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Popular English Book Translations in Foreign Markets

By Alison at Accredited Language
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Category: Literature, Translation



German bestseller books on a shelf

Image by Olaf Simons

English-language books often become big hits in foreign markets when translated into other languages, sometimes even achieving blockbuster success.

Here are some of the most successful English books translated into other languages:

J.K. Rowling: The “Harry Potter” Series

The boy wizard has managed to charm pretty much every reader around the world, regardless of age, culture or linguistic background. Rowling’s books have been translated into more than 60 languages and have sold more than 400 million copies around the globe, from Germany to Japan.

Eric Carle: “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”

Translating a children’s picture book like Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” might seem like a simple task, but many claim that children’s books are among the most difficult translation projects. Capturing the right tone, rhymes and read-aloud rhythm to keep a child enchanted is a true translation challenge. Luckily, translators were up to the task when it came to this author’s charming text, which has been translated into at least 40 languages.

Harper Lee: “To Kill a Mockingbird”

The southern coming-of-age classic about tomboyish “Scout” seems like a long shot as a contender for global popularity, but the novel has managed to capture the imagination of people not only above the Mason-Dixon line but also beyond US borders. The book, which won the Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into roughly 40 languages.

L. Ron Hubbard: “The Way to Happiness”

Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s “The Way to Happiness” is an essential text among Scientologists. Whether or not you agree with the movement, you can’t deny that Scientology has managed to spread its influence around the world. Because “The Way to Happiness” has been translated into at least 70 languages, Hubbard obtained the record for “most translated author for a single book” in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010.

Dan Brown: “The Da Vinci Code”

Symbols, ancient art, a murder and mysterious clues — the major topics of Dan Brown’s thriller apparently translate well into other languages. This book has been translated into more than 40 languages. Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Arabic, Croatian and Albanian — these are just a few languages that “The Da Vinci Code” book groups can be held in.

Agatha Christie

Okay, it’s not an actual book, but to round out the list of some of the top English book translations, the famed British mystery writer’s name had to be included. Christie, who created famed detective Hercule Poirot, has been translated into at least 103 different languages. At the end of the day, it seems like nobody can resist a good mystery novel — and Christie was the queen.

Other Popular English Book Translations Abroad

From the Civil War classic “Gone With the Wind” to “The Kite Runner,” there are many other English language books that have undergone translation into an astounding number of languages. Were you ever surprised to see a familiar English text in a language you didn’t expect?



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