from one language to another offers such freedom. Take, for instance, a report or informative study on health education. Mistranslate an arm for a foot here and an entire life can be changed in an instant. Documents that share medical advice, advanced treatments, and life-saving outbreak prevention guidelines are powerful enough to implore proper translation.

This is why our experienced linguists use knowledge and tools to provide the best translations possible when it comes to health education materials and more. Don’t take a chance on what could be; contact ITC Global Translations today for matters of education, entertainment, and everything that needs to be properly understood.