The European Association of Science Editors (EASE) is an international community of individuals and associations from diverse backgrounds, linguistic traditions and professional experience in science communication and editing.
In our second guest blog post, we welcome back Avi Staiman, CEO of Academic Language Experts, to discuss how to identify an appropriate translator for your work.
If you would like to write a post about aspects of your work that would make an interesting read for our members, please get in touch.
Looking for an academic translator for your academic research can be a daunting task. Whether you are looking to translate your book in order to reach a new audience or want to publish your article in a journal which is not in your native language, it is critical to pick the right translator for your manuscript. Where to start? With all the options available, how do you pick the right one? The goal of this blog post is to present a series of criteria to help you narrow down your search for the perfect candidate for your project.
The first step in picking the best translator is finding someone who is highly proficient in both the source and target languages. Translators describe themselves in a variety of different ways which can be confusing so we will start by defining the most commonly used terms.
The importance of native language
It is rare but possible for a child to become fluent in more than one language if more than one language is spoken regularly and fluently in their surroundings, but after around the age of six, becoming fluent in a new language with all its nuances of syntax and tone becomes virtually impossible. Some children may grow up with multiple native languages but only ever use one of them at school or professionally—and therefore never develop the full vocabulary and range required to write well in the other languages. Other people may have no highly developed native language, either because they aren’t sufficiently exposed to language at a young age, or because they lost some proficiency in the intricacies of their native language as they transitioned into exclusive use of a second language.
In my experience, fluency and proficiency are insufficient for purposes of academic editing, translation or publication. Even if a translator can master the terminology and vocabulary of a second language, it is very difficult for people to free themselves entirely from the syntax of the language they think in. Even if your translator is fluent in the target language, if it is not his native language, he will likely bring over traces of his native language which will give him away as a non-native speaker and distract from the content of the writing. Thus, it is extremely rare for someone to be both a native speaker and a great writer in more than one language. Beware of translators offering translation services into multiple languages and be sure to ask them what their true native language is.
Look for a translator who is a native speaker of the target language
If you want your translated text to sound natural, you need a translator who is a native speaker, not just a “fluent” or “proficient” one. When looking for a translator, many people mistakenly believe that what they are looking for is a native speaker of the source language—and of course it is true that translators must be proficient in reading and understanding nuances in the languages from which they’re translating. However, the product of the translation is a text in the target language, not the source language, so it stands to reason that if you want an excellent translation in a specific genre, you need a translator who can write an excellent text in that genre in the target language.
This means that your translator must be a native speaker of the language in which the translation (not the source) is written and a skilled writer in that language. In fact, translators of a given language may be overly committed to being faithful to the source text, when what really matters is that the published text is clear and well written without the distraction of unnatural-sounding language. Most academic journals are looking for clear and coherent texts that stand on their own. You may also want to consider using a language editor to edit the work of the translator as we discussed in our previous post.
Look for a translator who is familiar with your field
Besides native-level speech and writing skills, it is also critical for your translator to be familiar with your field and its terminology. Even well-educated native speakers may have difficulty reading, let alone writing, technical articles if they’re not familiar with the field. Your translator doesn’t necessarily have to be an expert in your exact field, but he or she needs to be familiar enough with writing in your field to know how to identify precedents—and where to look for them—to find out how terminology is used. It is a good idea for you to make sure the translator understands your use of key terminology at the outset; to this end you may choose to provide a set of terms and meanings or even a list of terms to avoid.
Ask for a phone interview
When looking for a translator, you can learn a lot from a phone interview. Listen for unnatural grammar or speech patterns. Ask what the translator’s top language is and what kinds of texts he or she has translated before. Don’t find out too late that you are the translator’s guinea pig to learn about your field! This would be a good time to ask what you can do to make the task smoother for the translator – can you provide a list of terms? A bibliography? Examples of similar texts?
Above all, you want to avoid having to subject your academic translation to further edits, which will almost certainly be required if the translator is not a native speaker, and which will likely lead either to further interruptions in tone and flow, or to what is essentially a full rewrite. A well-written article should return from peer review without major language comments and critique. Rather than rely on edits after the fact, make sure from the outset that your translator is a native speaker and an experienced writer familiar with your field.
Avi has worked as a translator and editor in various fields of humanities and social sciences, and is the founder of Academic Language Experts.
– Wednesday 22nd May, 2018 –
Are you involved in observational research?
Melissa Sharp of University of Split and Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité is conducting a survey to better understand the use of and attitudes towards the STrenghtening the Reporting of OBservational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) Statement.
You do not need to know anything about the STROBE Statement to participate, but you should currently work on or within the past 10 years have worked on manuscripts reporting the results of observational studies (e.g., cohort, case-control, cross-sectional).
Share your thoughts on the STROBE reporting guideline here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/obsstudies
Watch Shirin Heidari, founding chair of EASE Gender Policy Committee, present a TEDx talk discussing how scientific research has turned a blind eye on gender blind research.
Shirin provides some fascinating examples about the harmful implications of this gender bias, shares some insights into medical research, and offers a path to change the paradigm towards unbiased research that can apply to all genders.
– Saturday 12th May, 2018 –
Members of the EASE Gender Policy Committee have published an article in The Lancet, addressing “the gendered system of academic publishing”, suggesting that it “is both a reflection and a cause of women’s under-representation and disadvantage in other areas of the scientific enterprise.”
In addition to summarising current developments in gender issues within the publishing community (such as the self-report from Nature and 2015 study of Obstetrics & Gynecology), the article discusses outcomes from a workshop held in November under the title; Gender Equality in Academic Publishing: Challenges and Opportunities in Health Journals. The workshop looked at “identifying strategies to improve gender equity in peer review and publication processes.”
The article is free to access from the journal here
The gendered system of academic publishing
Lundine, Jamie et al.
The Lancet , Volume 391 , Issue 10132 , 1754 – 1756
– Tuesday 8th May, 2018 –
Poster abstract submission is now officially closed and the first abstracts have been posted to our website conference pages.
We have had a good response with 12 posters accepted, and authors coming from five countries in three continents: Chile, Germany, Korea, Spain, and Turkey to present sessions on assessment of scientific indicators, national author representation, nursing ethics, narrative reviews, and ethical guidelines.
We will still have room at the conference for more, so late applications could still be considered: interested authors should contact the Conference Secretary as soon as possible (email@example.com).
All those who have submitted an abstract should have heard from the Programme Committee by now: please contact the Conference Secretary if you have not.
Register now for the largest interdisciplinary forum on science and innovation in Europe!
The EuroScience Open Forum brings together every two years the key players of research and innovation in a city that becomes “European City of Science”.
The 8th edition of the forum will be held from 9th to 14th July in Toulouse, France, European City of Science 2018.
ESOF 2018 is a unique space for exchange and collaboration between:
A confirmed programme of events has now been released, containing more than 200 conferences, workshops and debates on:
Click here to access the registration platform
Benefit from ESOF’s early bird prices until April 14, 2018.
PhD students, young researchers, this edition of ESOF is yours! In addition to the Careers programme, and the posters session, special fares have been introduced this year:
€50 euros for PhD students and €150 for everyone under 35 years old.
The organisers are also looking for volunteers to help with both the forum ESOF from 9th to 14th July and the “Science in the City” festival from 7th to 15th July.
If you can offer your services assisting with poster presentations, exhibitions, registration or technical aspects, check out the Volunteers page of their site
Interesting new development over at Clarivate, as they announce their acquisition of article discovery app Kopernio.
A free to use browser plug-in similar to UnPaywall, Kopernio searches your library (if you log on with institutional credentials), PubMed, Google Scholar, pre-print servers and other repositories to look for the full text. It then saves it to your online ‘locker’, or you can download to your desktop.
Adding this personal library app to the Clarivate roster, alongside recently acquired Publons for peer review activity, as well as their existing Web of Science and ScholarOne Manuscripts features is an interesting step towards developing what could be a fascinating and highly functional integrated academic activity platform (and all that associated data that goes with it!).
Unsurprisingly, this news is making waves across industry and academia, including a thoughtful post and interview with Kopernio founders Jan Reichelt and Ben Kaube on Scholarly Kitchen, and Times Higher Education running the somewhat contentious headline “’Legal Sci-Hub’ journal access tool set for major expansion”, amongst many others.
Definitely worth putting in your browser.
– Wednesday 11th April, 2018 –
In our first EASE member guest post on our blog, Avi Staiman considers a question he is often posed as a language editor.
If you would like to write a post about an issue of your work that you think would make an interesting read for our members, please get in touch.
Here is Avi, with our debut guest post.
“You can translate and edit my text, right?”
Those of us who work as academic translators periodically receive questions like this from our clients (or, more often, imply that it is their expectation without actually saying it). Is there a concrete answer to this question? The short answer: it depends.
On the one hand, a qualified and experienced translator should be adept at crafting good text. A translator, after all, is a writer. She creates a new text in her native tongue, on the basis of a source text in a different language (in my opinion, academic translators should always translate into their native language). This new text should, of course, reflect the content of the original text accurately. But in its sentence structure, flow, syntax, and sometimes style, it is a wholly new creation.
Like any other good writer, a good translator should review and proofread her own work thoroughly and meticulously after ‘sleeping on it’. But scientific editing is a process that goes beyond proofing one’s own work. A second pair of eyes can notice many things undetected by the writer – typing errors, stylistic inconsistencies, redundancies or structural shortfalls.
Some translations do require editing in order to ensure accuracy and precision. Moreover, even the best translators, as they ‘think’ in two languages, inevitably leave occasional traces of the source language in their writing. Even an excellent translation can be further refined and polished. Indeed, famous authors, award-winning translators, and other literary giants have editors who play a crucial role in producing and polishing their work. Just as we would not expect an author to also edit his or her own book, so too, it seems reasonable that we should not expect a translator to be their own editor either.
So how do you know if you need an editor for your text? It all depends on your specific goals and context.
When do you need an editor?
When advising colleagues about whether to have a translation edited, I often suggest the following rule of thumb: If your manuscript is the type of text that you would have edited in its original, then you should probably have the translation edited as well. This is usually true even if the source text has already undergone editing itself, since the translation is a new creation.
Most academic books, journal articles, and literary works are edited at some point – even when they are written by eloquent, talented authors writing in their own language. A well-written article or book rendered into a new language by a top translator is just like any other piece of good writing – it is the most important step toward your goal, but it still needs to go through one more stage in order to cross the finish line.
When might you not need an editor?
The same rule of thumb applies in the other direction: If you would not use an editor for the type of text if it were written in your native language, a good translation of the same piece may also not require editing (even if it could still benefit from it).
When might this be the case? While there is no concrete rule, you might be able to get away without having a well-written text edited if it is not intended for publication. For example, texts intended for private communication; translated abstracts; lecture notes; and other materials intended primarily for transmitting information.
Similarly, if you are submitting your work to a publisher or journal with their own in-house editors, you might not need to find an editor yourself.
Finally, you may not want an editor in cases where it is critical that the translation be as literal a reflection of the original as possible – such as a questionnaire.
Of course, in these cases, too, the text should still be as polished as possible. You must be sure that your translator is a dependably excellent writer in the target language (and, if not – find a different translator!).
The bottom line
While it is reasonable to expect a translator to review, edit and proofread their own work, don’t expect a translator to be able to play the full roles of both translator and editor. In some cases, it may not be critical to have an editor and professional translation may suffice. However, any text intended for publication should be translated and edited before it is submitted for publication. Also, don’t be short-sighted. You may only be working on a draft for a limited audience now (such as a doctoral thesis), but if you plan to use the text in a published paper later, it may still be worth investing in editing.
Avi has worked as a translator and editor in various fields of humanities and social sciences, and is the founder of Academic Language Experts.
– Tuesday 20th March, 2018 –
A peer review research programme (IMPER), financed by The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) aims investigate the effectiveness of peer review as one of science’s self-regulatory mechanisms, particularly its’ ability to recognise erroneous or fraudulent research.
In order to do so, the project team, led by Dr. Willem Halffman and Serge Horbach at Radboud University Nijmegen, are calling for journal editors and administrators to provide information on the models and processes they use to conduct their peer review.
On behalf of the project team, we post the link to their survey which consists of a few simple questions about the peer review process in your journal (e.g. whether you adhere to double-blind, single-blind or open review, what criteria for quality is considered). The survey will be live until 16th March, and is available at this link:
We hope our members in suitable editorial positions will be able to help contribute to this research. Filling out the questionnaire will not take much more than five minutes. If you are involved with multiple journals, the team request that you complete the survey for each journal separately.
In return, the team offer to share the results of our project with you. Should you wish to receive details, you may indicate this in the final question of the survey.
– Friday 2nd March, 2018 –
We have another session abstract for our conference!
COST PEERE session on peer review: research and training
Chairs: Ana Marusic and Flaminio Squazzoni, Trans-Domain COST Action TD1306 New Frontiers of Peer Review
This session will use a trans-disciplinary approach to look into newest developments in peer review research and training, in order to explore the ways to improve efficiency, transparency and accountability of peer review.