by Maria Rotger


Publishing and Literary Translation

If you’ve written a literary work and are thinking of having it translated, your best bet is to liaise with a professional translation team like SIGNEWORDS, which can provide publishing and literary translation services bringing the necessary linguistic and artistic capabilities to let your work reach a broader demographic.

Academic translation service

the art of publishing and literary translation.

What are the literature effects?

Literature warrants transmission of a moral values system, increases the perspective of acknowledge of our surroundings, preserves the historical memories – individual and collective, allows us to exchange ideas and experiences, develops an aesthetic sense, stimulates our skills and imagination, and constitutes an inexhaustible source of entertainment.

time changes and so does publishing and literary translation

Within this fluid and elusive culture, sometimes, there are new edition prospects for the original texts:

  • Despite the increase in the audiovisual world, writing has not disappeared.
  • Quite the contrary! It has consolidated, in bookstores, in libraries, on the Internet.
  • Though the formats have evolved, and also the different ways of:
    • presenting,
    • promoting,
    • and distributing it.

In this regard, we are witnessing the second great modern revolution known in the editorial market after the invention of printing: the digital book or eBook that sprinkles the concept of reading and drags it towards new horizons and above.

Translation agency

Publishing and literary translation as art and cultural translation

At SIGNEWORDS, we know how to read these changes and movements.

We are aware of the challenges that we’ll have to face:

  • demand for all these changes
  • proliferation of books of all kinds
  • growing demand for literary text translation.

For this reason, and acquainted with the transformations that currently affect the publishing world, we work with any authors or publishing companies interested in translating their manuscripts or works already published in other languages.

The job we undertake guarantees strict control and monitoring, ensuring maximum reliability on the translation jobs entrusted to our team.

Literary translation for authors and publishers

Literature, which encompasses all sorts of creative writing, including novels, poetry, stage plays, and film scripts, is considered one of the most challenging kinds of texts to translate.

The reason is that it heavily relies upon:

  • abstract language,
  • culturally-dependent concepts, and
  • plays carefully crafted on words.

Literature engages a variety of devices designed to immerse the reader in an entirely different world.

Literary translation is an art form in its own right:

  1. The translator acts primarily as a ghostwriter, aiming to capture the full essence of the source text and convey it in a different language.
  2. This activity often requires a high degree of creativity and flexibility, in addition to a strong command of both the source and target languages.

Here, we’ll discuss the various challenges that are unique to literary translation.

Literary translation services

Cultural challenges in literary translation

One of the most challenging aspects of literary translation is the double-layered cultural barrier that is often present:

  1. The story crafted in the original text is set in a place and time, foreign to the target audience, and sometimes to the translators themselves.
  2. Translators must fully understand the culture transmitted in the original piece, as well as the target culture, to tell the story in a foreign language effectively.

Take the example of the literary classic Pride and Prejudice, which Jane Austen set in England in the 1800s.

To translate this novel into Japanese for a modern audience, for instance, translators have huge cultural barriers to jump over:

  1. They first need to fully absorb the historical context of the story.
  2. And understand how the author’s stylistic choices make absolute statements regarding British society in the early 19th century.
  3. Even though the author wrote the novel in English, it can be difficult even for modern-day English speakers to fully grasp the cultural references made due to the separation in time.
  4. And as if that weren’t enough, the translator then has to figure out how to extract the essence of that time and place and convey it clearly to a drastically different audience.

Which requires in-depth knowledge of how the target culture thinks and behaves.

If the novel were to be translated literally, so much would be lost on a modern-day Japanese demographic.

✓ The translator has to find a delicate balance between:

  • preserving the integrity of the piece
  • and adapting it to a particular culture.

In some novels, characters sometimes speak in a specific dialect or accent for various purposes.

The standard language is often modified to transmit such an accent, which poses a challenge for the translator.

→ In To Kill a Mockingbird, for example, some characters express themselves with a characteristically southern American accent, leaving the final «g» off of words like «telling.»

How do you convey this pattern of speech in an entirely different language?

  1. This literary device is particularly important in this novel, as it marks socio-cultural differences between certain characters, so leaving it out would destroy a critical nuance of the story.
  2. The translator would have to evaluate whether there are similar dialects or accents in the target language and culture,

that would convey a similar statement regarding socio-cultural status in that context and modify the dialogue’s spelling to reflect those differences.

The same sort of elements would then have to be conveyed in the speech during the performance in a stage play or film script, for example, rather than a novel.

Idioms also pose a significant challenge, as they are culturally dependent expressions, often with no close equivalent in the target language.

Let’s say a translator is trying to translate the idiom «to hear something through the grapevine.»

A literal translation would make no sense to the target audience; it would completely lose its meaning and confuse the reader.

Merely extracting the meaning of the phrase and translating it as «to find something out through gossip» makes the phrase lose its flavor, so, ideally, the translator would have to find a similar idiom in the target language to replace it, keeping in mind that, even within the same country, different regions sometimes use different expressions.

It all comes down to knowing the target audience and evaluating what would make sense to them.

If the translators can’t find any equivalent idiom, they might have to create a metaphor to convey the meaning and flair of the original phrase.

Poetry is quite possibly the most challenging type of literature to translate

  • Due to its reliance on:
    • rhyme
    • alliteration
    • meter
    • the overall sound of the language
  • Similar to translating song lyrics, translating a poem requires preserving the:
    • general rhythm
    • flow of the words.
  • When the poet keeps phrases staccato, for example:
    • the translator should aim for the same effect in the target language,
    • while maintaining the meaning of the original message.
  • And if the poet incorporates alliteration, the translator also must do it. Sometimes, we have to make concessions in either style or semantics to achieve an adequate translation.
  • There are many aesthetic elements that the translator keeps in mind, including the meaning, to make the translation shine as brightly as the original text.
Gastronomic translation

Linguistic challenges in publishing and literary translation

Other scenarios that we could find:

  • translations that are more language-dependent
  • rather than culture-dependent, having to do more with the morphological characteristics of the language itself.

Some words are simply untranslatable in another language.

Take the Welsh term «hiraeth,» for example, which loosely refers to the concept of longing for home:

  • The Welsh, however, argues that we can’t translate its full, nuanced meaning.
  • It encompasses not only homesickness but bittersweetly missing a person, time, or place while being grateful for its existence.

How can terms like this be translated succinctly with their full essence when there is no direct translation?

This situation is where the translator needs to find some creative solutions.

Let’s take the example of the term “you” in various languages such as:

  • Spanish
  • French
  • Italian

It takes on both an informal and a formal variation with corresponding verb conjugations.

 A French novel that uses:

  • both «Vous» (formal)
  • and «tu» (informal)


  • illustrate differences in relationships between characters and
  • create different atmospheres in various situations, might lose this element if a translator does not skillfully translate this to, for example, English.

Since English does not make this distinction between the formal and informal «you,» the translator may have to find creative ways to mark that distinction with other techniques, perhaps having a character refer to an authority figure as «Sir.»

It’s a matter of extracting the tone and being able to preserve that in the target language, sometimes through different literary means.

To fulfill a literary translation with a seasoned translator—we've got you covered.