Translation Tips – Rosalind Harvey

English PEN has gathered a collection of top translation tips from established and award-winning translators. Every fortnight we publish advice from a different translator who’s let us in on their tips and techniques for improving your translation skills. Here Rosalind Harvey, a translator of Hispanic fiction, explains why music, eavesdropping and reading the toothpaste tube are important…

rosalind harvey

1.  Read in your own language – anything and everything! Books, magazines, newspapers, poetry, fast food adverts, music reviews, blogs, Twitter jokes, ingredients on toothpaste tubes…

2.  Read the original as closely as you can, but then walk away, take a long breath and bravely re-write in your own words: you are a writer now!

3.  Listen to lots of music, and play it if you can: a translator needs a good ear.

4.  Write down words you like, roll them around on your tongue, and savour new and weird ones in any language.

5.  Always eavesdrop on buses to gossip and insults, new slang your friends use and strange old-fashioned sayings in the mouths of old people. Save it all up to use later!

Rosalind Harvey has lived in Lima and Norwich, where she fell in love with Spanish and translation, respectively. She now lives in London, where she translates Hispanic fiction. Her recent translation Down the Rabbit Hole by Mexican writer Juan Pablo Villalobos was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book award, and she is the co-translator with Anne McLean of Hector Abad’s prize-winning memoir Oblivion, and Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas. Last autumn she was one of Free Word Centre‘s first ever translators-in-residence.

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