Literary & Academic Translating Jobs
Both literary and academic translators are specialists in their genres or fields. Many hold graduate degrees in literature, linguistics, or an academic field related to the material they translate (physics, anthropology, etc.).
Because the style and concepts found in both literature and academic writing are typically quite sophisticated, it is important that the translator be an excellent writer in his or her own right.
Literary translators convert written literature (novels, poetry, essays, etc.) from one language to another. They may translate any number of documents, including journal articles, books, poetry, and short stories. Often times, it is the job of the literary translator to be creative as well in order to produce a text in the target language that faithfully conveys the tone and voice of the original (source) text. Therefore, when confronted with colloquialisms or metaphors, the literary translator must find an appropriate substitute in the target language.
Normally, literary translators work very closely with the author of the source text to make sure they are capturing the style and literary nuances as accurately as possible. Interestingly, many multilingual authors even prefer a literary translator to convert their work, since this is a very special skill set that many authors do not even possess. After an author has worked once with a literary translator and the collaboration has been successful, it would be rare that the author would ever have anyone else translate his or her work.
There are many examples of literary translators working in pairs to complete a longer manuscript. This could be done in a variety of ways – each translator could take one half of the manuscript, translate it individually and then come back together to smooth out transitions, or one translator could simply act as a “second pair of eyes” on the translated text, checking for consistency, clarity, authenticity and tone. Typically, literary translators only specialize in one or two genres (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, etc.). Most literary translators translate into their native language. Interpreters are often used in interviews or conferences with famous authors.
Academic translation usually involves the translation of academic articles, abstracts, essays, and manuscripts. Many academic writers work exclusively with one or two translators throughout their career, since the translator becomes very comfortable with and efficient at translating that writer’s particular style. While academic translators don’t need to hold a degree specifically in the field in which they are translating, some experience is necessary. It is more important for the translator to be a strong academic writer in the target language and to be familiar with the lexicon and general frameworks (theoretical, argumentative, etc.) of the field. Most academic translators translate into their native language. Interpreters are used in academic interviews or at conferences.
“I really enjoy translating academic articles. Another interesting piece I did was a script for a docudrama on Internet romance,” says Yohanna Valdez, a French translator.
“I interpreted an interview with William Kennedy, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book Ironweed, for one of Spain’s leading newspapers.
To be honest, I find almost every translating job to be interesting because I learn something new with each project,” says Janine Libbey, who does Spanish translations.
“I’ve done quite a bit of academic translation- manuscripts, articles, abstracts, etc. Sometimes scholars of literature will contact me to translate previously untranslated texts (written by someone else) so that they can use this information in their research. They most interesting project like this I have done was a yearlong project during which I translated articles from 1800s Parisian arts journals from French to English for an art history scholar,” says Jen Westmoreland Bouchard, who does French translation and interpreting.