5 techniques of literary translation

The five literary translation techniques proposed 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 as presented 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, “this translation technique adds new linguistic elements in the target text. It is the opposite of the linguistic compression technique.” This is usually about using a paraphrase to explain a word that has no equivalent in the target language.

3. Compensation

Compensation, on the other hand, 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 when it is translated. The technique is especially useful when it comes to wordplay: if the translator cannot directly adapt a pun, for instance, which tends to happen quite often, then they will 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.” It is certainly frequently the case that the literary translator is obliged to condense the information contained in certain passages being translated. To do this, some items which are not considered essential must be removed as their elision will improve the stylistic quality of the translated work.

5. Borrowing

Borrowing is a technique frequently used in literary translation, but which can also be applied in medical and business translations, for instance. For Albir, 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 which is not worth explaining.

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