What Does a Career In Literary Translation Look Like?

Do you have a passion for languages and a way with words? Are you someone who enjoys working on long and challenging projects? If so, a career in literary translation could be for you.

Translated literature is a small but growing market. In fact, in the UK it grew by as much as 5.5% in recent years. And the US is expected to follow suit.

Literary translation benefits so many, opening up cultural dialogues and exposing people to new perspectives. If you’re interested in becoming a literary translator this guide is for you. Read on for everything you need to know.

What Does a Translator Do?

A translator’s job is to convert the written word from one language to another. The job requires having a confident grip on at least two different languages and a good sense of what sounds good in both.

This is something that can be difficult to cultivate. A Literary translator also needs to be able to keep the tone and the style of the original writer in mind which adds another layer of complexity to the puzzle.

How to Become a Literary Translator

As we’ve mentioned the first thing you’ll need to do to become a literary translator will be to master a second language. Usually, a translator will have studied a foreign language in college and may have taken some literary classes as well. Although a Bachelor’s Degree is not technically required it will be expected from many employers.

The literary translation market can be competitive so it’s important to be proactive and stay consistent. The most difficult part can be getting your foot in the door. 

This is why it can be a good idea to seek out internships in your area of interest. For more on practical steps to becoming a translator see here.

Life as a Literary Translator

Usually, literary translators will get work via word of mouth. If you do well on one project you’re likely to be recommended for another until you’ve built up a good reputation for yourself. You’ll often work on one long-form project (a novel for example) at a time and this can take months of work to finish.

Because you’ll be working from home on your own you’ll need to have a certain level of discipline and self-motivation. It can be a solitary life but many people prefer to work this way and the job is a satisfying one.

Could a Career in Literary Translation Be For You?

We hope this article has painted an accurate and exciting picture of what a career in literary translation looks like. It’s an often challenging but creative, stimulating, and rewarding job.

If you’ve been inspired to pursue this dynamic career you’re probably in need of some more sage career advice. Check out the rest of our site now for articles on this and many other topics.

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