Do I translate references?
Thread poster: Violeta Leon Herrero

Violeta Leon Herrero
Local time: 12:27
English to Spanish
+ ...
May 10, 2008

Hi everyone,

I´m translating a presentetion for a University from English into Spanish, and now a question comes to my mind.

I don't know if I should translate the references or not. I cannot ask them because the dead line is on Monday and today is Saturday.

Tell me what are the usual practices. Should I translate it all? Only the references which have a translation?

I thank you very much for your help in advance.



Brandis (X)
Local time: 12:27
English to German
+ ...
usually not May 14, 2008

References and citations are usually not traslated, that is why they are called references in the original works. Quote original. Best regards, Brandis


Fabiana Zardo  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:27
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Just once... May 14, 2008

Once, a client of mine asked me to translate the references. I told him it wouldn't be a translation job, but a research job. Then, I'd have to charge by hour of work. Soon, he realized it woul cost too much...


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I would translate it May 15, 2008

Violeta Leon Herrero wrote:
Tell me what are the usual practices. Should I translate it all? Only the references which have a translation?

In the absence of a client style guide, my thinking is... translate the parts that are translatable.

All references have parts that were taken from the reference itself, and parts that indicate further information about the reference. For example, number of pages, and indication of editor or translator, can be translated, but parts that were lifted from the book/resource itself (eg title and author) can be left untranslated. I would even translate place names (as in, place of publication). If I know for a fact that a publisher's name has an official translation, I'd use it, but otherwise I'd leave the publisher's name untranslated even if it contains translatable words.


FarkasAndras  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
English to Hungarian
+ ...
solution seems obvious to me May 17, 2008

If by references you mean the titles of articles, books etc. that the author of your text used for research or cited from, I usually

- In the case of known works that are easily available in translation for the reader, replace the original title with the translation's title (possibly retaining the original as well if it's more readily available).

- If the work in question is more obscure, ie. untranslated as far as I can tell, I leave the original title in there and usually add a translation in brackets to orient the reader about the content of the article etc.
If you translate a title yourself like this, make it obvious that the work in question does not exist under that title, eg. italicize the original title and do not italicize your rough translation of the title.

I think this sort of research (usually 2 min google/online library catalog search if you know what you're doing) is not an "extra" service at all. Integral part of doing a quality job. Look up the author and a keyword or two from the title (you can easily guess how it was translated) in google, wikipedia or a library catalog and that's it.

Dozens of obscure scientific publications in a 4 or 5 different languages would probably make me throw in the towel and leave the reader to try and look them up if they're interested, but that's not normally the case.

My 2 cents, curiously awaiting other views now.


B D Finch  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Generally not, but check the style May 18, 2008

I would translate the names of places of publication and the names of international publishing bodies that have an approved (by themselves) name in the target language. Other than that, if the style conventions for punctuation and layout of references differ between source and target languages, then I would change them to the target language norm.


Fiona Robson
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:27
Member (2005)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
and do you charge for references? May 21, 2008

In reply to the question "Do I translate references?" I agree with Samuel's answer - "translate the parts that are translatable" - to his list of examples I could add dates, e.g. months, and reversing the day/month for US English. The titles I don't normally translate. Even where a work exists in the target language, the author has referred to the work in his/her own language, so that is the version that should be cited. I might make an exception if the author refers to a work in general terms, which is well-known in the target language, but not if it is cited with a quotation.)

And I have a related question, assuming there are no alterations to be made (i.e. if it is just a long list of titles and author's names, without any dates or place names) would you give the client a discount, or charge the full rate? (assuming nothing had been agreed with the client beforehand).



Glenn Cain
Local time: 06:27
French to English
The safest bet is to leave as is AND translate Jun 5, 2008

In order for readers to be able to find the references, they need to be left as is. However, for book/journal/article/paper titles, it's always a safe bet to insert brackets right after the original title to tell the reader what it says.

Glenn Cain

[Edited at 2008-06-05 21:59]


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