Book translation is one of the hardest forms of translation. Let’s take a look at the main challenges of book translation and let’s figure out how to acquire a great translation online.

Book Translation: How to do it?


Creating a precise translation is usually the first intuition that a translator has, and rightly so. Suppose we have to translate this fictional passage:

The vampire attacked the explorers, without mercy and with utter determination.

Could we attempt a completely literal precise translation of this passage? Sure, it doesn’t offer much difficulties. If we translated from English into Spanish we would end up with something like this:

El vampiro atacó a los exploradores, sin compasión y con completa determinación.

The passage can be translated literally, without much problems. Perhaps the only tricky word in the English original version is “utter” in that it can be translated into several different synonyms. Perhaps the word “mercy” offers the same challenge. Note that we settled on “completa” and “compasión”, respectively. This is really a very minor challenge though. The literal translation works perfectly well.

Usually, this is what we want to do in book translation: We want to create a completely literal translation first and foremost. Often, however, this is not quite possible. Let’s try to understand this a bit more.


An issue we’ll inevitably encounter when attempting book translation is the issue of naturalness. Let’s try to explain this with a fictional example. Suppose we need to translate this passage from English into Spanish:

“A rolling stone gathers no moss” she said. “It’s better that way.”

This expression carries with it some translation risk. We could attempt to translate it literally into Spanish. We would end up with something like this:

“Una piedra rodante no acumula musgo” dijo ella. “Es mejor así.”

This literal translation could very well work. It simply translates the expression as precisely as possible, stating that a rolling stone gathers no moss, without any explanations or additions. This can work quite well.

There are times, however, when a literal translation of these proverbs or expressions won’t do. As we know, “A rolling stone gathers no moss” means that a person who keeps changing locations will not accumulate wealth or responsibilities. The expression is rather complex, and perhaps we could attempt a translation which strives for naturalness and not literal precision. In other words, we can aspire for meaning, first and foremost:

“Al moverse tanto no se acumulan responsabilidades” dijo ella. “Es mejor así.”

Here, we translated the expression to try to convey the meaning immediately. We basically wrote down: “Moving around so much means you don’t accumulate responsibilities” she said. “It’s better that way”. Here we’re basically attempting to convey the meaning and not create a literal translation. When we talk about ‘naturalness’ we mean precisely that. We’re attempting to cut to the core of the expression and not get lost in literal precision.

Another situation which usually requires striving for naturalness and not literal precision is when we’re trying to create an aesthetically pleasing translation, so to speak. This is often the case in book translation: we’re trying to translate beautifully and not really literally.

Tough Cases

There certainly are tough cases in book translation. Roald Dahl’s writing is a great example of a tough translation scenario. Check out this quote from ‘Matilda’:

“You ignorant little slug!” the Trunchbull bellowed. “You witless weed! Empty-headed hamster! You stupid glob of glue!” 

This little extract offers several challenges. Roald Dahl’s books are very much like that; in fact, there are much more complex extracts and phrases in many of his books. Let’s try to understand this one piece by piece.

First of all, note the challenge of literally translating several words such as “slug” “witless weed” or “empty-headed hamster” as well as “glob of glue”. It’s quite possible that we’d have to stray from literal precision and into a more aesthetic rendition. In fact, we may have to move beyond aesthetics as well. In these cases, we may very well find that these expressions would need to be replaced by other expressions in the target language, which stay true to the meaning but are something different altogether.

What about the name “Trunchbull”? This is a challenge typical of Dahl’s books. This author gave names to characters which, in themselves, were very indicative of the style and attitude of that person.

In fact, students of Dahl’s work, have pointed out that the author may have created as many as 500 new words in his works. Many of these words appeared in ‘The BFG’ as part of the invented language in the book. Most of them defy translation altogether. A translator must work hard here, moving beyond precision and even naturalness into a realm of utter creativity.

Book Translation: Before We Get Going

Book translation is a long and arduous process. This is particularly the case if the book to be translated is a work of literature. In this case, a literal translation will seldom do and a translator must strive to transmit meaning in an aesthetically pleasing way. There are some things which we need to take care of, before setting off on a long translation project though.

Editing and Proofreading

A translator, as we know, takes a text from a source language and into a target language. Converting the text has challenges, as we’ve seen throughout this article. A translator must work hard to make sure that the conversion of the text and the final product is the best possible translation.

This doesn’t tell the whole story though. The source material can have several different issues which make the translation process problematic or even impossible. This is a particularly important consideration in book translations.

For starters, the source material should ideally be proofread before sending it to a translator. This makes the process of translation a lot swifter and guarantees a better result.

Some source materials have tremendous problems we may call ‘structural’, which will impede a proper translation. In this case, we need to make sure that the text works completely in the source language, before we attempt a translation.

Consider the following example of a material in English with severe problems. This sort of text would face a lot of challenges if taken through the process of translation:

“The process of translation for a good translation must involve a large amount of amount of things. First of all, proofreading is key. It is very problematic to have a text with several errors throughout. Moreover, if the text has in a large number of structural problems, editing is a must.”

Evidently, this text is poorly written. If we want to take it through the process of translation, we would probably have to edit it substantially. A translator who receives a text in need of editing must either edit the work themselves, or try to ignore the problems and hope for a decent translation. This is not an acceptable situation.

It’s always better to work from source materials which have been proofread and edited. This makes the job of translation much easier and successful.

A Blueprint for Book Translation

Let’s try to set out a number of principles for book translation, before moving on:

  • The first instinct in a translator should be to go for precision.
  • Often, it’s not possible to do a totally precise translation. There are several reasons for this. A typical reason for a need to stray from literal precision, is simply being understood. There are different things which we should ask ourselves here. Is the intent of the original writer coming through? If the translation, albeit literal, doesn’t convey the meaning of the original writing, we must change it.
  • If there’s a problem with literal precision, then we need to explore other alternatives. The basic guideline here is to try to change as little as possible, for the maximum effect. Here, we must ask ourselves, what is the least amount of change we can do to the phrase or dialogue to make it transmit meaning?
  • Sometimes, in spite of the changes we’re doing to a phrase, it still doesn’t transmit the meaning we need. It’s necessary to use a bit more creativity to achieve that meaning and naturalness. The idea is to look for an equivalent expression, even if it’s different from the original. Transmitting meaning is the key.
  • At any rate, avoiding the translation of the difficult phrase is generally a poor decision. Meaning is the least we can try to translate, even if we’re not being literal.

Book Translation Online: Is it Possible?

Traditionally, acquiring a book translation was a rather convoluted affair. It usually meant choosing a translator locally, sending them a text and hoping the translator did a good job. Nowadays, thanks to technology, it’s perfectly possible to acquire translations online. Bunny Studio is one such possibility.

The Bunny Studio Way

Getting a book translation at Bunny Studio is very simple. This online platform is capable of supplying first rate translations, among a lot of other things. Here are the basic steps to do so:

  • First of all, we need to go to the Bunny Studio website. There, we have to select the ‘Translation’ option and click on it. This takes us to the interface where we can acquire the service.
  • Since acquiring a book translation is an important process, we can do so in other ways. It’s possible to simply contact Bunny Studio using the ‘Chat with Us’ feature. This is a good idea because it allows clients to talk to the Bunny Studio staff. The client can then explain the project and the staff will suggest the best way to proceed.

Get a first-rate Bunny Studio book translation today! Let’s do it!