Books of Interest to Translators
Thread poster: Paul Dixon

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:59
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jan 23, 2010

I have opened this space to gather suggestions of useful / interesting books for translators. They must be connected with our business or with language in some way, but dictionaries and the like should not be included.

I'll start off:

IT'S ALL IN A WORD by Vivian Cook (Profile Books: London, 2009)

A fascinating insight into several aspects of language, written in a very simple way, ideal for recreational exploration of linguistics. The blurb of this work describes it as "another irresistible mix of information, curiosity and fun".

Just a short selection of the questions answered in this book follows:

1. What differences in frequency of word usage are there between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones?

2. Is there a rule for pronouncing words beginning with "th"?

3. What meaning is common to words starting "sn-" in English?

4. How did Ogden & Richards propose the 850 words of Basic English?

5. According to the OED, which word has most senses of meaning?


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:59
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mouse Or Rat? : Translation as Negotiation Jan 24, 2010

By Umberto Eco.

A really inexpensive book (in its paperback edition) in which Eco, a true scholar in translation matters, explains how translation must work in many levels, how sometimes you must give some level a lower priority in order to make the other levels work when you translate for advanced readers, and how the translators of his books dealt with different types of challenges.

A must for literary translators, but I also think it will make interesting reading for all translators out there.


Silvia Calderón  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:59
English to Spanish
+ ...
Translation and proofreading Jan 24, 2010

These are my favourites (Spanish):

Umberto Eco, Decir casi lo mismo, Lumen, 2003. (“Dire quasi la stessa cosa”)

Alberto Gómez Font, Donde dice... Debiera decir..., Editorial Ancora, Buenos Aires, 2006.

Both of them are very entertaining and stimulating.

The first one is about how difficult translation can be, particularly literary translation, and Eco's experiences with translators.

The second one is about Spanish and Alberto Gómez Font's experiences as a copy editor/proofreader. Full of amusing anecdotes.


jacana54 (X)  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
For Spanish Jan 24, 2010

* Millán, José Antonio. Perdón, imposible. Guía para una puntuación más rica y consciente, Buenos Aires, 2005.

(He also has a blog which is a lot of fun

* Grijelmo, Ález. Defensa apasionada del idioma español. Punto de Lectura, 2001.


Henry Dotterer
Local time: 19:59
Good topic, Paul - I added a wiki article Jan 25, 2010

Hi Paul, others,

Nice idea for a thread. For topics like these, we are going to try to start building up a searchable base of knowledge in a wiki format. Therefore, I opened an article on this topic -- I hope you don't mind. I'd invite you and others to give it a look and add your titles there, even as you may want to discuss them here:

The idea is that by using a wiki approach, it will be possible to aggregate, browse and search the collective knowledge of the community. Let's see if this works...

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with how wikis work: feel free to add books to the wiki page, optionally with a description, by clicking the "edit" tab.)


Stéphanie Soudais  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:59
Member (2006)
English to French
Translators in fiction books Jan 25, 2010


This thread reminds me of another one:



Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:59
Member (2008)
Italian to English
The seminal work Jan 25, 2010

I think the key book remains "After Babel" by George Steiner. This is a profound book for the serious translator - not to be read for amusement or as a distraction because you have nothing else to do. Essentially, Steiner's contention is that we should not translate mechanically but by thoroughly understanding what is being said in the source language, in all its nuances. He gives some interesting examples of translating nuance, for instance in Shakespeare. Understanding nuance, and how to translate it, is one of his key topics. You can read some very interesting reviews of his book here:

Another essential bit of reading for any translator is Walter Benjamin's essay "The Task of the Translator" which is usually included in collections of Benjamin's writings.

[Edited at 2010-01-25 08:29 GMT]


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