Challenges faced during Literary Translation

Elucidating the concept of Literary Translation

The process of translating prose from one language to another is fundamentally describe as literary translation. “Prose” is not your standard formal way of writing. Rather it is composed of straightforward writing methodology that you often see in the form of books, novels, and poems, etc. Literary translation services are responsible for providing accurate translations of prose.

The Significance of Literary Translation

Some of the world’s most renowned and read books attained their popular status due to the fact that they were translate into native languages for different audiences.  Authors like Rumi and Paulo Coehlo did not become famous overnight. Rather, it was a slow and rigorous process of translations, that enable their books to be read in every nook and corner of the world.

Moreover, classical tales, philosophy, political science, history, and English literature have all witnessed the significance of translation. Literary translation does not restrict itself to social sciences. Contemporary translation has opened a new pathway for people to immerse themselves and understand the different world cultures.

Challenges Faced During Literary Translation

Progress can be achieved by overcoming challenges. Similarly, literary translation services have to overcome a lot of challenges to produce quality-based translated documents.

Let’s discuss some of the most common challenges;

  • Maintaining Originality of the Tone 
  • Literary Translation is a Different Ballgame

Technical translation often demands precision and accuracy. Whereas, localization begs for complete adaptation of content for the targeted locale. But when we talk about literary translation, it’s a completely different ballgame. 

  • Conveying Author’s Uniqueness

    A quality translated book or novel maintains the original expression of the author. On top of that, every writer’s distinctive approach to explaining a concept or ideology has to be universal in every translated product. Hence, English translation services ensure that every book that is to be translate in English or from English chooses the most accurate and precise words.

  • Choice of Words

 This fundamentally implies the choice of words. They should neither be overemphasize nor should be too literal. In other words, they should be flawless. Because only then the reader would be able to summon the same sentiment of the original text. 

  • Cultural Oriented Expressions
  • Catering to the Needs of the Audience

If a book is specifically translate into a language,  it implies that it will cater to a specific region or segment of the society. This makes the job of the literary translation services even more challenging. Now, they not only have to cater to the needs of the market, but also have to sustain the originality of the text.

Finding the appropriate cultural phrases is imperative. Prose will not make sense to the audience if they carry alien concepts and mannerisms. 

  • Tongue Twisters and Play-on-words

Literary translation brings with it many challenges. One of the most common ones is dealing with tongue twisters or Wordplay present in the text. The notion that it takes up a lot of time and effort is not at all an exaggeration. 

  • Explanation via Example

For instance, a very common tongue twister in the English language is, “Shelly sells seashells at the seashore”. Now the translator has to substitute each and every word with its exact replacement from the native language. If the exact words are not making sense, he has to be careful in choosing the phrases that can covey the intended meanings of the tongue twisters. 

  • Dialect
  • Finding Appropriate Phrases

Literary translation projects often demand translators to find the most appropriate phrases for dialects and slang used in texts. This is one of the hardest challenges for professional translators. It almost seems impossible to maintain the same quirkiness and intended meaning of slang, while completely changing its language of origin.

  • Translation Culture through Dialects

Every dialect and slang is unique vis-a-vis characteristics. The gradual evolution of the language takes place in every culture. And it wouldn’t be too farfetched to proclaim that traditional and cultural nuances have a lot to do with the dialect and slang of the language. So you are not actually translating the words, rather the cultural nuance and intricacies. 

  • Knowledge and Experience
  • In depth Knowledge of Literature

It’s very important that the person translating the book has the required expertise and experience in the field of literary translations. If he is unable to grasp the intended meanings, understand the dialects and slangs, deal with the tongue twisters, then the purpose of translation itself gets defeat. 

  • Being Bilingual is Overrated

Another important factor that needs to be discussed here is that being bilingual does not guarantee a solid end product. It is good that the translator is native, but he should only be judged on his writing skills. And his ability to convey the message effectively, with keeping all the intended meanings and cultural intricacies and nuances intact. 

Hence, English translation services always tend to acquire those translators that have the expertise plus solid experience, specifically in literary translation.


The globalized world has emboldened the significance of literary translation. Literature plays a big role in the progress of nations. Moreover, it tends to diminish territorial boundaries. And brings in people from around the world vis-a-vis vulture and traditions.

Philosophers say that ideas can change the world. But first, it’s important to understand an idea. The regions where the ideology originated might not face difficulty in understanding the concept. However, if the message is to be spread across the world nations, translation is imperative. Therefore, literary translation firms are need more than ever.  Read More

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