Saturday, May 10, 2014

Finding translated citations in academic translation

This post is based on a talk I gave at an informal translators' meeting last week. I gave examples from a book I translated from Hebrew to English last year, but here I will be more general, and refer to the source language and the target language.

When an academic book or article contains source language citations from sources, there are three options: 1. If the work is in the source language and there is no version of it in the target language, then the citation should be translated. 2. If the work was originally in the target language and has been translated into the source language, then the citation should be found in the target language original. 3. If the work was originally in the source language and has also been translated into the target language, then the translation into the target language should be found.

Should finding the citations be the translator's job? This depends on the relationship between the translator and the author. I am fortunate to be able to work directly with the authors of the books and articles I translate. In some cases I ask them to find the citations themselves, but in other cases this service is part of the added value I offer. Finding the citations yourself enables you to use the vocabulary of the sources consistently within your translation, and gives you greater control over the end product. The disadvantage is that it takes time and effort, and of course this should be calculated in your pricing.

The first stage is to look at the book's Bibliography (or footnotes/endnotes) and find which works have a version in the target language.

The second stage is to locate these works, either online or in a library. In some cases, particularly older sources, you can find PDF versions online. Some more popular books have been scanned and appear on Google Books. While not all the pages are visible (at least for free), you can search for specific words and the results will show you enough of the context to identify your citation. It is much easier to search in a digital text, but translators can become proficient at scan-reading even in printed texts. Of course, the page numbers are different in the different language versions. When there are several citations from a particular work, you can eventually start estimating where citations will be located by comparing the page numbers of previously found citations in the source and target versions.

The third stage is to insert the target language citations into the translation, according to the author guidelines of the translation's publisher or periodical. The original spelling and punctuation of the citation must be maintained, even if it differs from these guidelines. Citations over a certain length (sometimes 25 words or three lines) tend to appear as block citations rather than being cited within quotation marks within the text. The length of the citation will vary in different languages. The shorter the citation, the more difficult it is to find because there are fewer key words that can be identified in the target language.

In cases where the versions in the different languages are not exactly equivalent - for example, if the translation added or omitted certain passages - it may not be possible to find all the citations. In such cases, the citation should be translated in the same way as a citation from a work that does not appear in the target language. Then the source language work should be included in the bibliography and referenced as a footnote, endnote, or author-title or author-year in parentheses after the citation, according to the guidelines.

The final stage is adding the target language works to the Bibliography (or footnotes/endnotes), and omitting any source language works that were not used in the translation. Where versions in both source and target language were used, both should be included.

I hope this explanation will help translators decide whether to offer this service, and if they do, how to do it and what to expect from the process.