5 techniques of literary translation

This post is also available in: French Italian Spanish German

The five literary translation techniques presented by Amparo Hurtado Albir, one of the leading specialists in translation.

In her book Translation and Translation Studies: Introduction to Translation (2001), Professor Amparo Hurtado Albir, a leading translation specialist, defines five literary translation techniques. Discover these techniques below:

1. Adaptation

Albir describes adaptation as a “technique whereby one cultural element is replaced by another which is typical of the receiving culture. This technique is very useful when translating advertisements, slogans, etc., which employ a number of different linguistic processes. In these cases, the most important thing is the actual meaning of the message rather than the words making it up.”

2. Linguistic Amplification

According to Albir’s definition, “this translation technique adds new linguistic elements in the target text. It is the opposite of the linguistic compression technique.” It means using a paraphrase in order to explain a word with no equivalent in the target language.

3. Compensation

Compensation is a “translation technique whereby a piece of information or stylistic device is moved to another location in the text, because it does not have the same effect if maintained in the same place as in the original text”. This process is intended to compensate for the losses that a text suffers from when it is translated. Such technique is useful especially when it comes to wordplays. If, for instance, translators are unable to adapt a pun —it tends to happen quite often— then they try to create another play on words in another part of the text.

4. Elision

The fourth technique of literary translation described by Albir is elision. Elision is a process that “involves removing items of information in the original language text so that they do not appear in the target text. As with the linguistic compression technique, elision is the opposite of the amplification process.” Literary translators are frequently compelled to condense the information contained in some parts of a text being translated. To do this, some items considered as non essential must be removed because their elision will improve the stylistic quality of the translated work.

5. Borrowing

Borrowing is a technique often used in literary translation, and is also applied for example in medical and business translations. Albir writes that this translation technique involves “using a word or an expression in the original text and placing it as it is, with no modification, in the target text.” This can be an expression taken from a third language (e.g., Latin), or a familiar expression by speakers of the target language, or even an untranslatable expression not worth explaining.

Discover our translation agency.