The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2022 - 23

Quotations and Idioms
Many authors work with
quotations at the beginning of
a chapter or use them to break
up a chapter into segments.
The quotations can be from
poets or writers, philosophers,
famous people, or anonymous
sources. Keeping the plot
and readership in mind,
we must evaluate the
following options:
y Leave the quotation in the
source language.
y Research and find a
generally accepted
translation in the target
language.
y Replace the quotation with
an equivalent found in
the respective literature
or regional culture of
that time, or else go
ahead and translate the
original quotation.
The decision here becomes
clearer depending on the
established relationship
between the source and
target languages and whether
the author is widely known. A
search of reference material
or an online search might
yield more than enough
acceptable translations. This
makes it critical to choose
the most reliable source,
which is easier said than
done. If a faithful translation
doesn't exist, then you must
take on the challenge of
translating it yourself.
Idioms and sayings
are even more specific
than quotations. These
expressions reflect behaviors,
traditions, and customs of
a culture or group, which
can be extremely difficult to
translate. For some language
pairs, a decent number
of good translations are
available, but only for some.
Other languages will have
no equivalents for particular
expressions. For example,
how could someone from a
country where baseball is not
a sport intuit the meaning
of " in the same ballpark " or
" knock it out of the park " ? In
such cases, it might be best
to find an equivalent sport
familiar to that culture to
provide the reader with the
same reading experience.
Character Voices
To make the voice of a
character sound unique or
more authentic, authors
let them speak with an
accent, dialect, or distinct
tone. Authors also use
specific sentence structures
or vocabulary that's
characteristic of the country
or region where the narrative
takes place. But how can
you create the same effect
in your translation? The
most obvious way to make
an utterance sound foreign
What makes
literary
translation
challenging
is also what
makes it
interesting.
Figure 1: Though subject to overlap between categories, this model illustrates the broad spectrum literary translators must operate within.
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