Translating Your Work

black and white book business close up

One way to potentially expand your audience is to offer your work in more than one language. This is especially true if you have extensive distribution networks in countries and regions where a given foreign language predominates. I made a post on translating some time ago, but the emphasis of this post is how to go about having your own work translated, and what to do once you’ve got it.

The most obvious way to get your book translated is to have it done by a professional. If you can afford it, this is no doubt the best route. However, if you are so inclined, and feel your abilities are up to it, you can also attempt to make your own translations. This undoubtedly costs less than hiring a professional, but it can be infinitely more time-consuming. Therefore, in deciding whether to undertake your translation work, it is important to consider whether it will pay for itself. Of course, if you are doing it primarily for self-gratification or to try and improve your language skills, then such considerations need not stop you. But for most people, time is money, so the prospect of actually selling books after all the effort involved is priority number one.

What do you need to undertake translating? Well, for starters, an intimate knowledge of the target language is essential. The greater your knowledge of its structure and vocabulary, the less time you’ll have to spend looking things up in dictionaries and grammar references, and the less you’ll have to resort to using alternative, potentially clunky sentence constructions when translating more complex sentences. Secondly, unless your vocabulary is incredibly extensive, a very thorough dictionary on the subject is essential. And by this, I mean one that provides not only word-for-word translations, but plenty of phrases and idioms that use the given word so you can tell what the context of a given translation is and whether it matches the context you’re trying to convey.

Finally, you’ll need some way of checking your work once it’s done. You can read it through yourself, of course, but again, unless your knowledge of the language is very strong, you may want to find someone who is a native of that language who can look it over for you, as they will be able to spot and correct flaws that you may never notice. Alternatively, you could try using online translators to take your translated text and see if the English translations they give make sense, but this is more a tool of last resort than a first choice. You could, of course, utilize all these methods if you want to be extra thorough.

Once you have your translation completed, checked, and checked again, then it is time to market it. This can be tricky, especially if your target audience is in a different country. You’ll have to find creative ways to reach them that are efficient, but don’t cost a fortune. The general advice I give in my many posts on marketing still applies here, but you’ll have to tweak and modify it to make sales to your target audience.

So, as you can see, translating your own work is far more than just grabbing a dictionary and going to work. It requires skills and knowledge far beyond what a mere dictionary–even a very thorough Oxford dictionary–can provide. However, for those willing to invest the time and trouble, it can be a very fun and rewarding endeavor as well.

Published by J. S. Allen

J. S. Allen is a writer, linguist, historian, and nature-lover from Kansas City, Missouri. He is the author of the young adult series Sauragia and Knights of Aralia, as well as the 'Woodland Tales' anthology for children. Several of his shorter works have also appeared in various print and online periodicals over the years. In between writing and publishing, he likes to draw, spend long hours outdoors, and read. His favorite authors include M. I. McAllister, Brian Jacques, and Alexandre Dumas.

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