Writing for translation

bookcountriesThe London-based author Kazuo Ishiguro writes with translation in mind. ‘I want my words to survive translation,’ he says. ‘I know when I write a book now I will have to go and spend three days being intensely interrogated by journalists in Denmark or wherever. That fact, I believe, informs the way I write – with those Danish journalists leaning over my shoulder.’

Ishiguro concedes that the process of globalisation, of appealing to and ensuring that one is understood by audiences around the world, may lead to a ‘greyness’ of language: ‘There are a lot of things I don’t write now. I stop myself writing certain things because I think, for instance, that it wouldn’t work once it’s translated out of English. You can think of a line that’s brilliant in English — with a pun or two, you know — but of course it becomes nonsense once translated into a different language, so I don’t use it.’

Keeping the target audience in mind has worked well for Ishiguro; translations of his novels are international bestsellers.

We often advise our clients to write for translation, just as Ishiguro carefully considers how his work will be affected by translation. Clear, well-written English content is much easier to translate, and a lack of ambiguity means the target text is much closer in meaning to the original source text. In our next post, we will share our guidelines for writing copy for translation.