Literary vs Technical Translation – 5 major differences

  1. In literary translation you have fewer unknown words but spend more time deciding which word better conveys the original’s tone.    
  2. untranslatable wordsIn literary translation you get paid less for translating more than simple meaning. translation

  3. In technical translation you have to be highly specialized in the field you are translating (eg. Medicine, Finance, EU terminology etc) while in literature you might encounter many different fields and discourses in the same book (eg. an American detective, a petty criminal from Yorkshire and a farmer from Ukraine walk into a bar). images (5)
  4. In literary translation you risk twisting the original’s meaning  while in technical translation you risk mechanical accidents (washing machine instructions), and even diplomatic episodes (politics and newspaper articles). Horizon_specialization
  5. In literary translation you have to combine content and style (tone, form, alliterations, assonance and more), while in technical translation content is king.

content is king

Βoth are equally challenging and demanding and it depends on what you like most  really: being artsy and creative but having everyone say “why did you translate x as y” all the time or being accurate and strict with your words even if they sometimes don’t “sound very nice” in your language…

I’m all for Literary Translation, even though I sometimes envy Technical Translation for its accuracy and straightforward-ness 🙂 What about you?



10 thoughts on “Literary vs Technical Translation – 5 major differences

  1. Drem says:

    As a trained historian that has to scour to find “the best” translation of a given work, I’d say technical with footnotes to further explain in laymen’s terms. Now that I’m curating, same deal. And when I was in journalism, same thing. I didn’t want anyone to get confused.

    But, when it comes to fiction I like it more casual so you can feel the work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • metaphrasi says:

      Yes, you are right! In technical translation footnotes and translator’s or editor’s notes are definitely a must! In fiction, though, I’m not sure. Maybe one in every few pages is alright, if it is absolutely necessary. I prefer footnotes to endnotes, though, I very rarely read endnotes 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  2. MichaelK says:

    As an amateur translator (I contribute to various software translations) I have to go with technical but I as one of my favourite subjects is history, I also think that technical is the most appropriate approach. There are a couple of history books I’d love to translate!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. metaphrasi says:

    History books can be very tricky because even a seemingly simple word choice might have political meaning or imply favoritism against a party/country etc. And I can’t imagine the research it would take!

    And what about translating historical fiction? Would you use footnotes on that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • MichaelK says:

      Now, that’s an interesting question. I think it would depend on my (the publisher’s actually) target audience. If one tries to reach a broader audience then footnotes would be necessary, at least for facts that are not common knowledge.

      Liked by 1 person

      • metaphrasi says:

        that’s true! And the difference between the 2 cultures I’d say – some references might be known in the source language/culture and completely foreign to the target-language or some others might be common knowledge 🙂 All these translation dilemmas have some many parameters, nothing is ever black and white…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sofia Kioroglou says:

    I love technical translation probably because as a translator I have almost always been confronted with technical texts. However,I have always admired the work of translators of literary texts. Even so, as you very accurately put it, when you translate literary texts, you are open to criticism for your word and stylistic choices. Love your post, Fotini!Be blessed!

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s