September 8, 2011

Guest Post "Original vs. Translation" by Miss Page-Turner's City of Books

Today's guest blogger is Sarah from Miss Page-Turner's City of Books. Sarah and I have quite a few things in common. Our native language is German, yet we both blog in English which might have quite a bit to do with the fact that we prefer to read books in their original English versions. No translations for us, if we can help it!


Currently there are about 243 books sitting on my shelves. 3 books are from Spanish origin. About 120 books are written in German, 15 written by German authors and 105 translated books. Approximately 120 are English.
What does that say about me and my reading habits and the fight between translations versus original novels in general?

As I’m from Germany one would suspect I read mostly German books. A few years ago I just read German books and English novels only for school. But I’m glad that my reading habits have changed from the time I first read a particular very popular novel. I read TWILIGHT in German translation and when I was finished I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next novel in the series. The story and characters fascinated me so I simply had to try to read the English version. I fell in love with the English language then.

The Wait

It takes a lot of time and work to translate an original English book into the German language. The time it takes to translate a book differs. Sometimes the book can be found in Germany even before its UK release. But often readers have to wait several months. Can you imagine waiting up to twelve months after the US release for the sequel of your favourite novel to come out in your country? Torture!

The Costs

Buying English books is awesome. While I spent some days in London over New Years Eve I couldn’t resist stalking the English book shops and I was overly surprised and thrilled about the fantastic book deals. I came home with a bunch of books and they weren’t even that expensive.
Every time I decide to buy the English Hardcover copy of a book instead of the German translation I save about 10 US $. English paperbacks cost about 5 US $ less than the translated German paperbacks.

The Language

In general I prefer to read a book in the language it was originally written in. I’m a huge fan of contemporary romance and YA fiction so I mostly read books written by English authors. And when I plan to read their story I want to read it in its birth language and the way it was meant to be. Reading the book in English allows me to get closer to the story and to the author’s thoughts that are essential part of the story and book.

German translations can even become pretty annoying. I read a few German translations that tended to change names and adapt them to the German form or the way people in Germany would name their children. E.g. a character from Lisa Mc Mann’s WAKE named Cabel ends up as a Carl in the German edition.
Chatting with international blogger buddies bears difficulties when it comes to discussing certain elements or new inventions of a story. Authors give things a special name and translators often tend to change them too, which I find very unpleasant.

The other way round

The translation business does not only go from English into the foreign language, but the other way round, too. The program BTBA wants to bring more great works from authors around the world to English-language. Winners, author and translator, even receive a $ 5000 prize.

Two of my favourite German books have already been translated into English and I’m overly happy about it. INKHEART by Cornelia Funke is a favourite of readers all over the world. And RUBY RED by Kerstin Gier hit the US bookshops in May 2011. I’m hoping for more German books being successful in the US and UK.
Foreign readers, reading these two books in German would still be a really great way to improve your German language skills.

The International Flow of Awesomeness

There are so many wonderful English, German and books written in every possible language that I often end up with more than one version of a book anyways. The covers each country chooses for their translated edition are so beautiful and fascinating that I am convinced that readers around the world got the same problem. When I’m roaming the local bookstores I can’t help it and need to buy another book, because the covers are so pretty. You see what I mean?

Sometimes when I’m not too busy with blogging or uni stuff I like to compare English to German translations. I find the differences between German and English syntax, vocabulary and language quite fascinating.

Even tough I prefer reading English over German novels, I consider the whole publishing business, the originals and translations part of a whole international flow of awesomeness in which every country has its very own special share. Regarding the ever growing blogging community, sharing literature internationally has never been that attractive before!

What about you, do you prefer reading original or translated books? What makes you want to read originals?


  1. Original is always better. Most of the time translation simply is not good enough to show you everything the author had to say.

  2. Most of my books are in English, but from time to time I like to read something in Romanian, especially when the author is Romanian :)
    Translated books are more expensive than their English ones here too, but i guess that's just because they have to pay for the translator and the translation rights. And of course, I can't resist buying my favorite authors' books in English, French or Romanian... I wonder what will happen in two or three years when I won't have any room left for any book :)

  3. I'm German, too. And I'm blogging in English. That is because the most books I read, I read in English. I only swap back to German if I read books by German or other non-English authors. Great post Sarah.

  4. I only read English because I can only read in English, but I just wanted to chime in and say that there needs to be more foreign books translated into English! I think there's a stigma somewhere, that English readers normally only want to read English books, which isn't even true because most books are American these days, and foreign names on books put people off. You know, because they are closed minded and ignorant. I want more international books translated into English.

  5. I started reading in English as a teen when I discovered I loved the Harry Potter books and wasn't willing to wait any amount of additional time for a translation of the next books though I wasn't that good in English at the time. By the time the last book came out a couple of years later my English skills had improved significantly and by then I was willing to read other books in English too.
    Sometime last year the amount of books I read in English surpassed the number of books I read in German it's just that all the books I'm interested in are in English these days, also the fact that they cost less doesn't hurt either.

    I've tried reading German translation of two books (originally written in English) in the last couple of months but I couldn't finish either. I found too many faults with the translation to enjoy the books. So that leaves me at the conclusion that I have to stay away from translations unless my language skills aren't sufficient for reading a book in it's original language in which case I'll read it in German, I can't totally neglect reading in German after all.

  6. Great Post! such a nice blog. This blog is ever amazing. Thanks

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