Question about bibliography
Thread poster: gulperi

Local time: 20:50
English to French
+ ...
Feb 18, 2007

Hi to all,

Interesting question :

Are we supposed to translate bibliographies ( e.g. Title of a book, date etc.) or are we supposed to leave it as it appears in the source language?

Thank you in advance for your useful replies.

[Edited at 2007-02-18 20:41]


Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:50
English to Arabic
+ ...
Double standard... Feb 18, 2007

It would indeed be interesting to know what a translator should do, or what most translators do, but from my experience with English > Arabic, Arabic > English translations, there's a double standard: In English > Arabic translations, English bibliographies are left in English, because it is assumed that (almost) every Arabic reader will know how to decipher it (and if he can't, it's his problem!), while in Arabic > English translations, they are translated, because the vast majority of English readers wouldn't be able to make head or tail of an Arabic bibliography.

[Edited at 2007-02-18 21:13]


Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Chicago rules ... Feb 18, 2007

I know we've discussed this before, but I'm too lazy to search for the thread, but I'll repeat my understanding of how to handle this (based on the Chicago Manual of Style, which is accepted widely in the United States).

The purpose of a bibliography is to help the reader find the source material. A translation would hinder that. So titles, in general, are not translated.

Some journals do require that a translation be provided but when that is the case, the original title is retained (so that the reader can locate it), and the tranlsation is placed in brackets.

Obviously, if a reader had only the translated title to go by, the back translation might not be close enough to enable the reader to find the work in the orginal language.

As far as other elements in the bibliographic citation go, it is expected that certain city names (which appear with the publishing company name) will be translated (for example, "México, DF" becomes "Mexico City:") and certain designations are translated ("trad." becomes "translator" and "comp." becomes "editor").


[Edited at 2007-02-18 21:38]


Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:50
English to Turkish
+ ...
Don't translate Feb 18, 2007

Hi Gülperi,

As Patricia explains, the purpose is to refer the reader to sources. So, everything, with the possible exception of city names, page and volume, abbreviations like ibid. and et al, etc. (no, I didn't mean this as a sample abbreviation) must be left as is. Even the author names are kept as in the original, as far as my experience is concerned - if different forms are used in each language, that is, like the names of royals, classical authors, etc.

You may want to conduct a forum search from the Community menu above with the keyword 'bibliography'. This may return alternative views or experiences, if any, because I suspect there are some minor differences in convention depending on the country.

Best of luck,


JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 14:50
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Find out if the work exists in your language Feb 19, 2007

I suppose it depends on the type and purpose of the translation. Scholars in Spanish-speaking countries often want their articles and books published in English. Many of the sources they use in their research have been translated and exist in both languages.

My job is to think of my reader. A reader who is conversant with Spanish will probably want to read the original, not my translation. Therefore, I assume that my reader knows English (and maybe other languages) but not Spanish. Why would I refer him to a book in Spanish when I can look up the author at the Library of Congress and maybe find the book in English?

This works either way. Sometimes my author cites a book that was originally written in Spanish, and I can find a translation into English. Sometimes he used a Spanish translation of a book that was written in English. And sometimes the book was written in French or German and has been translated into both languages! In any case, if I can find it in English, that's what I cite in "my" bibliography. Of course, if I can't find it, I leave it in Spanish (or other language) and leave it to the reader to figure out what to do!

This does require extensive research, of course. The bibliography is not usually the problem; the problem is with footnotes or endnotes and quotations in the text. I often have to borrow both books, the Spanish and the English, from the author and/or libraries in order to find the quotation *as it appears in the book published in English*, rather than simply doing my own translation. And if the author cites page numbers in the endnote, I have to find both books because the page numbers will be different in the two editions.

Sorry, this probably isn't the answer you wanted to hear! If it's not a scholarly work you may not need to find the actual books. But I do think you should try to find whether the work exists in the language into which you are translating. If it does, then that's the work you should cite.




Local time: 20:50
English to French
+ ...
thanks... Feb 19, 2007

Okay, thanks to all I think I will follow özden's recommendation since I am translating From English into Turkish for that one.

However I think that adding more information on this topic should be useful and interesting.



Jason Ma  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:50
English to Chinese
+ ...
hi! lady Feb 19, 2007

I think we are supposed to leave it as it is.
The function of bibiography is to help reader to track down the souce of quotation. If the reader cann't read the source language, it is useless to translate it into target language.

Just my personal experience.

have a nice time.


Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:50
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
NO, as a general rule Feb 19, 2007

Hi, gulperi:

If I'm translating a whole bibliography section, (articles, surveys, patents or any kind of reference material) I DO NOT translate it.

If my client asks for the translation of a specific of one of this, for instanc, 24 reference entries, then I translate it.

I support Patricia's concept. If you translate always bibliographies you would extend the search process and could originate confussion.

And what would happen if you find a chinese/hindi/tagalog/swahili/ bibliography? It will be hard to find such a translator!icon_smile.gif


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