If you’re a self-published author interested in selling your work in non-English-speaking countries, the first and most important step in that process is deciding what new audiences you would most like to reach, then hiring a qualified linguist to translate your work. But a word of caution: literary translation is a specialty and not a task that just any translator can handle. A second word of caution: no matter what you do, never rely on any form of machine translation! Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, even the most advanced translation apps will never do justice to your original creation.
In fact, high quality literary translation requires years of experience on the part of the translator. Many of these language professionals are authors in their own right, and any linguist who claims to specialize in literary translation should be able to provide a list of works that he or she has successfully translated in the past. As opposed to other language projects – such as translating a legal document or contract, for example – a literary translation involves just as much creativity on the part of the translator as it did for the author to write the work to begin with. These language professionals will put in the effort necessary to not only translate the author’s original story and/or message; they will also utilize their knowledge of the language to prepare the text for an audience that comes from a different cultural background, all while maintaining the author’s original voice and style. If you’re thinking that this is a challenging task, you would be correct – which goes to prove just how much of a specialty literary translation is.
In order for the translator to produce a translation of this quality, he or she should be a native speaker of the target language. No matter how fluent a translator is in a language, only a native speaker will have the intimate knowledge of the nuances of a language that is required to produce a literary translation. Remember that these translations are much different from a simple word-for-word conversion to a different language. The translator of a literary work needs to fully understand the mindset and cultural background of the target audience. And that kind of intimate knowledge comes only with a native speaker.
Of course, there are other skills and experience you should look for in a literary translator. He or she should have at least a four-year degree from an accredited college or university – a language-based degree if possible. The optimum educational background would be an individual with a master’s degree in translating and/or interpreting. And, naturally, you’ll want a linguist with several years of actual experience as a literary translator, and one who can provide a list of previously completed projects.
We would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to point out what is probably already obvious – these services are costly, and a high quality literary translation will take some time to complete. But in the end, the fees you pay a professional translator will be worth every penny. After all, this individual will be translating your own work for sale in another region of the world. A poor translation could not only mean low sales numbers for that particular work; it could also do permanent damage to your reputation.
If finding this sort of a qualified individual sounds like a daunting task, it is – but only if you attempt to do it on your own. Fortunately, matching your translation needs with the right translator is the primary goal of any reputable translation agency. They will do the vetting for you when it comes to choosing the linguist for your project. You may find that working with the right translator is not only an excellent way to prepare your work for a broader market, but also a rewarding creative collaboration in its own right.