If you are fluent in more than one language, you may want to consider translating your own manuscripts. Here are six reasons why you should give it a try.
1 – Practice makes perfect
The good news is you don’t need to be a professional translator to tackle a translation project. While I happen to hold a degree in translation, I learned that it is something you become good at with practice, just like writing. And being a writer, you already have a solid foundation of knowledge and techniques that will help make the process easier. The trick, of course, is not to make your writing sound like a translation. Otherwise, don’t bother sending it to Hope (or most editors, for that matter). I have it on good authority that this will not endear her to your work!
2 – Spot and eliminate flaws
If your story or article is unpublished, translating it into another language allows you to take a step back from your work and see it from a different perspective. It’s an excellent way to pinpoint flaws and weaknesses. For instance, if a sentence does not translate well, there’s a very good chance that it is poorly written. Simply rewrite it until it flows smoothly in both languages. As you go along, you will sharpen your editing and revising skills as well.
3 – Boost your creativity
Translating your own unpublished manuscripts is not as restricting as translating texts that have appeared in print (either yours or someone else’s) or which have been requested by a client. Don’t force yourself to follow the text exactly. Although your first draft will probably sound like a word-for-word translation, during the revision stage feel free to add, embellish and change any word, sentence or paragraph. This can turn out to be a fun and liberating exercise.
4 – Double your chances of success
By the time you finish, your original piece should have some kinks ironed out as well. This means you now have two great manuscripts to submit, and with a lot more markets to choose from, too. Some publishers even specialize in translations. If that’s the case, you may want to mention in your cover letter that your submission is available in another language.
5 – Give your stories a second life
If a particular piece is already published, check your contract to make sure you have retained the translation rights. If so, you will be free to approach new publishers in your target language. In this instance, you may not have as much creative leeway during the translation process, but you will still be able to strengthen weak words and sentences in the translated text.
6 – Get unstuck
Finally, if you are stuck for inspiration or suffering from writer’s block, translating your own stories can help you get back in the flow. You won’t have to deal with a dreaded blank page or wrestle your muse for inspiration — but it could lead you to new ideas and opportunities!
Pascale Duguay is a writer, translator (French/English), high school librarian, and founder of ThePartTimeWriter.com. She lives in the lively bilingual community of the Quebec Eastern Townships.