This is a difficult one. Not easy to explain. Not easy to prove …. unless, of course, you come from the same neck of the woods I come from. And if you don’t, well, you’ll just have to trust me on what I have to say.

It’s a touchy subject. It puts some people’s noses out of joint. Understandably. I can’t blame them, but then again, I’m looking at things from an entirely different point of view. How could I not? I am a native, after all. This is my language.

What I’m talking about here is the difference between something that has been translated from one language to another. But the important thing to ask is how. Or, more precisely, by whom. You see, a car is not a car. A Dacia is not the same as a Mercedes. And, I’m sure it doesn’t pretend to be. But they are both cars. The same goes for translations. Some are good, and some are not so good. Some people, or should I say, too many people, base their decisions on price. I get it. I can understand their logic. But. But not when you look at what’s at stake here.

At the end of the day, when a book is submitted for perusal, it stands to reason that it should be presented in the best manner possible. To give it the best chances of success possible. With so much on the line (read: the potential for a generous book deal, sales and perhaps fame for the author on the international market), why would one jeopardize this by penny-pinching? That’s ridiculous, right? But it’s something I come across with more frequency than you might imagine. Really.

The litmus test is that the words have to flow. And, they have to flow …. TO A NATIVE. Full stop. If they don’t fulfil this criterion, then it may end up being a waste of time. Sadly.

I have a lot more to say about this. But not here, not now. The point of it all is that disruption to the flow because of poor word choice, poor grammar, ambiguity and the like do nothing more than create a feeling of something less than …. not perfection, but something less than that which should have been. And that, my dear readers, is something that leaves more than a bitter taste in your mouth.

Kurt Wilkesmann
Literary agent for foreign markets