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The Art of Translating Romance Novels

I love finding niche areas of the romance world to learn more about, so when Bianca S. (Instagram: @anepilogueaday) dropped into my DMs to compliment my meme-making--I literally never tire of this--and casually mentioned her job as a translator of romance novels I turned what was a pleasant moment into a demand to know more about her work. And, of course, snuck an opportunity to interview her because I'm annoying like that.

Please enjoy this trip down informational lane with the wonderful Bianca as she provides me with a wealth of knowledge about the process of translating romance novels and humors my questions, both appropriate and inappropriate.


Romantically Inclined Reviews: First, how did you even get started translating romance novels?

Bianca S.: I have been a translator professionally for over fifteen years, but I used to translate official documents and scientific articles, since I used to work at the Ministry of Health. In 2019, I had a burnout and I started reading romance novels and writing reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and my Instagram profile as a hobby and to help me to practice my English proficiency. Meanwhile my husband and I decided to move with the kids to Europe in 2021, he and the kids are Italian citizens, and our flight was March 17th, so I needed a new job, one that I could work from anywhere we went to.

I used to work with a romance author and, since she can't read in English, I was always translating the books that I read to her, especially the paranormal ones since we have so few translated to Portuguese. I ended up writing a collection of paranormal romance books with her and, in the beginning of 2021, we released out first paranormal romance novel. I did a course about translating fiction since I already did it as a hobby to help out my friend and we wanted to release our book in English.

Romantically Inclined Reviews: Do you currently do this professionally or as an unpaid hobby?

Bianca S.: When COVID worsened our flight got canceled and all the countries closed down for people living in Brazil. We were stuck here and I was already out of a job so I decided to look for other romance novels to translate and that was when I found Babelcube. Babelcube is a platform to bring self-published authors and publishers together with freelance translators to create books in additional languages and they pay me a percentage of the book sales.

Romantically Inclined Reviews: I've never heard of Babelcube before. What a wonderful resource! How many books would you say that you've translated since your start and do you only translate books from English to Portuguese or do you translate from Portuguese to English as well?

Bianca S.: As a hobby I translated at least ten PNR (author note: PNR stands for paranormal romance) novels but professionally I am currently working on my fourth book. Since I started doing it professionally, at the end of February, I finished two EN to PT, one PT to EN, and I am currently working on one from EN to PT. (second author note: EN means English and PT means Portuguese).

Romantically Inclined Reviews: What are some of the challenges of translating romance novels?

Bianca S.: The historical romances were a challenge for me since there are some words (especially the clothes) and expressions that are not used anymore. There are also some words in French but since I studied French or two years a long time ago they were not so foreign to me.

Romantically Inclined Reviews: You mentioned translating official documents and scientific articles? Do you face similar challenges when translating those?

Bianca S.: Yes, I translated technical books and articles. I find them easier since the lingo is practically the same in both languages and I rarely have to convey emotions and subtle ideas like those in written by romance authors. But I have way more fun translating romance and I don't want to go back to technical.

The challenge is that the English language has a word for literally everything and sometimes I have to use a whole sentence in order to explain a word and its meaning in that context. That was a challenge that I had to face in all the books that I have worked on.

Romantically Inclined Reviews: I never considered that before. What has been your favorite book to translate so far?

Bianca S.: I loved translating my own book since that meant a lot of personal victories for me, but I have a special place in my heart for each one of the books that I worked on. It is a lot of fun to watch a book being born and, being an author myself, I take extra care to be as truthful as possible to the author's ideas and feeling behind each character and their journey.

Romantically Inclined Reviews: Is there anything someone should consider before pursuing the translation of their romance novel?

Bianca S.: The only thing that comes to mind is knowing that you, as an author, might have to answer some questions of the translator if something you wrote is too regional or specific to that area of culture.

Romantically Inclined Reviews: Makes sense! Along those lines, are there any criteria that a book needs to meet for translation or can anyone with a book reach out to you for your services?

Bianca S.: There are no criteria at all. I just need the book file, some time to translate it, and a way to reach the author if I have a question or two about the way the author prefers for me to tell their story. And I would love to be able to help an author reach a whole new demographic of readers.

Romantically Inclined Reviews: If someone were interested in becoming a book translator what advice would you give them for getting started?

Bianca S.: The way that a romance is written is really specific and they should understand that translating the idea is more important than the actual word. Being an avid reader made all the difference in the world for me to keep the rhythm of a romance even if it is in a different language.

Romantically Inclined Reviews: Finally, and most importantly, how do you translate "his engorged member slid into her wet sheath" into Portuguese?

Bianca S.: Seu membro, inchado, deslizou para dentro do receptáculo quente e molhado dela (there were a lot of words that I could use instead of "receptáculo" but they are more crude than sheath and the literal translation "bainha" doesn't have the same double meaning in Portuguese.


For those who are interested in having Bianca translate their romance novel for them, she can be reached at her Instagram or BabelCube page. And if you, like me, were curious about how much it might cost to get your romance novel translated, Bianca (who can only speak for her own (current) rates and not those of others) informed me that her rates are around $300 (U.S.) for a 28,000 word novel.

Thank you so much to Bianca for participating in this interview & thank you reader for taking a few minutes out of your day to read it! I hope your curiosity is as satisfied as mine.


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