Why We Should Read Translated Books


Reading helps us to explore worlds and people that inhabit them, understand cultures and situations we'd never know otherwise. And through a novel, the world depicted is mixed with the reader's imagination.

So, the journey of every reader is unique to his/her imagination. Studies have shown that reading books improve our ability to empathize. We can become more compassionate and inquisitive.

But what makes translated books so unique? Why should we spend more time reading them?

Translation allows ideas and information to be shared through cultures. Translation changes history in this process. Throughout the Middle Ages, Arabic translators have passed the theories of Greek philosophers through language translation. Translation is necessary for the spread of information, knowledge, and ideas. The Bible has been translated into hundreds of languages. Translation helps to resolve language barriers and international borders. Translation offers us a worldwide understanding of people and culture.

Translation extends our ability to explore the thoughts and feelings of people from another culture and time through literature. It lets us enjoy the transformation of the foreign into what is familiar.

Translation celebrates language differences and the many types of human experiences and interpretations it can convey. One of the many reasons writers write is to connect with as many people as possible and influence them. Translation is absolutely necessary for effective and empathetic communication between different cultures.

The Spanish translations of William Faulkner's work inspired author Gabriel García Márquez. According to Marquez, Faulkner’s translations helped refine his craft as a writer. Therefore, the art of writing fiction was only possible because literary translations were made available. The widening of translation does not only affect readers, speakers and writers, but the very nature of the language itself.
Why should we read more translated books? First, it helps us explore the unknown.
Reading translations of literature means gaining access to cultures, customs, traditions, lives, philosophies, and storytelling methods from far-reaching countries. When we read a translated text, we’re stepping into another country and its history, with all of its traditions, songs, wars, art, religion(s), and languages/dialects.  Exposure to literature through translated works brings all this and more.

Some of the most popular literature is the translations of original works, such as the Bible, The Diary of Anne Frank and Anna Karenina. Pearl Buck’s books allow us to experience Chinese life and culture without ever visiting China. Reading  Anton Chekov or Fyodor Dostoyevsky books gives us glimpses of the lives of Russian people and society. These authors help us to feel things, visit places and worlds we would never otherwise know.
So, let's make 2020 a year for stepping out your comfort zone. Reading translated books is a good start!


2 comments

  • I totally agree with you. I have read a few translations of some Chinese books and they were very entertaining. I learnt a lot about the Chinese culture as well.

    romunem
  • Since I speak 3 languages, I write the same book in three languages. I write it in Arabic, then translate/write it (the idea, not the text) into English and German, or in English and rewrite it….. So, I write each paragraph 3 times in the 3 languages on 3 A4 pages on my pc. Since I read many books belong to World Literature, written in old English (Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton), Swede (Joseph Konrad), Russian (many writers), German (Misanthrope), French ….. and were translated into English. They were intriguing, incomparable to what we write today. I tried to translate a work to French, but a French speaker rejected it as I’m not fluent in French. It’s funny to say that I like the original text before being translated, more than the other 2 translations.

    Awad Sharar

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