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Your Ultimate Guide to Literary Translation and Non-literary Translation

Posted by Chloe G. on June 03, 2022.

The translation field is made up of two main components: Literary translation and Non-literary translation. As the names suggest, they have distinctive characteristics. To have outstanding translations, you have to define which type of your document is and point out suitable translation strategies afterward.

This article will cover all about literary translation and non-literary translation

What are Literary translation and Non-literary translation involved?

All You Need To Know About Literary Translation and Non-literary Translation

Literary texts are words that vividly portray the author’s view of life, society, and sentiments. It aims to arouse people’s desire for beauty and to convey artistic beauty to people. 

Non-literary texts, unlike literary texts, are formal textual forms such as legislation, medicine, journalism, science and technology, and others. 

To put it another way, texts that do not belong to the literary group will be called non-literary texts. 


Literary Translation and Non-literary Translation in detail

All You Need To Know About Literary Translation and Non-literary Translation 1


  • Overview of literary texts

Literary texts are literary and creative works that are grouped into a variety of genres, including poetry, novels, prose, essays, and plays. It may be separated into ancient literature, contemporary literature, Chinese literature, and foreign literature depending on when and where it was written.

Literary texts are conscious works generated by writers via thorough observation and thinking of life, combined with their own ideological systems. Writers can use imaginary components to create people, places, and events in the creative process. As a result, literary works have distinct characteristics such as uniqueness, artistry, and value.

By studying the literary works of writers from different periods, we may effectively grasp the political, cultural, and social components of the creative background. 

  • Literary translation concepts and characteristics

Literary translation requires translators to fundamentally understand the literary text and be familiar with the creator’s life, life background, social form, national attributes, and social contradictions at that time in order to effectively understand the meaning of special sentences, symbolic sentences, and new words appearing in the literary texts. Furthermore, by providing translation annotations, readers may clearly understand the author’s creative objectives.



  • Overview of non-literary texts

Experts, scholars, technicians, advertisers, and others who work in professional fields create non-literary texts. Non-literary texts, such as medical study papers and advertising planning schemes, have certain usefulness and worth. Therefore, the creation process of non-literary texts requires a strong logic and rigorousness, and the depiction of things is likewise more objective and exact. 

  • Non-literary translation concepts and characteristics

The non-literary translation may be defined as the act of conveying real news in various languages. 

Translators can formulate corresponding translation strategies and provide translation content that meets the needs of clients based on their needs, as well as their applications, purposes of use, and other relevant information. In the translated text, translators should have a neutral and accurate description without any personal feelings. 


The difference between literary translation and non-literary translation

All You Need To Know About Literary Translation and Non-literary Translation 2

  • Differences in translation objects

If literary works are arts that express yearnings for beauty and admiration for it, non-literary works place a greater emphasis on facts/events/reality. 

  • Literary Translation and Non-literary Translation: Differences in translation requirements

Due to the features of literary translation, the articles/artworks translated by different translators are not the same. As a result, literary translation criteria are quite flexible, as long as the translated documents adequately convey the artistic and literary content included in the original text. If works translated by literary translation are identical to the original text, the beauty of the mood is lost, and the translation may not be a good work. 

On the other hand, non-literary translation needs to accurately convey the original message. The most basic criterion is that it faithfully expresses the original message without any personal emotion or fantasy. Non-literary translators must have a thorough comprehension of the translated content, a sense of logical thinking, and extreme care for the translated words. 

  • Literary Translation and Non-literary Translation: Differences in language features

The purpose of literary translation is to suit the spiritual needs of the audience. Therefore, in terms of language style, translators must employ a sufficient amount of vivid, lyrical, and imaginative vocabulary to entice people to read. Whereas, non-literary translation prohibits the appearance of all subjective and conjecture vocabulary or sentences, and requires precise terms.

  • Literary Translation and Non-literary Translation: Differences in translation thinking

In terms of translation thinking, literary translation does not need high degrees of rigorous translation thinking or logical correctness. Literary translation might be based on a comprehension of the core ideas and concepts of the texts. To maintain the compactness and readability of the work, the author might make selective deletions of sentences whose primary ideas are unrelated to the topic.

However, with non-literary texts, the translator is not allowed to make any changes. During the translation process, translators should maintain rigorous thinking and logical correctness to ensure the integrity of the original text, and no errors are permitted.

  • Differences in the quality of translators

Literary and non-literary translation are two distinct categories of translation, and the quality of translation is closely related to the expertise of translators. Besides a solid bilingual ability, translators of each group will need other specific qualities.  

Literary translation requires the creation and imagination of the translators, so they can quickly select the appropriate words to express the core ideas of the original texts. In addition, because the audience of literary translation is relatively extensive, literary translators must use their linguistic skills to make the content resonate with the audience, without having to translate words one by one.

Meanwhile, translators engaged in non-literary translation have strict requirements on the accuracy of the translated content. Therefore, they need to use professional knowledge to translate the documents and make sure that the translated language accurately conveys the meaning of the original text.

  • Literary Translation and Non-literary Translation: Differences in translation strategies
  • Strategies for literary translation: Literary work is a visual expression of the creator’s creative ideas. The author’s thinking structure is reflected in the terminology, paragraphs, and sentences of the work. Thus, during the translation process, translators should view things from the eyes of the original author, in order to generate content that has the same idea, tone, and ambiance as the original text.
  • Strategies for Non-literary translation: Non-literary translation focuses on facts, so translators need to deliver a clear and accurate explanation of objective facts. All elements in non-literary documents should be viewed with logical thinking. 


Reasons to choose GTE Localize

As an experienced translation provider, GTE Localize has worked on a great number of literary and non-literary documents. By fully grasping the difference between literary translation and non-literary translation, we can produce high-quality translation services and give outstanding results to our clients.

All You Need To Know About Literary Translation and Non-literary Translation

Here are some of the values that help us achieve the top-rated translation agency position in the industry:

  • We have native linguists with Master’s or Ph.D. degrees in a range of fields from all over the world.
  • Our translation quality is ensured with ISO 9001:2015 certification, GoodFirms rating, and previous projects.
  • We offer cost-effective translation services with no hidden fees. Before we begin the translation process, we will specify all of the fees in our contract. After that, there are no additional charges.
  • To deliver the highest quality translation and localization services, we actively conduct a Quality Assurance round or an internal LQA round for 100% of our projects. The costs of these additional processes are all paid by us.
  • Our translation and localization services are backed by a lifetime warranty.

Contact us now for a helpful consultancy and a free 300-word test!

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