How to Translate a Foreign Text.

You are a translation boss.

Yes, scholars, you are a boss in the art of literary translation.  Think about it, you’ve already read a number of translated texts already.  In doing so, you’ve summarized, paraphrased, and showcased your own interpretation of the text in your essays.  How’s that for effortlessly crafting a piece of art, eh?

In terms of translating a literary foreign text, you have an important job to complete because translation provides us with the cultural equivalent of a text that we didn’t have access to before.  Because of this, remember that there is no such thing as a definitive translation. Therefore, translation is a creative work that only you can produce.    To help you along the way, here are some best practices to get ya going.


  • The source text.
  • Paper.
  • Folders.
  • Paperclips.
  • Highlighters.
  • Computer/Laptop.
  • Dictionary/Thesaurus.
  • Pens, Pencils, Erasers.
  • White Out.
  • Coffee.

Step 1:

Have your coffee ready?   Great.  Translation of a foreign text may begin with an intralingual translation of the source language, which is translating a historic foreign text into a contemporary version.  Not bilingual or a master of multiple languages?  No sweat!  Skip to step 2.


If you are a language ninja, and you feel confident in translating the source foreign text, this step is all about honing into the semantics of the original text.  When focusing on the intralingual translation into your own modern version, the language and ideas remains the same.  However, this process involves your first access to providing your own perception in a present-day tone of the historic text.

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