Do you translate (life) science material (besides medical documents)?
Thread poster: Anna Fitzgerald

Anna Fitzgerald  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:28
French to English
Dec 14, 2005

After translating French to English on the side for a few years, a little under a year ago I decided to try and make a career out of it. My area of specialization is the biological sciences, having worked in a lab and done a lot of undergraduate coursework in this area.

I sent out my resume to several agencies and have worked on a dozen projects, but none of them related to biology, biochemistry, etc. or even to science. More often than not my work on these projects was frustrating because I lacked the necessary background knowledge.

So, as I get ready to move into the new year, I am wondering if there is much of a market for the translation of life science material (aside from medical translation). Does anyone translate journal articles? If so, is this work you receive through agencies or direct contact with labs and (biotech) companies? Are there other types of documents that are translated? If this is a viable area, I'd like to find documents to translate as practice.

I appreciate any and all input.


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Ana Cuesta  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:28
Member
English to Spanish
There is a lot of work with English as source Dec 14, 2005

Hi Anna,

There is a lot of work in the area with English as a source language being translated into a number of target languages. Not sure if French manufacturers will get their brochures, manuals, etc. written directly in English (they probably do) or if they translate them from French into English, but that could be an alley worth exploring...

Best of luck!

Ana


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Ana Cuesta  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:28
Member
English to Spanish
Editing journal papers is another possibility Dec 14, 2005

Hi again,

Not sure if you would like it or not (I hate editing/proofreading or anything of that sort) but another possibility is to correct papers written by French scientists for publication in an English language journal (as in 90% of them I know for sure that has a market in Spain and for what I've seen French scientists seem to be as English-challenged as their Spanish coleagues...

[Edited at 2005-12-14 19:21]


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Anna Fitzgerald  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:28
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, Ana Dec 14, 2005

I appreciate your input. Though I don't feel I could translate into French, I will explore the proof-reading idea. Thanks again.

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Ana Cuesta  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:28
Member
English to Spanish
I didn't explain myself clearly Dec 14, 2005

Anna Fitzgerald wrote:

I appreciate your input. Though I don't feel I could translate into French, I will explore the proof-reading idea. Thanks again.


I didn't mean you should consider translating into French, only that you could check if French manufacturers of biotech instruments need their French materials translated into English before they are translated from English into upteen target languages (if they don't get them written directly in English, that is). Another possibility is that they translate their materials from a French version, of course, but then they will surely need a translation into English too.

While most of the translation work from English done in the area probably goes through agencies (which can handle all target languages required), I would imagine the picture must be different for translation into English, so you may have more luck contacting end clients directly. Just my impression anyway, I may be wrong...


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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:28
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Dear Anna, Dec 14, 2005

First of all, welcome to ProZ.

Ana is right. You might want to check with French scientists who publish and would want their papers or books, for that matter, translated into English.

I translated a Dutch Management book into English and then the author had it translated from the English into many different languages. This was a most appreciated free advertisement.

Another option would be to contact translation agencies in France who specialize in doing these types of translations. Then all you have to do is translate and not deal with the end customer. Negative is that you keep less for yourself.

Good luck!
Lucinda


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Jörgen Slet  Identity Verified
Estonia
Local time: 08:28
English to Estonian
+ ...
Scientific translation work is hard to find Dec 14, 2005

I have never received any scientific translation work from agencies. Medical material seems to dominate the market.

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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 00:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
Through university contacts Dec 14, 2005

I have a friend who teaches English service courses at a university (the courses that students take to be able to read the scientific literature in their field in English). Professors who need their papers (or often just abstracts) translated into English often ask for help at her department. Since the department doesn't actually provide translation services, many of these requests get passed on to me.

You may be able to work from people you know from your time as a student and laboratory employee. Spread the word to them that you are available to translate papers in the field and let them know that they can pass contacts on to you.


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Anna Fitzgerald  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:28
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
You were clear. I just didn't understand. Dec 15, 2005

Thanks, Ana, for clarifying. You were perfectly clear; I just didn't understand for some reason.

[Edited at 2005-12-15 08:15]

[Edited at 2005-12-15 11:59]


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Ford Prefect  Identity Verified
Burkina Faso
Local time: 05:28
German to English
+ ...
Scientific translation Dec 15, 2005

In my experience there is very little demand for life sciences translation into English - but there is lots of demand for clinical translation. This is backed up by the very low number of "science" category Kudoz questions asked.

What little work I get which could be broadly classified as "life science" is really routine environmental/consumer monitoring stuff and regulatory documents, rather than "pure" research materials such as papers or abstracts.

Since the accepted standard of written English in life sciences is in any case extremely low (and before anyone castigates me, I say this on the basis of having read at least 3,000 research papers), most authors tend to write their own papers in English rather than in their native tongue and employing a translator, and trust journal editors to correct the worst bits. The fact that journals don't often reject papers for poor English means there is little pressure to employ linguists in preparing papers.

More specifically on your question about translating articles for publication, I can only remember a couple of occasions in the last 8 or so years when I was asked to translate or proofread papers - one had already been published in German, and was needed by an American client, the other was written by an Italian in my lab who was aware (unusually for a scientist) of the need for good written English. Both these jobs were obtained through colleagues in science rather than through agencies.

The most likely scenario is that some English speaking client will want a translation of an article published in another language - and I would say this is a rare case since most English speaking scientists are rather prejudiced against work that is not published in English. The biggest language for science publication other than English seems now to be Chinese - with French a long way down the list, so I'm afraid you are unlikely to get a regular stream of work in this specific area.


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Anna Fitzgerald  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:28
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your comments Dec 15, 2005

Thanks for the feedback. Although I am seeing some of my fears confirmed, I will be better able to chart my course with the knowledge you have provided. If anyone else has comments, I would be happy to read them.

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Do you translate (life) science material (besides medical documents)?

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