What can I do to get a better mark in translation?

Translation is a tricky business, endlessly requiring perfection and fine-tuning. However, in the confines of an exam translations sit between two extremes: literal, word-for-word translation which is more stilted; and more fluent translation in better English which is less tied down to the literal meaning of the text. Getting a good mark in an exam is about balancing your translation between these two extremes.

The first step is always to make sure you are confident with the grammar and vocabulary of the sentence. Before writing anything down, identify and parse every word and its position in the grammatical structure in the sentence. The result of this should be an accurate, literal translation. This will get you a good mark, but not a top one.

Then take a step back and look at the context of the sentence. Ask yourself: what is the passage about? Where is the passage leading? What is the tone of the passage? Try to find English language that mirrors the tone but also sounds better in English. This can also be done for the structure of the passage. For example, Latin and Greek’s tendency towards longer sentences can lead to awkwardly long sentences in a literal English translation – look for breakpoints where you can cut the longer sentence into several sentences in English.

One caveat to a free-flowing translation is that it must continue to demonstrate that you have understood every word and grammatical structure in the passage: you cannot go so far off-piste that you change the meaning of the original. As ever, practice makes perfect – the final tip is to do as much translation on as many different types of passage as you can. Good luck!

Alastair C. A Level Classical Greek tutor, GCSE Classical Greek tutor...

8 months ago

Answered by Alastair, who has applied to tutor A Level Latin with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


£22 /hr

Phoebe W.

Degree: Classics (Bachelors) - Bristol University

Subjects offered:Latin, Maths+ 1 more

Classical Greek

“Hello!! I am a 2nd year student reading Classics at Bristol University. I have always loved studying these languages and hope that I can inspire you to continue on this epic journey that mirrors Odysseus' - long and difficult at times...”

MyTutor guarantee

£20 /hr

Charles W.

Degree: Classics (Bachelors) - Bristol University

Subjects offered:Latin


“I have recently graduated from Bristol with First Class Honours in Classics, a subject that I have always been fascinated with. My tutorials will hopefully share this passion with you! I have taught young children Latin at a local pri...”

MyTutor guarantee

James H. A Level Classical Greek tutor, GCSE Classical Greek tutor, I...
£20 /hr

James H.

Degree: Literae Humaniores (Bachelors) - Oxford, Balliol College University

Subjects offered:Latin, Classical Greek

Classical Greek

“About me: I'm a fourth year Classics student at Oxford, and so, now nearing the end of my degree, I've had a chance to read in some detail all the Latin and Greek authors that are studied at school. My personal passion has always bee...”

About the author

£20 /hr

Alastair C.

Degree: Classics (Masters) - Cambridge alumni University

Subjects offered:Latin, History+ 3 more

Classical Greek
Classical Civilisation
-Personal Statements-

“Top tutor from the renowned Russell university group, ready to help you improve your grades.”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Other A Level Latin questions

What is the Jussive subjunctive?

what are the differences between Caesar's style and Cicerone's?

What is an ablative absolute?

How do you form the present subjunctive?

View A Level Latin tutors

We use cookies to improve your site experience. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss