To Translate or Not To Translate

YA Literature: Translations

It is agreeable that with Young Adult fiction it is important to branch out to all cultures and races. It raises an opportunity to connect and learn, at a young age, parts of societies we are not subjected to in our daily routines. When reading YA fiction for a class this semester, I learned a lot about the importance of diversity, but I wondered about the novels not primarily written for the English language, and vice versa. In “Get Genrefied: YA Books in Translation” Kelly (2014) suggests translated books“are expert for a reason: they allow the original author’s writing and storytelling to shine through. Though the themes or the appeal of the book may be universal, the magic of reading a title in translation is experiencing that universality” (para. 4). The blog post goes into detailed accounts of translators who were under credited for how much work it really takes to recreate a novel between languages, while trying to keep up with the author’s original tone and phraseology. However, it is nearly impossible to get it perfect. If a novel is written in English and translated into another language, the rules of the language are completely altered. “Translating Young Adult Literature: Problems and Strategies” by GRIGUȚĂ LOANA-DORA, explains that though some things can be literally translation, cultural slang words, curse words, allusions, recognition of places and people, are hard to learn without ruining the reader’s understanding, while also trying to keep the same impact of the original novel (LOANA-DORA, 2013). LOANA-DORA explains that there’s a tug a war with domestication, “…strategies whereby the text is adapted to the culture of the target audience, thus being made for accessible,” and foreignization, “keeping the elements from the original culture so as to give local colour to the text and make it more exotic” (LOANA-DORA, 19). Both of these tactics, no matter how skillfully achieved, are already altering the novel because they don’t have to be done in order for the targeted audience to understand. This makes me question if it’s better to have an altered version rather than no version? I almost feel like the original version is an authentic Chinese dinner, and the translation is Panda Express. Not that I don’t love Panda Express, but it will never be as authentic. LOANA-DORA uses the term “cultural equivalent” in which translators will use at times for comprehension of a “similar impact, but not the original” (LOANA-DORA, 24). This tactic is entirely up to the translator and is mostly used on cultural influences and customs like food, sports, institutions, famous people, or government “ (LOANA-DORA, 2013). This can also be a problem because it’s taking away parts of that culture in return for a better understanding. YA books, that are already written by a different culture for another, consider the “foreignness” to the reader, and add extra information about it rather than cutting it entirely. I also assume that money and marketing have a lot to do with which books are chosen, or able to be translated. “Translating Young Adult Literature” uses Romanian translation as an example because their marketing system is completely different than the United States. They are said to have a “lack of marketing from the part of publishing companies,” meaning they don’t make enough money off of books so instead, “most of them are popular translations of popular books which have been turned into blockbuster movies” (LOANA-DORA, 15). Book to movie version, is a whole different topic in itself, and also ties into not fully grasping the original impact for the targeted audience. Subcultures change daily. Language changes daily. How we grow up in certain environments creates a different understanding from everyone else in the world. Communication is important, and I do believe as young adults we should be well versed in different types of literature, but how much is to be given up for our understanding?


Kelly. (2014, November 3). “Get Genrefied: YA Books in Translation.” Stacked. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

LOANA-DORA, GRIGUȚĂ. (2013, July). Translating Young Adult Literature: Problems and Strategies. (Unpublished master’s thesis). Department of Applied Modern Languages. BABEŞ-BOLYAI UNIVERSITY, CLUJ-NAPOCA.

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