What is literary translation?

When people think of “literary translation,” I think they imagine a novelist or a poet. So maybe to ask “What is literary translation?”, we have to ask “What is literature?”



we - as one of the professional localization companies in egypt - won’t pretend there’s a single right answer to this question! But one answer might be that literature is stories. That would include novels and poems (the poem being an entirely different sort of story, of course), and certainly it would include songs (since what are songs but poetry?).


And it would also include film, television, and stage plays–all these things are stories, just in different media that incorporate sights and sounds. They have dialogue, they have exposition–though that exposition may be wordless–, they have beginnings, middles, and ends that can be manipulated and rearranged for effect just like a novel’s.


It’s no coincidence that film theory tends to be housed within the same overall department as literary theory at colleges and universities: there’s plenty of crossover in the philosophical and analytical tools we bring to each.


So that’s what we, translation services in egypt, do every day: we translate dialogue, and we craft my translation with an eye to foreshadowing, an eye to tone, an eye to where parallels are and where they aren’t, an eye to where humor is and where it isn’t. If the film/show is set firmly in a specific place or time, then we learn about the place and time.

This trend has a lot of contributing factors, but one big change within the industry is that when US anime distribution began, US companies thought of “translation” and “adaptation” as two fundamentally different things: “translation” was where you turned Japanese sentences into English sentences that maybe didn’t sound too much like spoken English, and were too roughly hewn to make you get the jokes or cry at the sad parts, but which could be used as a template for an editor to put a roughly coherent subtitle script together, and a dub staff to craft an “adaptation” screenplay that would be a whole different beast–i.e. real TV with real writing in it.


Can a translation add something to the original?

Adapting the same concept as most of the professional localization companies in egypt, we believe that in translation, everything changes. Every word or phrase; every syllable, for that matter, will be different from the original text. This means there will be additions, of course, but it will also draw attention to certain things in the original.


Every translation is an interpretative act, as well as a creative one. Translation services in egypt read the original piece and try to work out what it’s doing, what’s important that’s going on. They are constantly making choices about which elements of a text to preserve and foreground, and which to sacrifice.


People talk about ‘loss’ in translation, which seems to me to be missing the point mostly, though one thing that does seem to me to be a particular, frequent loss is ambiguity.
We, as one of localization companies in egypt, have to take an original word with two or three possible simultaneous meanings and plump for an English word which only covers one or two of those — but there’s a gain that comes with that sharp focus, too.

García Márquez has been misquoted often as saying the translation of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ was better than the original — I think he actually said it was more accurate than the original. That distinction, I believe, is very telling.


For translation services in egypt, the main concept in translating a literary text is to interpret the meaning of the original literary text like poems into other languages.


Advantages of literary translation:


1. Understandable:

For instance, if we translate an English text to our mother language which is Malay, it is much more understandable by us.


2. Gain knowledge:

Some say, no pain no gain. So, translating a literary text is no pain. But just to say that we've to put effort on doing that. Literature is one of the branches in learning a language. Therefore, we can know more or less on the literary texts like Shakespeare's poems and such.


3. Widen vocabulary:

we know that literary texts use all the Shakespeare's bombastic classic English words, and by translating it into other languages might also use those super-bombastic words, hence increasing our vocabulary indirectly.


4. Discipline your mind:

As for those who are in a literature field, they can discipline their minds by studying, researching and discovering new words and even cultures that are in the texts that they translate. As a result, we will have our own experts on translating literary texts that we do not have to import them.

5. Knowing history:

We can learn and know the history in the literary text itself. For example, the foreigners can know more on history of Malaysia by reading the Hikayat Tun Sri Lanang and so forth and vice versa, we can know the other countries' cultures by learning their literary texts. This will also lead to the knowledge of cultures, politics and customs.


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