Ever thought about having your books translated into a foreign language to open up a whole new market? Laura Bailo walks us through the process from the perspective of a translator.
When I learned The Pink Heart Society was doing a series of articles about books in “foreign” languages (meaning languages other than English) I was super excited! I have just started working as a Spanish translator, so it’s like this article was created for me (I know it wasn’t, but we all have all fantasies, okay?)
I found translation quite by chance. I’m a Spanish author writing in English, and members of my family were always asking when they’d be able to read my books in Spanish. I’ll admit I was curious, but I didn’t think translation would be “my thing”. However, I started looking at online courses, trying to find something that would help me dip my toes in that world.
A translator friend recommended a school which offered courses both in person and online, and I found a literary translation course when looking at their catalogue that really caught my attention. So I enrolled. And guess what? I loved it! More than that, I felt so passionate about it that, as soon as I’d finished it, I enrolled in their professional English to Spanish translation course.
So now here I am, a fully qualified Spanish translator, and I am lucky enough to have two publishers working with me to make some of their books available in Spanish. Good LGBTQIA+ rep means a lot to me, so working with JMS Books and Nine Star Press to bring some of those books to Spanish readers is a dream come true.
Ever wondered how a translator works? Then I will give you a quick explanation of what I do with each book I translate...
I work on each book a minimum of three times:
First, I work on the translation itself. This is not too different from writing a first draft. I put the Spanish words down, without fixating over things I’m not really sure how to translate or words I don’t know. Then I will look those up (online dictionaries are a wonderful thing) but I’ll try not to spend three hours on a single sentence. The key word being “try”, because there are times I will do that anyway. Languages are weird, and I love them.
Once the first translation is done, it will look a bit messy, but my head will be swimming with the English and Spanish words from the translation, so I will let it rest for a few days before I come back to it.
The second round is usually the hardest for me, mostly because it requires keeping my focus on both the English and the Spanish versions, and I frequently end up with a headache if I push too hard, too quickly. I compare the English version with the Spanish one I hammered down on my keyboard the first time. I then look at whatever doubts I had, correct things, and find out if I’ve skipped any paragraphs (which has happened). So in this round what I'm doing is tightening up the previous translation and adjusting it better to the text. After that round, you can still tell the resulting book isn’t a Spanish book. Some sentences won’t flow naturally and some word choices will be awkward. So, after letting it rest again for one or two days, I begin working on the third round, in which I will look only at the Spanish text.
In the third round, I edit the Spanish version of the book and make it more Spanish. And I need to get to, and through, this stage without changing the author’s voice. I really like this part, re-reading the whole book from start to finish, moving sentences and punctuation around, and solving any awkward word choices or expressions which have made it into the translation so it reads smoothly. If there was an idiom in the original and I couldn’t think of an equivalent earlier, this is when I go looking for it. And I get lost in my own language, which I love!
Basically, it’s all about balance and finding a rhythm which sounds natural in Spanish while retaining the author’s voice. If I take out an idiom somewhere because it doesn’t make sense when translated, I can add another one that does. If a joke doesn’t make sense, I can change it, find one that does, or delete it and add a different one later. There are instances when a whole conversation won’t translate and I need to play with my own language to get around it.
For example, Spy Stuff, the first book I translated, had a conversation where a four year old was telling one of the main characters he wasn’t ginger because ginger biscuits where ginger and his hair didn’t look like a ginger biscuit. Unfortunately, the Spanish words for ginger, as in hair, and ginger, as in ginger biscuits, are wildly different, so I had to change the conversation completely, without changing the child’s indignation. I like to think I did that. At least, no one has ever complained about it.
After all of that, the book is almost ready to be published!
There’ll be some rounds of proofreading, hopefully with more eyes than just mine looking at it. As I said, I’m lucky enough to work with two publishers, so I don’t have to do anything when it comes to formatting. I distribute ARCs, though, since I have a list of 55 Spanish speaking reviewers who are interested in LGBTQIA+ rep, and they are all amazing, each and every one of them.
I hope I’ve given you an idea of what a translator does!
You can ask any other questions you might have about translating books and find out more about Laura and Salvatierra Translations on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And you can speak to her in Spanish at the Salvatierra Twitter account, too!
Have you had books translated into other languages? If so, what was your favorite/most popular? If English is your second language have you ever considered translating books? Let us know in the comments and on the social media discussion of this article using #GoingGlobal