How to Read a Translation

1. Don’t just read for meaning, but for language too; appreciate the formal features of the translation.

2. Don’t expect translations to be written only in the current standard dialect; be open to linguistic variations.

3. Don’t overlook connotations and cultural references; read them as another, pertinent layer of significance.

4. Don’t skip an introductory essay written by a translator; read it first, as a statement of the interpretation that guides the translation and contributes to what is unique about it.

5. Don’t take one translation as representative of an entire foreign literature; compare it to translations of other works from the same language.

from Lawrence Venuti’s article of the same title

I suppose any how-to is debatable when it comes to the arts, and one can argue any one of these points. Overall, I really like this essay (read it, in its entirely, for sure), but I don’t know, I’d read an introductory essay last. What about you?


AM