Today is “guest post exchange day” on the Wordcount Blogathon, so I am pleased to welcome translator Aleksandra Milcic Radovanovic and her thoughts on the differences between translating for children and for adults. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear from you.
Meanwhile, you can find a post from me over at her blog: linguistblog.com
There are maybe topics that can be discussed about literary translation, but they are rarely related to translation of children’s literature. If we accept the fact that children’s literature is a separate genre in its own right, than we must ask whether translation problems in texts written for kids and adults are the same and, if they’re not, in which respects they differ.
During the last few years, translators have seemed to agree that the translation problems in texts for adults and for children are, essentially, the same. In translation theory, they can be described using the same concepts and can be arranged in the same groups. However, some important features of children’s literature must not be ignored. First, the communicative nature of this literary genre requires an imaginative and creative translator who is always aware how special the audience is. Something else is also important: a translator of children’s literature must overcome concepts of disculturality and conculturality. Unlike translators of literature for adults, translators of children’s literature must constantly consider how far their readers can digest the experience of foreign cultures and other unknown facts. This struggle between keeping most of the original sense and regard for the intended readers is a fundamental concern and one of the greatest obstacles in creating high quality translation. In order to produce a final translation of a children’s book that will serve its purpose, translators must define characteristic of their target audience: their knowledge, level of experience, stage of emotional development, ability to adapt and learn new things. The translator’s role is to stay faithful to the original work, but also to incorporate additional adjustments while keeping the writer’s form and idea.
Most children’s literature translators stress that they are allowed (and sometimes even expected) to recreate the original text so it can easily fit in with the literary requirements of the readers’ country. That means that it’s the translator’s job to deliver highly acceptable translations, because children will not tolerate as much strange and unknown facts as adults. Despite the fact that being able to alter a text makes the translation of a children’s book look simple, it is not an easy job. We must not forget the demands made by intermediary groups, such as parents or publishers. Of course, the translator must respect the standards of translation theory, linguistic rules, follow the main story line correctly and make sure that everything that was said was sufficiently precise and to the point because of children’s shorter concentration span.
In translation of adult literature, the translator can play with words and expressions, looking for the best way to convey the original message. In translation of children’s literature, translators must not be too free as they must keep the original tone and writer’s intention. Moreover, we must remember that children’s literature translators cannot follow Peter Pan’s advice and just think lovely wonderful thoughts that can lift them up in the air helping them to choose the best possible translation equivalents to describe Neverland.
Aleksandra Milcic Radovanovic lives in Belgrade, Serbia. She has a BA in South Slavic languages and literature and an MA in Translation. She is currently working on her PhD thesis in Forensic Linguistics. She also works as an English to Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian freelance translator specialized in technical and medical translation. You can find her at her blog (linguistblog.com) and on Twitter as @_AleksM.