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The Translation of Children’s Literature

The translation of children’s literature, or translating for children, has become one of the widely researched topics within Translation Studies in recent decades as a result of the ‘cultural turn’, that is the tendency to analyse translated texts and trace tendencies in translation practice not only from the linguistic but also from the wide socio-cultural and historical perspective. We offer a unique course on “Children’s literature in translation”, also providing opportunities to undertake MA projects in this area.

Why study translation for children? Literature for young readers in itself is a rich body of diverse texts created in different epochs and cultures, some of them linguistically very challenging for translators, including prose and poetry, being an important part of contemporary culture. Its translation is an important segment of the international publishing market and one of the tools of intercultural communication. It provides fascinating insights into all the problems that are at the heart of translation theory and practice; what is more, those problems are usually much more intensified here than in the translation of literature ‘for adults’. In dealing with children’s literature we cannot escape questions of  how cultural differences influence translators and what happens to culture-specific concepts in translation, why domesticating or foreignising strategies are applied, what counts as equivalence and fidelity in a given culture and epoch, why translators omit from and add to the text, how the image of the addressee influences the choice of translation strategies, what is adaptation and why it is practised in translation, what happens to style, humour and wordplay in translation, to what extent the translator is a creator or co-creator, and many others. Texts meant for children sensitise translators to the needs of their readers and to the readability and functionality of translations, thus providing invaluable training material.

From the ‘cultural turn’ point of view, children’s books, especially multiple retranslations of classical texts made in various epochs, reveal how the norms of translation practice change with time, with the status of children’s books and with the evolution of  adults’ convictions about what is beneficial, proper and understandable to young readers. Contemporary translations contrasted with old ones also disclose changes in publishing policies and in the functions ascribed to children’s books, as well as the influence of ideologies (educational, moral and political) on the seemingly ‘innocent’ stories for young readers. In the era of globalisation and new technologies, research on translating for children extends into the sphere of comic books, films, computer games and other media, addressing previously unexplored topics and highlighting the mechanisms of contemporary culture. The field of children’s literature in translation is varied and flexible enough to match the varied interests of students.