Five Tips on Translating Poetry

Five Tips on Translating Poetry

Perhaps one of the most difficult forms of writing to translate is poetry because not only do you have to retain the meaning of the verse, but also its lyrical nature. If you’ve landed a job translating poetry, however, here are five tips.

1- Read It Over and Over

My first tip for translating poetry is to read it as many times as you possibly can before you begin the translation. You must known the poem backwards and forwards, and not just the words themselves. Get a feel for the cadence, the beat and the lyrical quality of the verse. If it’s a long poem, look for repetition, alliteration and all other methods of poetry writing that might help you in your translation.

It is also a good idea to read the poem aloud before translating it. Hearing a poem is much different from simply reading it and you will hear aspects of the words that escaped you upon first glance.

2- Meet the Poet

If at all possible, meet the poet before you begin translating his poem. This will help you gain insight into the meaning and shape of the poem, which will be infinitely helpful upon translation. Ask about what he or she was thinking and feeling during the composition and ask about any allusions or references that might be difficult to translate.

3- Use Creative License

While your goal should be to keep the essential meaning when translating poetry, this is sometimes next to impossible. Use creative license to make the closest translation while still retaining the cadence of the poem. You’ll want the poem to be pleasant to the ear and enjoyable for people to read. Even if you manage to accomplish a direct translation, it won’t matter much if the poem sounds like garbage.

4- Put in the Footwork

If you spend only ten minutes translating poetry — even if it’s just a simple haiku — you should know that you didn’t do the poem justice. Translating poetry takes quite some time because you’ll need to rework it over and over until it’s right. You can use language dictionaries and translating computer software, but in the end it comes down to how well you can piece words together and still bring out the creative allure of the original poem.

5- Let it Sit

When you finish translating poetry, let it sit for about a week before you consider it a finished project. After reading a poem over and over again — whether in your own language or another — the entire manuscript begins to sound senseless. Giving yourself a break from the poem will allow you to judge it again later with a fresh pair of eyes and an objective point of view. You may also use a translator so you can effectively translate the language to your own preference. If you check muama enence review, you will see a lot of positive feedback.

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