3 Reasons Why Literary Translation Is Important: A Guide for Self-Published Authors

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It’s believed that literary translation predates the Bible, meaning humans have been rendering written texts from one language into another for thousands of years. From Mesopotamia and Ancient Greece through the Renaissance and the age of technology, people have been translating literary works to gain a deeper understanding of other cultures, which makes translation an integral part of our development as a species. 

A good story can be understood and enjoyed by people worldwide. Literary translation not only unlocks new reading experiences but also allows writers to build the largest possible audience for their works.

Culture has been the primary beneficiary of literary translation, which promotes a global cultural exchange by transporting ideas, beliefs, and practices across communities, directly influencing globalization. Literature itself has also been regenerated thanks to translation as having new authors and ideas to explore tends to encourage people to read more and discover authors not only from foreign cultures but also from their own. Benefitting individual readers, authors, and society at large, literary translation plays a crucial part in human evolution.

If you’ve been thinking about having your book translated into another language, check out our literary translation services and expand your market beyond the English-speaking world. We work with a multitude of languages and can help get your story into the hands of people who would otherwise never get the chance to read your words. If you don’t see the language you want your story translated into on our list, reach out anyway—we can probably still help you.  

Here are three reasons why literary translation is hugely important. 

1. It aids cultural exchange

Literary translation is different from other types of translation because it focuses on communicating poetic function and creative prose rather than simply offering a basic understanding of what a text is about. Conserving the subtle nuances of a text is much more important in literary translation than in other types of translation as these nuances are part of the art. 

However, it’s not just the poetic aspect—particularly when working with languages from drastically different cultures, literary translators may have to deal with cultural concepts as well. In other words, literary translators must take cultural and historical contexts into account and consider imagery, connotation, and themes, which makes this a highly specialized profession. 

By delving into themes such as the human condition, literary translation helps promote shared values among communities from different backgrounds by exploring emotions, traditions, and philosophies that most people would otherwise be unaware of. It helps readers understand both human traits we all share and unique differences, perspectives, and lifestyles around the world. It helps us understand each other better and focus on our commonalities while respecting our differences, widening the scope of our knowledge about others. It can also motivate people to travel and learn new languages, which inevitably leads to greater open-mindedness and respect for different cultures. 

2. It invigorates language and literature

Not only has literary translation influenced globalization and aided cultural exchange, but it has also helped regenerate and revitalize languages around the world by introducing new words, terms, and ideas from foreign languages, changing the way language itself is used and understood, and generating a deeper understanding of the intricacies of language. 

Literary translation—from poems and novels to movies and video games—is an invaluable tool for invigorating endangered languages. Translating literature and media content into such languages produces more material that speakers and learners can enjoy while also helping instill pride in native speakers by providing a stronger sense of legitimacy.

Literary translation also enriches literature as it can revive the impact of an ancient text and diversify the market, creating room for novelty, experimentation, and the integration of languages, cultures, and creative ideas. 

Additionally, it can lead to the creation of new literature since it can influence and inspire new authors to write their own stories. Exposure to interesting new ideas and literary devices in works from different cultures and time periods can reinvigorate an author’s creativity and help them produce more great work for the world to enjoy.

Sometimes, a book will have more commercial success abroad than in the author’s home country, giving them an opportunity they may have missed if they hadn’t translated their work. This can have a positive effect on literary markets as it encourages emerging authors to translate their books and share them with readers around the world. If a writer unexpectedly builds a fanbase in a different country, they may be able to cater better to that audience in their future works, which can help boost their career.

3. It is an exceptional teaching tool

Literary translation teaches us about history and cultures vastly different from our own and will continue to do so for generations to come. From improving both written and oral communication skills to offering valuable experiences in foreign cultures, languages, and customs, reading books from other times and places is an incredible teaching tool. Even in today’s globalized world, young people should be reading the great literary works produced throughout human history to gain a better understanding of our global and individual identities. None of these invaluable lessons would be possible without skilled literary translators.

Reading improves critical thinking and encourages learning about new places, people, ideas, and events. It also helps us understand others’ points of view by letting us explore their experiences in their own words. Exciting books that feel novel—whether they’re two or 2,000 years old—can also inspire people to start reading or to read more. This is especially important for children, who should develop healthy reading habits early on. Cultivating a love for books from a young age will boost a child’s vocabulary, critical thinking skills, and knowledge of other cultures and experiences.

Literary translation continues to open up the world by creating opportunities to exchange knowledge and learn about other cultures while enriching language and literature. It also offers authors the chance to grow in new markets, expand their fanbase, and grow their income, but it takes a skilled literary translator to successfully render a book from one language into another. It’s not enough to have mastery of two languages—successful literary translation demands extensive expertise not only in the art of translation but also in the literary conventions of both languages. That’s not even taking into account cultural references and wordplay, which can make a literary translation exceedingly complicated.

If you’re ready to join the global literary community, check out our literary translation services and start working with our skilled professionals, who can translate your book into nearly any language! 

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