By Dally Campos Molina - English Teaching and Translation Major student

Writers are free-spirited by nature. They are daydreamers and that is how they create their masterpieces. Translators of literature should be likewise. They should daydream as the author, and they should let their spirit be free of dogmatic chains in the moment of translating. But nowadays, translations –especially those with a high number of pages–are performed with the assistance of CAT tools that can kill immediately all creativity and liberty of spirit. Thus, the dilemma for translators would be to maintain the essence of the original text and using their own creativity while still exploiting the aid of CAT tools. In this essay, two strategies for keeping the spirit of a literary translation are suggested along with a consequence of misusing the tool.

Our world is modern and in constant change and the translator as a professional ought to keep himself up to date in many aspects of technology that can facilitate its work and make it competitive in terms of time-saving and cost for clients. Therefore, using CAT tools is a must in the profession; as Bowker states “translation technologies have become so firmly embedded in the translation profession that it now seems unthinkable for a translator to approach the task of translating without the use of some kind of computer tool” (2015, p. 88). The first strategy to have in mind is to remember that CAT tools are a mean and not the end. That implies that the translator should not rely completely on the options given by the translation tool; further thinking, comparisons, analysis and research must be completed to decide whether the options work for the text or not. These processes are mentioned by Peraldine as the “post-editing activities” (2019, p. 273) and many translators are not fond to perform them although they are absolutely necessary. Undoubtedly, an initial analysis should be focus on vocabulary and grammar to later delve into meaning until the level of capturing the spirit of the author is reached. Several exercises with translation strategies could be performed until the translator feels the essence has been transposed in the target text.

A second strategy to keep the spirit of a literary translation alive is to read the original text aloud as many times as needed to understand the essence. Hopkins (2019), analyzing the work of classical poetry translators affirms that “the translator must therefore modify his own style and temperament to accommodate it wholeheartedly to that of his original” (p. 108). In this sense, translators must remember that their mission is to transmit the poetical or literary ideas of someone else and not their own interpretation. That is why reading the translated sentences aloud is needed to evaluate if the spirit, the essence of the original has been captured. Passionate translators of literature do not underestimate this process although it has been studied that it might be more time consuming than the translation process itself (Bowker, 2020).

Neglecting the previous strategies can cause a severe damage to the final translation of a literary work. The most simplistic consequence is the target reader leaving the book unfinished over a shelf. But in a broad sense, an irredeemable damage to the original author and its work has been made because the translator has incurred in an ethical fault of its duty. In this sense, the translator has become visible, but for the wrong reasons. And when evaluating the damage, no fault can be sent over to the CAT tools but to the translator itself. This means that the use of technology in the translation work does not exempt the translator of the obligation of conveying the spirit of the original text; it is actually the opposite, it should be seen as an extra help to achieve the goal or, as Peraldine expresses, they should be appreciated as validation tools (2019, p. 273).

In summary, the aid of automatized tools for translation should never substitute the work, the mind and the soul that the translator is supposed to impregnate in the rendition of a literary work. As said, CAT tools are means and not ends, are machines, are lifeless technology in the hands of the translator who has become the new artist. Clients surely will appreciate the benefits of using CAT tools, such as a faster delivery of the product, but they also will weigh as valuable the combination of promptness and faithfulness to the original
text. By using wisely these tools, translators will fulfill their mission of keeping the literary spirit alive in the age of technology assisted translation.


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  • Bowker, L. (2020). Translation technology and ethics. In Koskinen, K. & Pokorn, N. (Eds.). The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Ethics. Routledge.
  • Bowker, L. (2015). General Issues of Translation Technology, C. Sinwai (Ed.), The Routledge Encylopedia of Translation Studies. Routledge, 88-104.
  • Hopkins, D. (2019). Classical poetry. In Washbourne, K. & Van Wyke, B. (Eds.). The Routledge Hanbook of Literary Translation, 105-117. Routledge.
  • Peraldine, S. (2019). Integrating corpus-based tools into translators’ work environments: cognitive and professional implications. International Journal of Organizations, 23, 265–292.