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 on how to improve your translation skills. Here are multilingual translator Shaun Whiteside’s short and snappy top tips.
1. Read everything in every language you know.
2. Make a mental note of new words you like.
3. Translate poetry, if only as an exercise.
4. Translate out of your own language, again as an exercise.
5. If you can, travel.
Shaun Whiteside has translated over fifty books from German, French, Italian and Dutch, including novels by Amélie Nothomb, Luther Blissett, Wu Ming and Marcel Möring. His translations of Freud, Musil, Schnitzler and Nietzsche are published by Penguin Classics, and his translation of Magdalena the Sinner by Lilian Faschinger won the 1996 Schlegel-Tieck Translation Prize. His most recent translations include The Weekend by Bernhard Schlink, Sorry by Zoran Drvenkar, Perlmann’s Silence by Pascal Mercier and Robert Enke: A Life Too Short by Ronald Reng, winner of the 2011 William Hill Sports Book of the Year. A former chair of the Translators Association, he sits on the PEN Writers in Translation committee, the editorial board of New Books in German and the Advisory Panel of the British Centre for Literary Translation, where he regularly teaches at the summer school. He lives in London.