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Can you recommend some good books on translating?
Thread poster: Amy Duncan (X)

Amy Duncan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:19
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jul 7, 2008

I have never read a book about translating, and I thought I might read one...something basic, nothing too specialized or obscure. Here are Amazon's top five:

1) How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator by Corinne McKay (Paperback - May 20, 2006)
2) Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation by Douglas H. Robinson y
3) Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida by John Biguenet and Rainer Schulte
4) The Translator's Handbook, 6th Revised Edition (Translator's Handbook) by Morry Sofer
5) The Translation Studies Reader by L. Venuti

If you are familiar with any of these books, maybe you'd like to comment on it/them. Otherwise, if you know others you could recommend and why you like them, I'd appreciate it.



MGL  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:19
Russian to English
I would also recommend Jul 7, 2008

taking a look at St. Jerome Publishing - they actually specialize in translation / interpreting.

here's their UK site (a little more user-friendly than the US site):

and US site (book list):

In my most humble of opinions, you could probably do without books like the Translator's Handbook (or anything that starts with "how to" and "becoming a") primarily because you already _are_ and you will have by now figured out most or all of their clever advice on your own. These are more business related, i.e., what you should do to run a tight ship and keep your customers happy. I think in terms of the basics of running a translation business, I would also consider the Alex Eames e-book (how to earn some absurd amount a year as a freelance translator) OR number 1, 2 or 4 from your list (I have only owned the Handbook, and found it utterly underwhelming after earning a degree in translation). One of those would suffice for the business basics.

If you are more interested in theory, I'm sure many people on ProZ will have some great recommendations for you.

In terms of practices, St. Jerome has a really fab series called "translation practices explained" with several books on different aspects / fields of translation (and interpreting).

Have fun shopping!icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2008-07-07 13:44]


Local time: 07:19
Reply Jul 7, 2008

Megan Lehmann wrote:

In terms of practices, St. Jerome has a really fab series called "translation practices explained" with several books on different aspects / fields of translation (and interpreting).

I don't know if it's actually the same thing, but I do recommend a series published by St. Jerome called "Translation theories explored". So far I've read Christiane Nord's Translating as a Purposeful Activity. Functionalist Approaches Explained and Peter Fawcett's "Translation and Language. Linguistic theories explained", and both of them offer short but very interesting introductions to different approaches to the theory of translation.

Eugene Nida's "Toward a science of translating" is a classic in which concerns the development of modern translation theory. In this field I also enjoyed Hatim and Manson's "Discourse and the translator" and "The translator and communication". I am currently reading Sergio Viaggio's "A General Theory of Interlingual Mediation", one of the latest developments in the field.

Another book I found useful while finding my way through the various translation theories was Jeremy Munday's "Introducing translation studies". Basically it gives an overview of the main trends in translation theory, their development and their implications. It is a good starting point before diving into the "true" theory.



Spanish to English
+ ...
One book Jul 7, 2008

I liked the parts about translation and interpreting in Corazon tan blanco by Javier Marias.


GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
Some suggestions Jul 7, 2008

#1: From reading what Corinne has written on the Internet, I have no doubt this one is a good investment and a good read.

#2: YES! YES!

#4: I read this one and Alex Eames's book and I would recommend the latter as being more practical and up-to-date.

I have the 2nd edition of the Sofer book, and more than half of the book is just lists of agencies and resources. Much of it is therefore out of date (agencies), or contains pages and pages on language pairs that I don't work with (resources). I can obtain focused and up-to-date versions of this information better from the internet. I don't know how much the most recent (6th) edition would differ in this respect.

Other: Specifically for ES>EN translators, Thinking Spanish Translation by Sándor Hervey, Ian Higgins and Louise M. Haywood, and Introduction to Spanish Translation by Jack Child.

[Edited at 2008-07-07 15:19]


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:19
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Language-pair specific books are often good Jul 7, 2008

There are the Alex Eames-type books, which are about running a business, and specifically a translation business. Then there are the books about translation per se, which you have to select for yourself.

I too found Hatim and Manson's "Discourse and the translator" very interesting, but some of the best translation books I have read are specific to my language pairs, so I won't list them here!

John M Swales: Genre Analysis - English in academic and research settings -
ISBN 0521 33813 1 in paperback
- is not exactly bedtime reading, but the chapters I have read are well worth the effort, and I intend to try the others sometimeicon_smile.gif

Likewise 'Metaphors we live by' - Lakoff & Johnson
ISBN 0226 46801 1

It depends very much on what fields you work with too.
Another group is subject-specific, e.g. Helen Gubby's English Legal Terminology
ISBN 90 5454 499 6
This has readable chapters that give important context as well as word lists and definitions for reference.

Some books on medical terminology, for instance, are excellent reference, but barely more readable than a dictionary. (I do actually read dictionaries sometimes, but you know what I mean!)

I find you have to choose your own subject areas and find books that are relevant to your specific languages, or you can easily spend an enormous lot of money on books that you don't have time to read (and won't miss anyway), even if others do find them excellent.

Happy reading and happy translating!


sviaggio  Identity Verified
English to Spanish

I honestly find that most of the books so far recommended (my good friend Larry Venuti´s comes to mind), interesting as the are on theoretical and philosophical grounds, are not much help to transalators of everyday pragmatic texts. Others, such as my other good friend's Eugen Nida, revolutionary as they were when first published, are obsolete. I have not read much since my retirement three years ago, and I'm sure I'm missing some pretty exciting and, above all, up-to-date stuff. With that proviso, my choices would be

DELISLE, Jean: (1984) L'analyse du discours comme méthode de traduction, Presses de l'Université d'Ottawa, 282 pp.
--(1994) La traduction raisonée, Presses de l'Université d'Ottawa, 282 pp.

(Both have been published also in English)

HATIM, Basil, and MASON, Ian: (1990a) Discourse and Text in the Translator, Longman, London, 258 pp.
--(1990b) "Genre, Discourse and Text in the Critique of Translation", in FAWCET, P. and HEATHCOTE, O. (Eds.): Translation in Performance, pp. 1-13.
--(1997) The Translator as Communicator, Routledge, London and New York, 244 pp.

KATAN, David: (1999) Translating Cultures. An Introduction for Translators, Interpreters and Mediators, St. Jerome Publishing, Manchester, 268 pp.

LVOVSKAJA, Zinaida D.: (1997) Problemas actuales de la traducción, Serie Granada Lingüística, Granada, 138 pp. A MUST IF YOU CAN READ SPANISH!

NORD, Christiane: (1991) Text Analysis in Translation. Theory, Methodology, and Didactic Application of a Model for Translation-Oriented Text Analysis, Rodopi, Amsterdam-Atlanta, Ga., 249 pp.
--(2000) Translation Criticism - The Potential & Limitations. Categories and Criteria for Translaton Quality Assesment, St. Jerome Publishing, Manchester, 127 pp.

OSIMO, Bruno: (2001) Propedeutica della traduzione. Corso introduttivo con tavole sinottiche, Editori Ulrico Hoepli, Milano.
–(2002) Manuale del trduttore, Editori Ulrico Hoepli, Milano. TWO MUSTS IF YOU READ ITALIAN!

REISS, Katharina and VERMEER, Hans J.: (1991) Fundamentos para una teoría funcional de la traducción, Akal Ediciones, Madrid 1996, 206 pp. (THE ORIGINAL IS IN GERMAN AND THERE MUST BE AN ENGLISH TRANSALGION). ANOTHER MUST

And, lastly, my all-time favourite:

VIAGGIO, Sergio: (2006) A General Theory of Interlingual Mediation, Frank & Timme Verlag, Berlin



Suzette Martin-Johnson
French to English
+ ...
Personal favourite.. Jul 8, 2008

I love Becoming a Translator: An Accelerated Course by Doug Anderson. I know for some it may be considered more of a beginning but it talks about different types of translation and the style that may be best suited to you. It has an academic bent particularly at the beginning but I have found it infinitely readable and helpful since I bought it back in 03.


Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:19
Finnish to English
In Other Words Jul 8, 2008

By Mona Baker

This is by far the best basic of translation book in my opinion. Very readable.



Sylvie Pilon  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:19
English to French
Book #1 Jul 8, 2008

GoodWords wrote:

I have the 2nd edition of the Sofer book, and more than half of the book is just lists of agencies and resources, (...) or pages and pages on language pairs that I don't work with (resources). (...) I don't know how much the most recent (6th) edition would differ in this respect.

I have bought the 6th edition of Morry Sofer's book: it is just as GoodWords described. The first half of the book is more or less interesting.

I also have Corinne McKay's book, and I highly recommend it. Although it contains information that can be found in many different articles featured by sites like Proz, it also offers a few tips that I found quite useful.



Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:19
German to English
+ ...
A couple of journals Jul 8, 2008

Although they are not books, I find Translation Journal and The ATA Chronicle to be interesting and occasionally useful in practical terms.


KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:19
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
My short list Jul 8, 2008

I've got a stack of "theory" books, nearly all of which bore me stiff. Umberto Eco's rather thoughtful exploration of issues of culture, etc. in translation ("Mouse or Rat?"), on the other hand, is a great read. I did rather enjoy the book "Thinking [fill in the language] Translation" I got for my second language too - you'll have to check if there is one for your languages.

As GoodWords suggests, Alex Eames' book is a lively and more-or-less up to date coverage of key business aspects for a translator.

[Edited at 2008-07-08 16:48]

[Edited at 2008-07-08 18:41]


Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:19
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sergio Viaggio Jul 8, 2008

What do you think about Viaggio's translation theory book?
Have you ever read it? I want to but I have not found it in Mexican bookstores.


GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
Practical books, but language-specific Jul 8, 2008

sviaggio wrote:
I honestly find that most of the books so far recommended (my good friend Larry Venuti´s comes to mind), interesting as the are on theoretical and philosophical grounds, are not much help to translators of everyday pragmatic texts.

The two books specifically on ES>EN that I suggested above (Thinking Spanish Translation and Introduction to Spanish Translation) are practical books with much to teach the reader about specific solutions to everyday problems in general texts. (Perhaps it's hard to write such a book except with reference to particular languages.)


GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
Absolutely essential reading, and fascinating from beginning to end Jul 8, 2008

Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language by Douglas R. Hofstadter.

(In spite of the title, this book is in English. The wide range of issues examined in this book are relevant to translation between any languages.)

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