Book Translator: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 17, 2019

Book translators need to be fluent in at least two languages and have cultural knowledge and awareness so that they can effectively translate text from one language to another. Book translators are usually required to have a bachelor's degree, although the most critical consideration of employers is often translating experience.

Essential Information

Book translators convert books written in one language into another. In addition to being fluent in at least two languages, book translators are also familiar with the cultures of which these languages are part. Most book translators don't have an office they report to on a regular basis and are free to work wherever they choose. Assignments are generally received and sent digitally, making a computer a necessity for most book translators.

Required Education Bachelor's degree (varies by employer)
Required Skills Fluent in two languages; vast cultural knowledge; book translation experience
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 19% (for all interpreters and translators)*
Median Salary (2018) $49,930 annually (for all interpreters and translators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Book Translator Job Description

Book translators convert books written in one language into another. More than simply turning the words from one language into another, book translators must imitate the voice, style, syntax, idioms, meaning and other literary characteristics contained in the original book.

Book Translator Job Duties

Many book translators choose novels they admire to translate. Therefore, they must develop a knack for choosing exceptional novels and authors that publishers will want to publish. Book translators usually send out queries that include a sample of the translated text to demonstrate their skills. Networking with publishing professionals is sometimes part of the book translator's job in order to build up a reputation and acquire more jobs.

Book translators are constantly sharpening their writing and translating skills by practicing translation using various literary works. When translating a book, book translators may read through the text several times to ensure they grasp the book's concept, plot and theme, identify and preserve the author's voice, ponder any problematical translation areas and solutions and ensure complete accuracy. They may work directly with the book's author, if possible.

Translation references such as foreign language dictionaries, lexicons, encyclopedias, and digital vocabulary banks are part of the book translator's toolbox. These resources are especially useful during the multiple revisions that book translators perform to ensure absolute accuracy. To make future translations easier, book translators may compile lists of common terminology, colloquialisms and other useful information.

Book translators continually learn about the cultural affairs of the people speaking the languages from which they translate. In addition to staying up-to-date on the countries' current events, book translators stay abreast on which new books are being published and are constantly reading books from native authors in countries where the translated language is spoken.

In order to obtain familiarity with the society where each language is spoken, book translators may engross themselves in the culture by traveling to the country, reading foreign newspapers and magazines, partaking in daily life activities, watching foreign films and listening to foreign music.

Book Translator Requirements

Book translators must speak at least two languages fluently and have a comprehensive understanding of the cultures where each language is used. Culture includes the history, political affairs, literature, religion, art and everyday life.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that education requirements vary by employer, and experience is the most important thing for book translators. The BLS suggested that book translators start by volunteering or performing informal translation work.

According to the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), starting a literary translating career with a book translation is rare. Translating shorter pieces, including short stories and poems, is a good way to build up a portfolio and establish a reputation for making good decisions about which novels to translate.

Many book translators gain translation education by completing a translation degree program. Undergraduate degree programs in comparative literature are available, but graduate degrees may focus more specifically on literary translation.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed an annual median salary of $49,930 for interpreters and translators in general in 2018. The BLS also projected much faster than average job growth of 19% for these professionals from 2018-2028.

Book translators take text written in one language and translate it into another language. They need to be familiar with social customs and the culture so that they can appropriately convey the correct context. They may work with the book's author in order to ensure accuracy of the translation and that they retain the author's voice in the work.

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