My Relationship with Translated Books

SPARKLING LETTERS BOOK BLOG_ MY RELATIONSHIP WITH TRANSLATED BOOKS

Hello everyone! ♥

Welcome to my first actual discussion post in a while 😀 I have to admit, coming up with discussion topics isn’t as easy when you’re currently not reading much, so this one is something I took from my list of post ideas I composed last year. Most of my ideas are no longer relevant, but a few surprisingly still are.

As you could guess from the title, today I’ll be talking about translated books and my relationship with them. I love it, hate it, can’t live without it, yet don’t wanna live with it anymore. Sounds confusing? I’ll explain soon 🙈 a little background : I live in Indonesia and my native language is Bahasa. I’ve learned English ever since I was a toddler, but I didn’t start reading books in English until I was a late teenager.

Disclaimer : in this post I’ll only be talking about books translated from English to your native language, not from foreign language to English. 

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When I first started reading, I read local books. And comics. I love them, but soon I was running out of things to read, so I started to branch out and read translated books. My first book was Harry Potter (surprised, surprised). I admit, I LOVED translated books. It opened so many doors for me. I mean, if I only read local books, I wouldn’t be the reader I am today.

A few years later, I started to get curious and I wanted to read English books in their original language. Funny thing was, there was this cheap books sales selling English books so I thought, this is perfect coincidence! But you know what I bought? I bought… Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare… Idk, Shakespeare was a big name and I thought I was gonna start big, but it was freakin classic! I didn’t even like reading classics in my own language, let alone in English ðŸ˜‚ one page in and I already leafed through my Oxford dictionary a few times.

Long story short, I gave up.

It was in 2013 when I eventually read an English book—from end to end. I was following Divergent series and when Allegiant came out, I was so impatient I couldn’t wait for the translated version to come out!! So I bought the original version and surprisingly, I enjoyed it. For sure I didn’t completely understand every words, but I understand enough to get by. It opened even more doors for me, because now I get to read more : books that the translation version haven’t come out and books that didn’t get translated, among others. 

My English gets better and better each day and it becomes a habit for me to buy and read books in English. I befriend bloggers from all over the world who also read English on daily basis. It’s the new normal. Until I met people in real life who “mock” my choice.

I met a few coworkers who also love to read. We’d talk about books we both love and own and when they asked for recommendations, I gave them a few titles I love. When they asked to borrow the books, I told them my copies are in English and if they mind. Aaaaaand they started implying that I’m pretentious or above them by reading in English instead of the translated ones. And they talk about how English books are more expensive and why would I opt for them instead. The comments went on, but the most annoying part is when they resent me for buying books in English because then they can’t borrow the books.

I was like??? Excuse me but I buy books for MYSELF, not for you people who can’t even respect my choice.

So that’s where this post came from. 

What I Love from Translated Books

  1. Like I said, it opened SO MANY doors for me. I wouldn’t be able to read Harry Potter at such a young age if it wasn’t because of the translated version.
  2. Translators are miracle workers!! Even if sometimes the translations aren’t perfect, I admire their works so, so much ♥
  3. I get to read books in foreign language. Ruby Red trilogy by Kerstin Gier is one of my favorite series and it was in German. If it wasn’t translated to English, I wouldn’t have read it by now.
  4. They’re indeed cheaper. You could buy the translated book for half the price of the original version.

What I Dislike from Translated Books

  1. The jokes don’t get translated as well. You know how sometimes a joke is in idioms but in the translated version they translate it literally so you lose the point? That happens a lot. I first noticed it when I read Percy Jackson. I felt like the jokes were too stiff and frankly not funny, and when I looked at the original version, I found out why.
  2. Sometimes the translated versions are too formal. In Bahasa (or maybe in other languages as well) different context require different speaking style. But a lot of times I found in translated books, the characters speak like they are writing reports—way, wayyy to formal, and highly unusual. I know that writing informally would look messy, but there’s that line between completely formal and completely informal. Local books usually find that balance, but translated books often don’t.
  3. They take a long time to release. Sometimes I want to read books right on their release date and waiting for the translated version is agony. Although I admit, nowadays translated books get released a lot faster than it used to. Probably only a month or two later than the original version.
  4. A lot of books I want to read don’t even get translated.

Well if you see the list above, you’d find four pros and four cons. So, it’s a tie, right? But still, for me the cons outweigh the pros so I’d still choose to read the original version in English 😛

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That’s the end of my discussion! I must admit, I’m a little rusty after a long while not writing this kind of post 🙈 now LET’S TALK!! Do you have you own experience with translated books. Especially for international bloggers whose first language isn’t English out there, what made you decide to read books in English? Do you still read the translated version? Tell me! 😀

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8 thoughts on “My Relationship with Translated Books

  1. I love this post! I’ve been thinking about translated works lately too. My first language is Dutch, so like you I grew up reading local books. Then I started reading translated works (Harry Potter, Eragon, etc.). I actually started reading in English because the third book in the Eragon series was released in English but there was no release date for the translated version yet. So I decided to buy the English one. I definitely needed a dictionary at times, but I ended up loving it.

    Since I started my blog in 2014, I’ve read mostly English books too. For multiple reasons, really. Sometimes things do get lost in translation! And I find that with YA and middle grade especially, the Dutch translations can sound more juvenile than the English ones. And to be honest, blogging about local authors or works doesn’t really appeal to many people in the bookish community because they wouldn’t be able to read the book themselves. I know I shouldn’t let that matter, but it kind of does :p

    I do want to make an effort to read more translated works in the coming years, especially from authors whose first language is not English. Original language vs. translation, they both have their advantages! It’s really stupid that people judge you for that (although I’ve had that happen too).

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  2. As a fellow Indonesian, I LOVE this post! ❤ I never meet anyone who gets pissed bc I bought books in English (srsly what's wrong with your co-workers) but I haven't bought translated books in so long. And it's not because I'm pretentious, but no matter how good your translation skills are, there will ALWAYS be something that gets lost in translation. And it irks me. Not only from English to Bahasa, recently I read a Dutch book translated to English and… let's just say I ended up dnfing it. Also, I noticed that sweet dialogues become super cheesy when it's translated to Bahasa and I just cant??? xD

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  3. This is great! The books by Kirsten Gier I actually read in spanish, because I discovered them during that time I didn’t read in english yet. Still, it was awesome to be able to read them! I feel the exact same way about translated books. I started reading in english because I couldn’t find translated version of the Iron King by Julie Kagawa ANYWHERE, so I started with that one.

    People don’t usually resent me for reading in english, but they do react oddly when I tell them why I do it. I just prefer it THAT’S when they look at me like I think I’m pretentious or something. I also respect the work of translators because it’s a good work and it helps SO MUCH. But after discovering how much better it is to read them in their original language (if it’s english), I just prefer those books. Spanish translations also can be quite formal. One common issue I had was that these books are translated in Spain, and the language is not exactly the same as latin spanish.And the romance scenes! For some reason they strike me as SO awkward and cringy when in my native language.

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  4. Wow, well your coworkers sound hella judgemental. I mean, who are they to judge you buying books for you to read? If you want to buy them in English then go for it. Especially since not all books get translated, if there isn’t a market for it or a high enough demand then publishers cannot justify the expense so big titles are translated but not all books people, especially bloggers, are talking about will all necessarily be translated. I generalise because I don’t know what the market is like in your country, but in general, that is how it works. Like anywhere publishers want to make money so they go where they think the money will be and that tends to be the big releases, like Harry Potter.

    I think translating books is amazing, they increase the reach of books and the work that translators do to try and stay true to the original material is amazing. You’re right, not everything translates well unfortunately and I think it’s a translator’s quest to try and stay true to the material but also try to keep the spirit and intention of writing within the translated version as well. Not everyone has the privilege of speaking English so it’s great when books get translated because who doesn’t love a book being able to reach more people?

    I do think it sucks that more books don’t get to be translated so it’s great you have the ability to read in English. Much like I think it’s great when non-English books get translated for me to be able to read.

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  7. This is so interesting! Of course, I only speak English, so there’s never an option for me, but I struggle with translated books from other languages. They’re interesting and sometimes really enjoyable, but often things get (literally) lost in translation. It’s hard to keep the same humor/style of writing through an actual language barrier. If I actually spoke any other languages, I would love to read those books in their first languages, haha!

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  8. I am generally on the other side of the translation situation. My native language is English, but I will read some of my favorite books in other languages in order to get better at them. I’ve read Divergent (as an example) in 3 1/2 languages… English, Spanish, German, and partially in Russian.

    I’ve found that sometimes the words CANNOT translate correctly. For example, crow and raven are both the same word in Spanish: cuervo. So in English, when Four asks her if she has crows tattooed on her collarbone, she says “no, they’re ravens”, but in the Spanish version, he asks if they’re cuervos, and she says “yes”. There definitely is a loss of nuance there.

    But for people like me who use it as a way to get better at another language, it’s great.

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